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Dividend ETFs: The Search for Steady Money

The idea behind high dividend mutual funds and ETFs is simple enough: They attempt to cobble together the stocks of companies that are issuing high dividends, have high dividend growth rates, or promise future high dividends.

The oldest and largest of the ETF dividend funds is the iShares Dow Jones Select Dividend Index Fund (DVY). For U.S. domestic investments, here are some other options:

  • SPDR Dividend ETF (SDY)

  • Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG)

  • First Trust Morningstar Dividend Leaders Index Fund (FDL)

  • PowerShares Dividend Achievers Portfolio (PFM)

  • PowerShares High Yield Equity Dividend Achievers Portfolio (PEY)

Why two PowerShares domestic dividend ETFs? The first one (PFM) “seeks to identify a diversified group of dividend paying companies.” The second one (PEY) “seeks to deliver high current dividend income and capital appreciation.” (A third, the PowerShares High Growth Rate Dividend Achievers Portfolios [PHJ] sought “to identify companies with the highest ten-year annual dividend growth rate,” but that ETF has been closed.)

If you’re having a hard time telling these dividend funds apart based on their descriptions, you aren’t alone.

And if your choices on the U.S. front aren’t enough — or aren’t confusing enough — you could also go with the PowerShares International Dividend Achievers Portfolio (PID), which “seeks international companies that have increased their annual dividend for five or more consecutive fiscal years.”

And if that weren’t enough choice (or confusion), the newest kids on the ETF block, WisdomTree and Guggenheim, offer about 20 other high dividend funds . . . with every wrinkle or subwrinkle imaginable.

In a way, seeking dividends makes sense. In another, larger way, the logic is a bit loopy, just as the marketing (sort of like toilet paper and breakfast cereal marketing) is a bit intense and sometimes silly.

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