3 Powerhouse Growth ETFs With a History of Outperforming the S&P 500

It’s possible to beat the market with next to no effort on your part.

Investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) is one of the simplest and easiest ways to build wealth in the stock market. An ETF is a bundle of securities grouped together into a single investment, making it nearly effortless to achieve diversification and reduce your risk.

But just because ETFs require less effort than individual stocks doesn’t necessarily mean they earn subpar returns. While all ETFs are different, there are some that have a history of beating the market and could help supercharge your earnings.

1. Vanguard Growth ETF

The Vanguard Growth ETF (VUG 0.34%) is a large-cap growth fund containing stocks with the potential for above-average earnings. It includes 200 stocks from a variety of industries, though just over 56% of the fund is allocated to stocks in the tech sector.

Growth ETFs, in general, tend to carry more risk than broad-market funds like S&P 500 ETFs. However, because the Vanguard Growth ETF only includes large-cap stocks (many of which are from industry-leading companies like Apple, Amazon, and Nvidia), that can help limit your risk compared to funds that contain smaller, more volatile stocks.

Over the past 10 years, this ETF has substantially outperformed the S&P 500 — earning total returns of more than 272% compared to the index’s 176% in that time.

There are no guarantees that this ETF will continue earning similar returns over time. But considering it has a long history of beating the market, you could earn much higher-than-average returns if it continues this performance.

2. Schwab U.S. Large-Cap Growth ETF

The Schwab U.S. Large-Cap Growth ETF (SCHG 0.36%) is similar to the Vanguard Growth ETF, but with greater diversification. This fund contains 249 stocks (compared to Vanguard’s 200), and only 46% of this ETF is allocated to tech stocks (compared to 56% for Vanguard).

Greater diversification can be a good and bad thing. On the one hand, investing in a greater variety of stocks and industries can limit your risk — especially during periods of volatility. But it can also dilute your earnings, particularly when you’re investing in hundreds of stocks. It is possible to over-diversify, which can limit your returns without adding any risk-lowering benefits.

In this ETF’s case, greater diversification doesn’t seem to be hurting its performance. The fund has earned total returns of 307% over the past 10 years, even slightly outperforming the Vanguard fund in that time.

Also, one advantage that both the Schwab and Vanguard ETFs share is their low expense ratios. Both funds have an expense ratio of 0.04%, meaning you’ll pay $4 per year in fees for every $10,000 in your account. That’s much lower than many other funds, which could save you thousands over time.

3. Invesco QQQ Trust

Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ 0.52%) contains 101 stocks, with a whopping 59% allocated to the tech sector. This ETF was launched in 1999, giving it a much longer history than both the Vanguard and Schwab funds (which were founded in 2004 and 2009, respectively).

Although a heftier allocation to tech stocks and fewer holdings overall can increase this fund’s risk, it’s also the highest performer of the three. Over the past 10 years, it’s earned total returns of nearly 404% — compared to Vanguard’s 272%, Schwab’s 307%, and the S&P 500’s 176% in that time.

One potential downside to this ETF is its relatively high expense ratio of 0.20%. While it may not seem like a significant difference compared to Vanguard’s and Schwab’s 0.04%, if you eventually have hundreds of thousands of dollars in your portfolio, it adds up quickly.

This ETF may also pose more risk due to its heavier reliance on tech stocks. It has a history of significantly outperforming the market during strong economic times, but it’s also been hit hard during downturns. Whether that’s a worthwhile trade-off will depend on your risk tolerance.

Investing in growth ETFs can be a fantastic way to build long-term wealth with less effort than buying individual stocks. By considering your tolerance for risk and overall goals, it will be easier to decide which investment is the best fit for your portfolio.

John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Katie Brockman has positions in Vanguard Index Funds-Vanguard Growth ETF. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon, Apple, Nvidia, and Vanguard Index Funds-Vanguard Growth ETF. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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