-- Q: How do you find out which stocks your ETF owns?
A: Exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, have taken the investing world by storm. These mutual-fund like investments make it easy for investors to spread their money over scores of investments by buying a single stock.
But with simplicity comes responsibility. It might be tempting to just look at the description of an ETF and buy it blindly. But just as savvy investors know how important it is to dig and understand what comprises an index before relying on it, the same due diligence is required of ETF investors. You should never just buy an ETF based on its name. You need to know exactly what an ETF owns before putting your hard-earned cash into it.
Luckily, digging into an ETF is pretty easy, thanks to free tools at USATODAY.com. Just to go to the Money section of USATODAY.com at money.usatoday.com, enter the symbol or the name of the ETF in the Get A Quote box and click the Go button.
You'll be taken to an area of the site dedicated to analyzing ETFs. You'll find just about any detail you'd want to know about ETFs, including the fees, number of holdings, premium or discounts and dividends. For international ETFs, you'll even find a breakdown by geographic exposure. And also, you'll find the ETF's top 10 holdings. For example you can find out all this information on the quote page for iShares MSCI EAFE Value Index ETF efv.
If you'd like to see all the ETF's holdings, not just the top 10, you can use the ETF link also provided by USATODAY.com. The link is located on the upper left-hand corner under the Fund URL for iShares MSCI EAFE Value ETF. You can then click on the Holdings tab and see all the stocks the ETF owns.
As you can see, USATODAY.com is a great place to start your ETF research and contains most of the information you need. But you can also jump off from USATODAY.com and get more detailed information from the ETF provider.
Matt Krantz is a financial markets reporter at USA TODAY and author of Investing Online for Dummies and Fundamental Analysis for Dummies. He answers a different reader question every weekday in his Ask Matt column at money.usatoday.com. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Matt on Twitter at: twitter.com/mattkrantz