Are ETFs Good For a Roth IRA?

Roth IRAs offer investors an effective way to save for retirement without paying taxes on returns from investments, but many investors have questions about which ETFs or mutual funds would make the best options in a Roth IRA.

Answering that question depends on an investor’s goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. In general, ETFs typically offer lower expense ratios than mutual funds.

1. Vanguard Core Bond ETF (VCRB)

Bond investing may get less attention than stocks, but it should still form part of any solid portfolio. A comprehensive bond fund offers low costs and tax efficiencies for investors looking for stability in their finances.

Vanguard Core Bond ETF (VCRB), launched last December, is already one of the lowest fee active core bond ETFs on the market. This allows managers to overcome hurdles more easily and produce superior returns than their rivals.

VCRB will seek to achieve both total return and moderate levels of income by actively managing its core portfolio of USD-denominated fixed income securities rated investment grade or above. As needed to reach its objective, allocations to riskier sectors such as U.S. high yield corporates or emerging market debt may also be made.

2. Fidelity Total Bond ETF (FBND)

ETFs offer tax efficiency and trading flexibility, yet may not suit every investor. When choosing ETFs for a Roth IRA, make sure they match up with your goals and risk tolerance.

Fidelity ETF provides exposure to a diverse selection of fixed income assets, with an emphasis on investment-grade bonds. An ideal addition for any portfolio!

This ETF may have slightly higher expenses than its rival, but it gives investors access to more domestic bond assets and allows managers to allocate a smaller percentage of the fund towards high-yield bonds when it appears worthwhile. Furthermore, quarterly disclosure of its holdings provides valuable transparency.

3. iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETF (IUSB)

If you’re looking to invest in an ETF that’s suitable for Roth IRA, one option could be the iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETF (IUSB). It belongs to Morningstar’s Intermediate Core-Plus Bond category, holding investment-grade US bonds similar to Vanguard AGG’s selection.

However, unlike AGG, IUSB does not exclude non-investment grade bonds (commonly referred to as junk bonds).

IUSB boasts a low expense ratio of only 0.06%. Like its two counterparts VCRB and FBND, IUSB’s portfolio turnover can cause expenses to increase over time leading to lower after-tax returns over time. Because of this fact, IUSB should ideally be held within a tax-deferred account such as an IRA in order to avoid tax liabilities on capital gains and interest income as it comes in.


Roth IRAs allow you to withdraw contributions at any time, tax- and penalty-free compared with traditional and 401(k) accounts which require withdrawals to begin by age or pay taxes accordingly.

ETFs make an attractive Roth investment because of their relatively low costs, tracking widely popular indexes like the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. Many of the best ETFs also feature low investment minimums while offering diversification, thematic or focused investing approaches and an assortment of funds to choose from.

Roth IRAs can be opened with most brokerages and fund companies, with some offering online tools and guidance to assist you. Another easy way to start investing with Roths is using your tax refund directly into one.


As an investor looking to open a Roth IRA, long-term goals should be kept in mind and ETF’s historical performance, expense ratio, and management team evaluated.

ETFs tend to offer lower fees compared to traditional mutual funds and use in-kind creation and redemption to minimize capital gains distributions, potentially helping reduce tax consequences compared to some mutual funds.

An effective Roth IRA investment strategy should include ETFs that track major market indexes, including U.S. stocks, bond investments and global investments. Such funds provide diversification while potentially yielding higher long-term returns without paying taxes during retirement – a key advantage of the Roth IRA.

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