While there are no concrete dates of birth that allow one to be considered a member of Generation X, it is generally accepted those born starting in the early 1960s through the early 1980s are "Gen X-ers." Millennials, or members of Generation Y, are said to have been born in the late 1970s or 1980s and onward.
In other words, there are a lot people out there are not planning for retirement at the moment. Unfortunately, there are some cold realities facing the younger members of Gen X and all of Gen Y. For starters, defined benefit pension plans are a thing of the past. With folks living longer, companies are finding it harder to justify the expense of these plans to shareholders.
From 1980 through 2008, the percentage of workers covered by a defined benefit pension plan slid from 38 percent to 20 percent, according to the Social Security Administration. In 2010, only 17 members of the Fortune 100 offered defined benefit pensions.
Then there is social security. No matter what politicians from either side of the aisle would lead voters to believe, there is at least a decent chance a good portion of Gen X and all of Gen Y will not receive any social security benefits because the system will be belly-up by the time these workers retire.
Fortunately, there are ETFs to help Gen X and Gen Y survive even without lofty pensions and social security.
iShares Gold Trust (IAU) Perhaps a controversial pick because gold does not pay a dividend and commodities are volatile, but there are reasons for long-term investors to consider a gold-backed ETF. First, gold is often viewed as the ultimate inflation-fighting instrument.
Second, the balance sheets of many developed world governments, the U.S. included, are putrid. The rising fiscal burdens coming from Washington, D.C. are a drag on the already vulnerable dollar, implying previously unthinkable prices for gold such as $2,500 or $3,000 an ounce are not far-flung concepts. IAU makes the cut because its expense ratio of 0.25 percent is lower than the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) and that is important for long-term investors.
WisdomTree Dividend ex-Financials Fund (DTN) Dividends have to be part of the retirement equation, especially for those that are not getting or pension. If social security falls by the wayside, the importance of dividends will exponentially increase. DTN is compelling option because it excludes financials, a sector that, broadly speaking, still has not regained its pre-financial crisis dividend luster.
Predictably, utilities and staples dominate DTN with a combined allocation of over 26 percent, but tech, now the largest dividend-paying sector, represents 10 percent of the fund's weight. DTN, which has $1.2 billion in assets under management, has a 30-day SEC yield of 3.83 percent.
Those wanting some exposure to bank stocks can pair DTN with the lower-yielding Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG). VIG, the largest dividend ETF by assets, screens candidates based on their dividend track records. In other words, VIG is home to stocks that have paid dividends for decades, not new dividend players such as Apple (AAPL).
Market Vectors High-Yield Muni ETF (HYD) Yes, there have been an increased number of municipal bankruptcies this year and the potential is there for that number to rise in the coming years. All that said, calls for the death of municipal bonds as an asset class have either been very premature or greatly exaggerated as the asset class has been a steady performer this year.
Even amid rising municipal bankruptcies, HYD is up 10 percent this year. Earlier this week, Warren Buffett said he is exiting the muni bond market and HYD is up since that announcement. That shows this is a resilient ETF. In lieu of a pension or social security, HYD is a nice backstop with a monthly dividend and a 12-month trailing yield of 5.07 percent.
A monthly dividend payer, SDIV offers a yield that few other dividend ETFs can even get close to. As of August 22, SDIV had a 12-month yield of 7.87 percent and a 30-day SEC yield of 7.65 percent as of July 31, according to Global X data.
WisdomTree Emerging Markets Local Debt Fund (ELD) ETFs featuring emerging markets debt not denominated in U.S. dollars have surged in popularity as investors look to allocate some of their portfolios away from the greenback. The fact that many emerging market governments have sound balance sheets is a plus and improving credit ratings only make EM debt more attractive.
ELD, the second-largest actively managed ETF on the market, allocates about 40 percent of its weight to Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia and Indonesia. Another monthly dividend payer, ELD's 30-day SEC yield is close to four percent.
ELD charges 0.55 percent per year. Investors looking to save a few basis points could consider the Emerging Markets Local Currency Bond ETF (EMLC). EMLC, which is not actively managed, charges 0.49 percent. Brazil, Poland, South Africa and Mexico combine for 40 percent of EMLC's weight.
For more on ETFs, click here.
(c) 2012 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.