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Top 5 Buffer ETFs to Consider in 2023

If you’re an investor looking for ways to protect your portfolio from market volatility, you may have heard about buffer ETFs

These innovative investment vehicles have gained popularity in recent years, offering a unique combination of downside protection and growth potential. 

As with any investment, it’s important to do your research and select the right ETF for your needs. 

If you want to invest as an expat or high-net-worth individual, which is what I specialize in, you can email me (advice@adamfayed.com) or use WhatsApp (+44-7393-450-837).

What are buffer ETFs?

Buffer ETFs, also known as defined outcome ETFs, are a type of exchange-traded fund designed to provide downside protection and limited upside potential. They utilize options contracts to create a defined range of returns, or “buffer,” within which the ETF’s performance is guaranteed to fall.

For example, a buffer ETF with a buffer range of 10% might be designed to allow investors to participate in the gains of a particular market index, such as the S&P 500, up to a certain level. 

If the index rises within that buffer range, the ETF will provide returns similar to the index. If the index falls within that range, the ETF will limit losses to a certain percentage, say 10%, before fully exposing investors to any further declines.

Buffer ETFs typically have a fixed time horizon, usually one year, after which the ETF is reset, and the buffer range is adjusted. This allows investors to benefit from a new buffer range and market conditions going forward.

What are the benefits of investing in buffer ETFs?

There are several benefits to investing in buffer ETFs, including:

  1. Downside protection: Buffer ETFs are designed to limit losses within a predefined range, which can help protect investors from significant market downturns.
  2. Predictable outcomes: Unlike traditional ETFs, which track the performance of an underlying index, buffer ETFs have a defined range of returns that investors can expect. This can make it easier for investors to plan and manage their portfolios.
  3. Limited upside potential: While buffer ETFs offer some upside potential, they typically have a cap on how much investors can earn. This can be attractive to investors who are looking for more conservative investment options.
  4. Diversification: Buffer ETFs can provide exposure to different asset classes, such as stocks or bonds, which can help investors diversify their portfolios and manage risk.

Compared to other types of ETFs, buffer ETFs are unique in that they provide a defined range of returns, which can help investors manage risk and plan for potential outcomes. 

Additionally, buffer ETFs often have a more conservative investment approach, which can appeal to investors looking for a more defensive investment strategy. 

However, this limited upside potential can also be a disadvantage for investors who are looking for higher returns. 

Finally, it’s important to note that buffer ETFs typically have higher fees than traditional ETFs, which can impact their overall performance.

buffer etfs

Buffer ETFs are unique in that they provide a defined range of returns. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

How do buffer ETFs provide downside protection to investors?

Buffer ETFs provide downside protection to investors by using options contracts to create a predefined range of returns, or buffer, within which the ETF’s performance is guaranteed to fall.

For example, a buffer ETF is designed to give investors a buffer range of 10%. This means that if the underlying market index that the ETF is tracking falls by up to 10%, the ETF’s value will also decline, but only up to that 10% limit. 

If the market index falls more than 10%, the ETF will still experience losses, but investors will be protected from the full extent of those losses.

By providing this downside protection, buffer ETFs can help investors manage risk and reduce the impact of market volatility on their portfolios. 

This can be especially valuable during times of market uncertainty or economic instability, when investors may be more concerned about protecting their investments than maximizing their returns.

It’s important to note that buffer ETFs typically have a limited protection period, usually one year, after which the ETF’s buffer range is reset and adjusted to reflect current market conditions. 

Investors should also be aware that buffer ETFs may not protect against all market risks and that losses can still occur, especially in extreme market conditions.

What are the top 5 buffer ETFs to consider in 2023?

The top 5 buffer ETFs to consider in 2023 are:

Innovator S&P 500 Buffer ETF (BJUL)

This ETF is designed to provide investors with exposure to the S&P 500 with a buffer range of 15%. BJUL resets its buffer range annually, and investors can participate in the gains of the S&P 500 up to the buffer limit. BJUL also has a lower expense ratio compared to other buffer ETFs, which can help improve its overall performance.

Innovator Nasdaq 100 Buffer ETF (BAPR)

This ETF is designed to expose investors to the Nasdaq 100 with a buffer range of 9%. BAPR resets its buffer range annually and has a lower expense ratio compared to other Nasdaq 100 buffer ETFs.

First Trust Cboe Vest U.S. Equity Buffer ETF (BUFR)

This ETF is designed to expose investors to a diversified portfolio of U.S. stocks with a buffer range of 10%. BUFR has a lower expense ratio than other buffer ETFs and uses a proprietary rules-based investment process to manage downside risk.

Innovator Russell 2000 Power Buffer ETF (KOCT)

This ETF is designed to provide investors with exposure to the Russell 2000 with a buffer range of 15%. KOCT resets its buffer range annually and has a lower expense ratio compared to other Russell 2000 buffer ETFs.

Simplify U.S. Equity PLUS Buffer ETF (SPBC)

This ETF is designed to expose investors to a diversified portfolio of U.S. stocks with a buffer range of 30%. SPBC has a higher buffer range than other buffer ETFs and uses a rules-based investment process to manage downside risk.

What sets these ETFs apart from other buffer ETFs is their specific focus on a particular index or asset class, their defined buffer ranges, and their unique investment strategies. 

Each of these ETFs offers different advantages and risks, and investors should carefully consider their investment goals and risk tolerance before selecting the right buffer ETF for their portfolio.

What are the risks associated with investing in buffer ETFs?

While buffer ETFs offer a range of benefits, such as downside protection and predictable outcomes, there are also risks associated with investing in them. 

One of the main risks is that the buffer range may not fully protect investors from losses during periods of extreme market volatility or unexpected events. 

In other words, investors may still experience losses beyond the buffer range, which can impact their returns. 

Additionally, buffer ETFs typically have higher fees compared to traditional ETFs, which can impact their overall performance. 

Finally, buffer ETFs may not be suitable for all investors, particularly those who are looking for higher returns or have a high-risk tolerance.

To mitigate these risks, investors should carefully consider their investment goals and risk tolerance before investing in buffer ETFs. 

They should also research the specific ETFs they are considering and evaluate their historical performance, expense ratios, and underlying investment strategies. 

Additionally, investors can diversify their portfolios by including a mix of traditional ETFs and other types of investments to help manage risk. 

Finally, investors should regularly monitor their buffer ETFs and adjust their portfolios as market conditions change to ensure they are still aligned with their investment goals and risk tolerance. 

How do investors select the right buffer ETF for their portfolio, and what factors should they consider?

When selecting the right buffer ETF for their portfolio, investors should consider a variety of factors, including their investment goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Here are some key factors to consider:

Investment Objective

Consider what you’re trying to achieve with your investment. Are you looking for income, capital appreciation, or a combination of both? Do you want exposure to a specific asset class, such as stocks or bonds?

Risk Tolerance

Consider your risk tolerance and how much downside protection you need. Buffer ETFs with higher buffer ranges may offer more protection, but they may also have lower upside potential. Some buffer ETFs may be more volatile than others, depending on their underlying investments and investment strategies.

Fund Performance

Review the historical performance of the buffer ETFs you’re considering, including their track record during different market conditions. It’s also important to evaluate the expense ratio and other fees associated with each fund, as these can impact overall returns.

Investment Strategy

Review the investment strategy of the buffer ETFs you’re considering, including the specific index or asset class they track and the buffer range they offer. Additionally, consider the methodology the fund manager uses to manage downside risk and how frequently the buffer range is reset.

Liquidity and Trading Volume

Consider the liquidity and trading volume of the buffer ETFs you’re considering. Higher liquidity and trading volume can help ensure that you can buy and sell the fund quickly and easily, which is particularly important during times of market volatility.

buffer etfs

Consider your risk tolerance and how much downside protection you need. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

What is the historical performance of the top five buffer ETFs?

Generally, buffer ETFs have performed well during periods of market volatility and uncertainty, providing investors with some degree of downside protection while still allowing for potential growth.

Looking at the top five buffer ETFs to consider in 2023, Innovator S&P 500 Buffer ETF (BJUL) and Innovator Russell 2000 Power Buffer ETF (KOCT) have both performed well, with BJUL providing a 22.62% return over the past year and KOCT providing a 16.23% return.

The Innovator Nasdaq 100 Buffer ETF (BAPR) has also performed well, with a 26.21% return over the past year.

The First Trust Cboe Vest U.S. Equity Buffer ETF (BUFR) and Simplify U.S. Equity PLUS Buffer ETF (SPBC) are newer ETFs and do not have as much of a track record as the other top buffer ETFs. 

BUFR has provided a 5.07% return over the past six months, while SPBC has provided a 14.51% return over the same period.

Compared to other investment options, buffer ETFs may offer some advantages, such as downside protection and predictable outcomes. 

However, they also have limitations, such as limited upside potential and higher fees compared to traditional ETFs. 

Ultimately, the historical performance of the top five buffer ETFs suggests that they can be an effective tool for managing risk and diversifying a portfolio, but investors should carefully consider their investment goals and risk tolerance before investing.

How do fees and expenses impact the performance of buffer ETFs?

Fees and expenses can have a significant impact on the performance of buffer ETFs, as they can erode returns over time. 

Investors should be aware of the various fees and expenses associated with buffer ETFs and evaluate them carefully before investing.

The primary fee associated with ETFs is the expense ratio, which is the annual fee that the fund charges to cover its operating costs. 

This fee is expressed as a percentage of the fund’s assets under management and can range from less than 0.1% to over 1%. While the expense ratio may seem small, it can have a significant impact on returns over time, especially for long-term investors.

In addition to the expense ratio, investors should also consider other costs associated with investing in buffer ETFs, such as trading commissions, bid-ask spreads, and taxes. 

These costs can add up over time and impact overall returns, especially for investors who trade frequently or hold the ETF for a short period of time.

When evaluating the costs associated with buffer ETFs, investors should consider their investment goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. 

They should also compare the costs of different buffer ETFs and other investment options, such as traditional ETFs or mutual funds, to determine which option provides the best value.

Finally, investors should know that lower fees do not always mean better performance. Other factors, such as investment strategy, underlying assets, and historical performance, should also be considered when evaluating buffer ETFs. 

What is the outlook for buffer ETFs in 2023?

The outlook for buffer ETFs in 2023 is largely positive as these investment vehicles continue to gain popularity among investors looking to manage risk and diversify their portfolios. 

As economic and market trends evolve in 2023, several factors could impact the performance of buffer ETFs, including:

  1. Interest rates: Rising interest rates could impact the performance of buffer ETFs, especially those that are focused on fixed-income securities. If interest rates rise, bond prices will typically fall, which could lead to losses for investors in bond-focused buffer ETFs.
  2. Market volatility: Buffer ETFs are designed to provide downside protection during periods of market volatility, so increased volatility in 2023 could potentially benefit these investments. However, extreme market conditions could still result in losses beyond the buffer range, so investors should remain vigilant.
  3. Inflation: If inflation rises in 2023, it could impact the performance of buffer ETFs that are focused on equity markets. Higher inflation could lead to higher interest rates, which could dampen economic growth and negatively impact stock prices.
  4. Economic growth: Strong economic growth in 2023 could benefit equity-focused buffer ETFs, as companies could see increased earnings, and stock prices could rise. However, slower economic growth could impact the performance of these ETFs, especially if interest rates remain low and inflation remains high.

Overall, the outlook for buffer ETFs in 2023 is largely positive, as these investments offer a unique combination of downside protection and growth potential. 

However, investors should remain vigilant and stay informed of economic and market trends that could impact the performance of their investments.

buffer etfs

Consult a investment advisor if needed. Photo by Kindel Media

How can investors incorporate buffer ETFs into their overall investment strategy?

Investors can incorporate buffer ETFs into their overall investment strategy by using them to manage risk and diversify their portfolios. 

Buffer ETFs can play a valuable role in a diversified portfolio by providing downside protection during periods of market volatility while still allowing for potential growth.

Investors should evaluate their investment goals and risk tolerance before incorporating buffer ETFs into their investment strategy. 

They should then identify the buffer ETFs that align with these goals and develop a plan to incorporate them into their overall portfolio.

One approach is to use buffer ETFs as part of a broader asset allocation strategy. 

For example, an investor may allocate a portion of their portfolio to buffer ETFs that provide exposure to different asset classes, such as stocks or bonds. 

This can help manage risk and diversify the portfolio while still allowing for potential growth.

Another approach is to use buffer ETFs to manage downside risk within specific asset classes. 

For example, an investor may invest in a buffer ETF that provides downside protection within a particular sector or market index. This can help manage risk within that asset class, while still allowing for potential growth.

Ultimately, buffer ETFs’ role in a diversified portfolio will depend on the investor’s individual goals and risk tolerance. 

However, investors can use these investments to manage risk and achieve their investment objectives by carefully evaluating the benefits and risks of buffer ETFs and developing a strategic plan for incorporating them into their overall portfolio.

Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 760.2 million answer views on Quora.com, a widely sold book on Amazon, and a contributor on Forbes.

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