Do ETFs Pay Dividends?

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) have become a popular investment vehicle in the modern financial landscape, offering a blend of diversification, lower expense ratios, and the ease of trading similar to stocks.

One common question among investors is whether ETFs pay dividends. The answer is complex and depends on the underlying assets held within the ETF. Just as a mutual fund accumulates dividends from its holdings and distributes them to its shareholders, many ETFs also collect and pass on dividends to investors.

These dividends come from the income that individual stocks or other assets in the ETF’s portfolio generate.

The frequency and amount of dividend payments can vary based on the type of ETF, the dividend policy of the underlying assets, and the overall market conditions.

Understanding the dividend-paying potential of ETFs is crucial for investors seeking income alongside capital appreciation in their investment strategies.

What is a Dividend?

A dividend is a payment made by a corporation to its shareholders, usually in cash or additional stock. It represents a portion of the company’s earnings that is distributed to investors as a return on their investment in the company’s equity.

The company’s board of directors typically decides when to distribute dividends, which may occur quarterly or annually. The profitability, financial health, and long-term investment plans of the company can all have an impact on the dividend payment amount.

For shareholders, dividends serve as a direct benefit of owning stock in the company, providing an income stream in addition to any potential gains from the appreciation of the stock’s value.

Dividends are particularly significant in investment strategies focused on income generation. For such investors, dividend-paying stocks are attractive because they offer a steady source of income, often with lower risk than non-dividend-paying stocks. The dividend yield, calculated by dividing the dividend per share by the stock’s price per share, serves as a key metric to assess the attractiveness of a dividend-paying stock.

Not all companies pay dividends; young or growth-oriented companies often reinvest their earnings back into the business to fuel further growth, while more established, stable companies with consistent earnings are more likely to distribute dividends to their shareholders.

Additionally, dividends are subject to taxation, and the tax treatment varies depending on the investor’s personal tax situation and the type of dividend received.

Related: Is Stock Investing Halal for Muslims?

Different Types of Dividends in ETFs?

The dividends that ETFs pay can be classified into two basic types: qualified and non-qualified dividends.

  • Qualified Dividends: Depending on the investor’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and taxable income rate, the ETF designates these dividends as qualified and taxes them at the capital gains rate, which can be 0%, 15%, or 20%. A U.S. corporation or a qualifying foreign corporation must pay a dividend in order for it to be qualified. Moreover, the ETF must hold the stock for more than 60 days during the 121-day period, starting 60 days before the ex-dividend date. This type of dividend is beneficial for those who hold their ETF investments for longer periods of time​​.
  • Non-Qualified Dividends: These often do not qualify as dividends paid on stocks that the ETF holds for 60 days or less. Such dividends are taxed at the investor’s ordinary income rates, making them less tax-efficient than qualified dividends. Nonqualified dividends are essentially the total dividends minus any portion treated as a qualified dividend​​.

In addition to these two basic types, there are also various categories of dividend ETFs, each with its own unique characteristics:

  1. Dividend Growth ETFs: These ETFs focus on companies with a history of increasing dividends. They might include funds like the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF or the WisdomTree U.S. Quality Dividend Growth Fund.
  2. Dividend Aristocrat ETFs: This category includes ETFs that invest in dividend-growth stocks within the S&P 500 index. Dividend Aristocrat companies have a record of increasing yearly dividends for at least 25 years. Examples include the ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF and the SPDR S&P Dividend ETF.
  3. International High Dividend ETFs: These ETFs primarily hold non-U.S. stocks known for consistently high dividend yields over time. However, dividends from some international companies may not be considered qualified dividends, potentially leading to higher investor taxes. Examples in this category include the iShares International Select Dividend ETF and the Vanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF​​.

Note: The ETFs mentioned in the example above might or might not be Halal. So, it is always advisable to use Musaffa ETF screener to find out.

When evaluating and selecting dividend ETFs, investors often consider factors like dividend yield, dividend growth rate, and the quality of dividends. It’s important to note that higher-yielding dividend ETFs are not necessarily superior to lower-yielding ones, as higher yields can sometimes indicate higher risks.

How Are ETF Dividends Paid to Investors?

ETFs accumulate dividends from the underlying stocks or assets and then distribute these dividends to the ETF shareholders. The frequency of these distributions can vary. Some ETFs may pay dividends quarterly, while others might do so monthly or annually. The dividend yield, a measure of the dividend income relative to the price of the ETF, can also differ significantly between different funds.

ETF Dividend Terminologies: What are ETF Ex-Dates, Record Dates, and Payment Dates?

Let’s have a look at these different terminologies that exist within ETFs to understand dividends in ETFs better.

  1. ETF Ex-Dates: The ex-date is a crucial deadline for investors. To be eligible for a dividend from an ETF, you must purchase the ETF before this date. Buying the ETF on or after the ex-date means you won’t be on the registered shareholders’ list in time to receive the dividend.
  2. Record Dates: This is typically the business day following the ex-date. Only those who are registered shareholders as of the record date are entitled to the dividend.
  3. Payment Dates: This is when the ETF distributes its dividends to shareholders.

It’s important to note that these dates for an ETF do not necessarily align with when the ETF receives dividends from the stocks in its portfolio. Since an ETF might own multiple stocks, each with its own dividend schedule, the ETF sets its own dividend schedule, often collecting dividends monthly and then distributing them to shareholders on a different frequency, like quarterly.

Pros of Dividend ETFs Over Stocks

  1. Diversification: Dividend ETFs offer a diversified portfolio from just one position, whereas achieving proper diversification with stocks typically requires owning 20 to 30 stocks.
  2. Ease of Management: Managing a few ETFs is simpler than keeping track of a larger portfolio of individual stocks. This includes easier monitoring and rebalancing.
  3. Lower Trading Fees: For those who pay trading fees, investing in a small number of ETFs can be more cost-effective than a larger stock portfolio.
  4. Safer Exposure: ETFs can provide safer exposure to companies or industries that an investor may not be familiar with, thanks to their diversification and defined investment strategies.

Cons of Dividend ETFs Over Stocks

  1. Fees: ETF shareholders pay a portion of the fund’s expenses, which can reduce net investment returns over time.
  2. Less Control: Investors have no control over the ETF’s portfolio management, unlike individual stocks, where they can pick and choose their holdings.
  3. Limited Market Outperformance: While individual stocks can potentially beat the market, dividend ETFs generally do not. However, ETFs also tend to be less volatile compared to individual stocks.

Related: Hidden Concerns of ETFs Investments: What Every Investor Needs to Know

Suitability of Dividend ETFs

  • Dividend ETFs are a good option for those looking to build an income stream over time without the hassle of picking individual stocks. They are especially suitable for investors who prefer diversified funds with low expense ratios and are comfortable with reinvesting dividends.
  • For investors who enjoy researching and managing a portfolio hands-on, individual stocks might be a better fit.
  • A balanced approach could involve investing in individual stocks and ETFs for diversity, allowing investors to build confidence and wealth simultaneously.

How to Start Investing in ETFs

Investing in ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds) is a straightforward process that can effectively start or diversify your investment portfolio. Here’s a simple guide:

  1. Research: Begin by educating yourself about ETFs, including the types available and their risks and benefits. Understand how ETFs differ from other investment options, like mutual funds.
  2. Brokerage Account: Open a brokerage account if you don’t already have one. Choose a brokerage that aligns with your investment goals and offers a range of ETFs.
  3. Select ETFs: Choose ETFs that match your investment goals and risk tolerance. Consider factors like the ETF’s underlying assets, costs, performance history, and the issuer’s reputation.
  4. Investing: Once you’ve selected your ETFs, you can start investing. You can purchase ETF shares, like stocks, through your brokerage account.
  5. Monitor and Adjust: Regularly review your ETF investments to ensure they continue to align with your financial goals. Adjust your holdings as needed to maintain a balanced and diversified portfolio.

Related: Islamic ETF: The Things You Should Know

List of Halal ETFs to Invest in for 2024

For Muslim investors seeking to align their portfolios with their faith, the range of Halal ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds) available in 2024 offers a compelling mix of compliance with Islamic investment principles and exposure to diverse market sectors.

The list below is curated from Musaffa’s screener, where the ETFs have been sorted after a thorough analysis of their Shariah compliance status (as of December 2023).

  • VanEck Semiconductor ETF (SMH)
  • iShares Semiconductor ETF (SOXX)
  • Invesco Water Resources ETF (PHO)
  • First Trust Water ETF (FIW)
  • SPDR S&P Semiconductor ETF (XSD)
  • First Trust Nasdaq Semiconductor ETF (FTXL)
  • Invesco Dynamic Semiconductors ETF (PSI)
  • Invesco PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXQ)
  • Strive U.S. Semiconductor ETF Strive U.S. Semiconductor ETF (SHOC)
  • Franklin Intelligent Machines ETF (IQM)

If you would like to learn more about why they are Halal and why some other ETFs are not, please consider subscribing to Musaffa Premium to keep making informed decisions.


Read Also: Unlock the Full Potential of Your Halal Investment Journey with Musaffa Premium

Wrapping Up

ETFs offer a versatile and efficient way for investors to earn dividends, combining the benefits of diversified portfolios with the flexibility of stock trading. The type and frequency of dividends depend on the ETF’s underlying assets, with options ranging from qualified to non-qualified dividends, each with different tax implications.

Whether seeking steady income through dividend-focused ETFs or capital growth with reinvested dividends, ETFs provide a broad spectrum of opportunities for investors of all levels.

As with any investment, it’s essential to consider factors like dividend yield, growth rate, and the quality of dividends, along with the individual investor’s specific investment goals and risk tolerance.

With a clear understanding of how dividends work in ETFs, investors can make informed decisions to effectively incorporate these versatile instruments into their broader investment strategies.

If you want to learn more about Islamic Finance-related topics, please visit our academy here.

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Disclaimer: Important information