ETF Strategist

World’s cheapest ETF portfolio just got cheaper
Matt Hougan, CEO of Inside ETFs

In November 2015, the last time I updated my World's Cheapest ETF Portfolio, I laid out a challenge to the ETF industry: "If someone would just launch a commodity fund priced at 0.25 percent," I wrote, "we'd really be in business."

Harvesting winter wheat in Kirkland, Illinois.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

My portfolio tracks the lowest-cost ETF in each of six different asset classes: U.S. stocks, international stocks, emerging markets stocks, bonds, REITs and commodities — and the commodities fund always stuck out like a sore thumb. While I could get complete U.S. equity exposure for just 0.03 percent/year in fees, the cheapest commodity product out there charged 0.50 percent!

Not anymore.

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Last Friday, ETF Securities launched a trio of commodity ETFs, including two priced at just 0.29 percent. The ETFS Bloomberg All Commodity Strategy K-1 Free ETF (BCI) and the ETFS Bloomberg All Commodity Longer Dated Strategy K-1 Free ETF (BCD) both track diversified portfolios of 22 commodities and use an offshore structure to avoid issuing K-1s.

0.29 percent is not quite 0.25 percent, but I'll take it!

Between the two, I'm choosing the longer-dated BCD for the portfolio. Rather than holding front-month futures as BCI does, BCD holds futures dated out four to six months in an effort to combat contango. I generally think this is a better approach for long-term investors.

Be careful trading new funds

It's worth noting that, as a new fund, BCD barely trades. That will probably change over time as money tilts toward low-cost products, but for now, anyone trading it should do so using limit orders and extreme care. The portfolio's intended as a proof of concept, and the fees only capture the funds' expense ratios, not the total cost of ownership.

Still, what a proof of concept it is. With the addition of BCD — plus a number of expense ratio reductions for other products in the portfolio — the new blended expense ratio is just 0.06 percent.

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That's down from 0.08 percent in 2015 and 0.16 percent when I started tracking it in 2008, an incredible deal for such a massively diversified, institutional-quality portfolio. It's one of the greatest deals in financial history and a symbol of the power of the ETF revolution.

The World's Cheapest ETF Portfolio
Asset ClassWeightFundTickerExpense Ratio
U.S. Equity40%iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Market ETFITOT0.03%
Developed Markets Equity30%Schwab International Equity ETFSCHF0.06%
Emerging Markets Equity5%Schwab Emerging Markets EquitySCHE0.13%
Fixed Income15%Schwab U.S. Aggregate BondSCHZ0.04%
REITs5%Schwab U.S. REIT ETFSCHH0.07%
Commodities5%ETFS Bloomberg All Commodity Longer Dated Strategy K-1 Free ETFBCD0.29%

By Matt Hougan, CEO of Inside ETFs