Leveraged ETFs: The Pros and Cons

Investing in the stock market has always been an attractive way to grow your wealth over time. However, the complexity of financial markets can be exhausting for new investors. One investment product that has gained popularity in recent years, especially among those seeking higher returns, is leveraged exchange-traded funds (ETFs). In this article, we will explore the world of leveraged ETFs, discovering their pros and cons to help you understand what they are, and what are the caveats of them.

In this Article

Understanding Leveraged ETFs

Before we jump into the pros and cons, let’s first clarify what leveraged ETFs are. Leveraged ETFs are a type of exchange-traded fund designed to increase the returns of an underlying index or asset class. Unlike traditional ETFs, which aim to track the performance of an index, commodity, or basket of assets on a one-to-one basis, leveraged ETFs use financial derivatives and debt instruments to magnify the returns, often at a multiple of the underlying index.

For example, if you invest in a 2x leveraged S&P 500 ETF, it aims to double the daily returns of the S&P 500. If the S&P 500 rises by 1% in a day, the 2x leveraged ETF should ideally increase by 2% before expenses and fees. Similarly, if the S&P 500 falls by 1%, the leveraged ETF would ideally drop by 2%.

The Pros of Leveraged ETFs

  • Potential for Higher Returns: The primary allure of leveraged ETFs is the potential for higher returns. By magnifying the daily movements of the underlying index, these funds can offer investors the opportunity to earn more significant gains when the market is moving in their favor. This feature makes leveraged ETFs particularly appealing to active traders and investors looking to capitalize on short-term market trends.
  • Diversification: Leveraged ETFs often provide diversified exposure to a particular asset class or index. This diversification can help mitigate some of the risks associated with investing in individual stocks or assets. For example, a leveraged ETF tracking the technology sector can spread your risk across multiple tech companies, reducing the impact of poor performance by a single company.
  • Liquidity and Accessibility: Leveraged ETFs, like traditional ETFs, are traded on stock exchanges. This means they are easy to buy and sell throughout the trading day, providing investors with liquidity and flexibility. Additionally, they can be purchased through brokerage accounts, making them accessible to individual investors.
  • Inverse ETFs: In addition to providing leveraged exposure to the upside, leveraged ETFs also offer inverse or “short” options. These inverse-leveraged ETFs aim to deliver double or triple the inverse daily returns of the underlying index. This means you can potentially profit from falling markets, providing a hedging tool for your portfolio during bearish trends.

The Cons of Leveraged ETFs

While leveraged ETFs offer appealing advantages, they are not without their downsides, which new investors must carefully consider.

  • Daily Rebalancing: Leveraged ETFs achieve their leveraged returns through daily rebalancing. This means that these funds reset their exposure to the target multiple at the end of each trading day. The daily rebalancing process can lead to what’s known as “compounding” or “path dependency” issues. In cases of high market volatility or choppy trading, the compounding effect can erode returns over time. For example, if the underlying index experiences daily fluctuations without a clear trend, the leveraged ETF can underperform its stated multiple due to the daily rebalancing process.
  • Unsuitability for Long-Term Investing: Leveraged ETFs are not designed for long-term buy-and-hold strategies. Due to the daily rebalancing and compounding issues mentioned above, these funds are best suited for short-term trading and tactical allocation. Holding them for extended periods can lead to unexpected results and significant losses.
  • High Costs: The management fees and expenses associated with leveraged ETFs are typically higher than those of traditional ETFs. These costs can eat into your returns, especially if you hold the ETF for an extended period. Before investing in a leveraged ETF, it’s crucial to understand and evaluate the fund’s expense ratio and any associated trading costs.
  • Complex Understanding Required: Investing in leveraged ETFs requires a more in-depth understanding of financial markets and trading strategies than traditional investing. New investors may find it challenging to grasp the intricacies of leveraged products and the risks involved. Without adequate knowledge and experience, it’s easy to make costly mistakes.

Strategies for Investing in Leveraged ETFs

If you decide to include leveraged ETFs in your investment portfolio, it’s essential to approach them with a clear strategy in mind. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Short-Term Trading: Leveraged ETFs are most suitable for short-term trading and market-timing strategies. Active traders can use them to capitalize on short-lived market trends and capitalize on quick price movements. However, it’s important to set clear entry and exit points and avoid holding leveraged ETFs for extended periods.
  • Risk Management: Given the potential for amplified losses, it’s necessary to incorporate risk management into your leveraged ETF strategy. Consider using stop-loss orders or position-sizing techniques to limit potential losses. Diversifying your portfolio with a mix of assets, including non-leveraged investments, can also help mitigate risk.
  • Education and Research: Investing in leveraged ETFs demands a solid understanding of the financial markets and the specific asset class or index you’re trading. Take the time to educate yourself, conduct thorough research, and stay updated on market news and events that can impact your investments.

How to Invest in Leveraged ETFs

The easiest way to invest in Leveraged ETFs is to have an online account with a broker. Here we can highly recommend Interactive Brokers. Did you know that Interactive Brokers offers up to $1000 of free IBKR stock when opening an account?

(Disclaimer: The offer is subject to the terms and conditions provided by Interactive Brokers. We recommend reading the offer details, available upon clicking the referral link.)


Leveraged ETFs can be a valuable tool for experienced traders and investors seeking short-term opportunities for improved returns. However, they come with inherent risks, including daily rebalancing and compounding effects, higher costs, and a steep learning curve. It’s important for you to thoroughly research and understand these products before considering them for your portfolio.

Before investing in leveraged ETFs, assess your risk tolerance, financial goals, and time horizon. If you’re new to investing, it may be wise to start with traditional ETFs and gradually expand your portfolio as you gain experience and confidence in the market.

Remember that no investment is without risk, and it’s necessary to diversify your portfolio and manage risk.

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