When most investors begin planning for a steady income stream in retirement, they tend to gravitate towards fixed-income as a predominant asset class. The low volatility and reliable dividends from bonds offer an attractive combination for replacing career earnings. However, it’s important to remember that these assets can be susceptible to swings in price due to interest rate fluctuations and credit cycles.

To balance out that exposure, it’s imperative to maintain an allocation to dividend paying stocks with strong fundamental characteristics. In today’s markets, more established companies are focused on returning value to shareholders through quarterly dividends and share repurchase programs. As a result, S&P 500 Index companies are expected to pay out record breaking dividend payments in the month of November totaling more than $41 billion.

The diversification and low-cost of exchange-traded funds make them a perfect vehicle for accessing these dividend paying stocks with room to grow. Nonetheless, picking the right fund is imperative to a successful outcome.

Two funds that should be on every investor’s radar are the Vanguard High Yield Dividend ETF (VYM) and Vanguard Dividend Growth ETF (VIG). Both ETFs focus on dividend paying stocks, but with a unique twist that deserve a more in-depth explanation.

VYM tracks nearly 400 stocks of companies with histories of paying consistently high dividends over time. This includes big names such as Proctor & Gamble (PG) and Verizon Communications (VZ). The quality base of stocks that make up VYM have mature business models and produce consistent income to shareholders as a result of their proven methods.

Currently this ETF has a 30-day SEC yield of 2.90% and pays income on a quarterly basis. One of the most attractive qualities of this ETF as a core holding for retirement portfolios is its low expense ratio of just 0.10% annually.

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