What Are the Best Ways to Get International Exposure in Your Portfolio?

In this Answers, Answers segment the Motley Fool Answers podcast, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp answer a Twitter question from someone looking for a good way to diversify into foreign markets without overpaying on fees. They point to a couple of Vanguard funds they view as well worth considering.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Nov. 21, 2017.

Alison Southwick: It's time for Answers, Answers and today's question comes from Twitter! And it comes from MguestAndB. And they write, "I am looking for a Vanguard ETF to provide international exposure. Do you have any suggestions that I should look into?"

Robert Brokamp: Yes. People are paying more attention to international investing these days. Since the recovery from the Great Recession, U.S. stocks have significantly outperformed international stocks, so people stopped paying attention. This year is different. U.S. stocks have still done well. Most major markets are up 16% by the end of October. The international market -- depending on what you look at -- up 25-30%. You're seeing more people saying, "Maybe I should get back into international investing." And one great way to do it is through Vanguard and a low-cost index fund or ETF.

So, yes, I have a suggestion. My first suggestion is the Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-US ETF. The ticker is VEU -- FTSE standing for Financial Times Stock Exchange. FTSE Russell are the folks who created the index and then Vanguard just follows the index. This is a great improvement over some of the earlier international index funds, which mostly focused on developed countries from Europe and Asia [not Canada and not Latin America]. This ETF covers it all. It also has developed markets as well as emerging markets. About 14% of the assets are in emerging markets, so that's a good start.

However, if you were to ask most major firms about what they expect to outperform over the next five to 10 years, most people expect emerging markets actually to do better than most other asset classes, so I would recommend that you enhance this a little bit by also looking at Vanguard's Emerging Markets ETF. It has the ticker of VWO. One knock against that is almost a third of the assets are in China, so you have to be comfortable with that, and it doesn't have South Korea. These days people debate whether South Korea is an emerging market or a developed market. Those are a couple of little knocks about that ETF, but I still think it makes sense.

Also, both of those ETFs are market-cap weighted, meaning they have big companies. Anywhere from $16-30 billion is around the average. If you want a little bit of small-cap exposure,Vanguard also has an International Small-Cap ETF. The ticker is VSS and the average market cap of the companies in that ETF are around $1-2 billion.

I think if you really want solid, international exposure, I would consider a mix of those three and as an allocation guidance I would say maybe 30% of your assets should be international with 15% in VEU -- that's sort of the umbrella ETF -- 10% in emerging markets, and 5% in small caps.

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