Here is my Exchange-traded funds (ETF) portfolio. I started investing in 2016 when I was in my mid-20s and my employer enquired what my retirement savings plan looks like (read more here). I did extensive research and it turns out that a number of ETFs (see below) are an ideal “conservative” investment to save for retirement while also earning passive income. That sounds perfect right?

ETFs as retirement saving account and passive income
ETFs work both as retirement savings account and as passive income

My ETF Portfolio

My ETF Portfolio
My ETF Portfolio in 2020
  • 95% World Index: The MSCI World is one of the biggest World Indexes and spreads its holdings across 1,600 of the world’s largest companies from the 23 most advanced economies. It’s essentially “investing in the world” and thus avoids excessive exposure economic fluctuations of single countries. The MSCI World ETF is globally diversified and thus immunizes investors against the risk of a single company going bust. I decided to invest in two different World ETFs:
    • 1. The UBS ETF (LU) MSCI World UCITS ETF (USD) A-dis, a distributing (dividends!) physical ETF with a Total Expense Ratio (TER = annual cost of holding the ETF) of 0.30%. Looking at the historic growth chart, one can easily see that this is a slowly growing, low-risk, stable ETF with an average growth rate of 4-6% per year.
    • 2. The ComStage MSCI World UCITS ETF, a distributing (dividends!) synthetic ETF, with a slightly lower TER of 0.20% and which was offered as a free ETF saving plan by my bank at the time.
  • 5% Emerging Market Index: While emerging markets experience greater volatility, they are expected to deliver greater growth in the long term. I hence included a 4% share of the Amundi MSCI Emerging Markets UCITS ETF EUR (A) in my portfolio. The MSCI Emerging Markets is an accumulating synthetic ETF that includes 1100+ companies from 26 emerging markets (including Tencent, Alibaba, Samsung). Its TER is 0.20%.
  • 0% DAX Index: I previously held ETF shares of the Xtrackers DAX UCITS ETF Income 1D, a replicate ETF, mirroring the German DAX, with a TER of 0.09%. I have to admit that I fell for the home country bias when buying them. I sold them in late 2019.
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ETF’s in my portfolio

World IndexUBS ETF (LU) MSCI World UCITS ETF (USD) A-disLU03402851610.30%PhysicalUSDDistributing
World IndexComStage MSCI World UCITS ETFLU03924945620.20%SyntheticUSDDistributing
Emerging Market IndexAmundi MSCI Emerging Markets UCITS ETF EUR (A)LU16810453700.20%SyntheticEURAccumulating
World Index
Lyxor MSCI World UCITS ETF D-EURFR00103157700.30%SyntheticEURDistributing

How did I start?

I was researching ways to save for retirement. A very adult topic and something every person becoming an adult has to go through and make decisions at some point. An insurance broker proposed a capital-building life insurance with market-flexible interest rates. I did some math and realized that no-one but the insurance broker himself/herself benefits from the life insurance.

World economic growth
World Economic Growth since 1940 (C)

I continued my research and learned about Exchange-traded funds (ETFs). It was a podcast that mentioned World EFT Indices and how these are a form of “investing in the world’s economic growth”. Looking at the historic economic growth of the modern world, this was something I could relate to. I am certain that world economies will continue to grow at least until 2050 by when I will retire (and probably much much longer).

I also learned about the other benefit of ETFs, including their low cost, the possibility to earn dividends (passive income!), and tax benefits.

MSCI World Performance since 1975 Copyright: MSCI – 40 YEARS OF HISTORY
The decision was made.

My retirement savings will be a diversified World Index ETF, a combination of the MSCI World and the MSCI Emerging Market.

After I had decided that, I was uncertain about when and how to start. The best piece of advice at the time was to break the total investment amount into four equal pieces (each representing 25%) and to invest one piece/quarter every three months for 12 months (4 x 25% = 100%). This approach allows accounting for seasonal or temporary volatility. I did that and was confident with the decision.

Looking back, one thing I would do differently now is that I would not invest in a DAX ETF. I clearly became a victim of the home country bias at the time.

My ETF principles

From the beginning, my ETF strategy was very simple and consisted of four main principles.

  1. Low risk. Invest in slow-growing low-risk little-fluctuation slow-burner ETFs. Be modest and expect annual growth of 4-6%
  2. Diversify. Invest in a maximum of 4 ETFs covering global markets
  3. No trading. No panicking. Keep and hold – I am in for the long shot on a 10+ year investment horizon
  4. Keep costs low. Total Expense Ratio (TER) at a maximum of 0.30%

How I buy and sell ETFs

I am buying and selling ETFs, using a free online trader account at an online bank. I chose ING Bank as their online trader account is absolutely free and more than 200 ETFs can be bought without any transaction fees. When selling ETFs, ING Bank charges 0.29% which is the lowest I have seen on the market. More about ING Bank and their free trader account here: