VFV vs VSP: Unhedged vs Hedged S&P 500 ETFs in Canada

PiggyBank Staff | August 2, 2023
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When it comes to ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund) investing in Canada, understanding the options available to you is crucial. In this article, we will compare two popular ETFs: Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF (VFV) and Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF (CAD-hedged) (VSP). But before diving into the details, let’s start with the basics.

ETFs, or Exchange-Traded Funds, are investment funds that are traded on stock exchanges. They are designed to track the performance of a specific index, commodity, or asset class. ETFs offer investors the opportunity to gain exposure to a diversified portfolio of securities with the convenience of trading them like stocks.

Investing in ETFs has become increasingly popular due to several reasons. They provide diversification, allowing investors to spread their investments across a range of assets. ETFs also have lower costs compared to mutual funds and provide transparency through daily disclosures of their holdings.

In the Canadian market, Vanguard is a well-known and reputable provider of ETFs. Now, let’s delve into the details of Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF (VFV) and Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF (CAD-hedged) (VSP).

VFV is designed to track the performance of the S&P 500 Index, which represents the largest 500 publicly traded companies in the United States. On the other hand, VSP is also tied to the S&P 500 Index but takes an additional step of hedging the currency exposure between the Canadian dollar (CAD) and the U.S. dollar (USD).

Understanding the key differences between VFV and VSP is important for investors. Factors such as investment objective, currency hedging, performance, expense ratio, and dividends play a significant role in making an informed investment decision.

Both VFV and VSP offer benefits such as exposure to the U.S. market, diversification, and lower costs. There are certain considerations to keep in mind when choosing between them, including investment goals, currency exposure, and risk tolerance.

By delving deeper into the details of VFV and VSP, we aim to provide you with the information necessary to make an educated decision regarding which ETF aligns with your investment objectives and preferences.

What is an ETF?

An ETF, or exchange-traded fund, is a type of investment fund that is traded on stock exchanges. It is designed to track the performance of various indices, sectors, commodities, or asset classes. ETFs are similar to mutual funds in that they offer diversification and flexibility. What sets them apart is that they are traded like stocks. This means that investors can buy or sell ETFs throughout the trading day at market prices, providing liquidity. ETFs are known for their lower expense ratios compared to mutual funds.

One of the key advantages of ETFs is their transparency. The underlying holdings of an ETF are disclosed daily, offering investors a clear view of what they are investing in. This transparency is highly valued by investors who want to have a better understanding of their investments.

The first ETF, known as SPDR, was introduced in 1993. It tracked the performance of the S&P 500 Index, which is a widely recognized benchmark for the U.S. stock market. Since then, ETFs have grown in popularity as a way to achieve broad market exposure, diversify investment portfolios, and actively manage investments.

Why Invest in ETFs?

Investing in ETFs offers numerous advantages. ETFs allow investors to create a diversified portfolio of assets, which helps to spread investments across different companies and sectors, ultimately mitigating risk. Another benefit of ETFs is the easy access to a wide range of markets, including international markets, which enables investors to leverage global economic trends and potentially enhance their investment returns.

When it comes to trading, ETFs function similarly to stocks. They can be bought or sold throughout the trading day, providing investors with the ability to quickly enter or exit positions. ETFs have low expense ratios in comparison to mutual funds, making them a cost-effective investment option. This is primarily due to their passive management style, which aims to replicate the performance of a specific index and results in lower management fees.

Investing in ETFs also offers transparency. The underlying holdings of ETFs are regularly disclosed, allowing investors to have clear visibility into their investments. This transparency plays a crucial role in helping investors make well-informed decisions based on their investment goals and risk preferences.

To fully maximize the benefits of investing in ETFs, it is essential to carefully consider investment goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Conducting thorough research on ETFs and their underlying holdings is strongly recommended. If needed, consulting a financial advisor can provide valuable guidance. By following these steps, investors can confidently make informed decisions that contribute to their long-term financial stability and success.

ETFs in Canada: Overview

ETFs have become increasingly popular among Canadian investors. These investment vehicles provide a diversified portfolio of securities and are traded on stock exchanges. They offer exposure to a variety of asset classes, sectors, and markets, including the well-known S&P 500 index.

One notable advantage of ETFs is their relatively low fees when compared to traditional mutual funds. Another benefit is their flexibility, as investors can trade them throughout the day at market prices. It’s important to note that ETFs are regulated by investment management companies and adhere to the same rules as other publicly-traded securities.

Canadian investors have a wide range of ETF options to choose from, providing exposure to different markets and sectors. To minimize currency risk, ETFs in Canada offer options in both Canadian dollars and U.S. dollars.

When considering investing in ETFs, it’s crucial to consider factors such as investment goals, risk tolerance, and cost management. Evaluating the historical returns, volatility management, and underlying holdings of the ETFs is essential.

To make informed investment decisions, it is recommended that you conduct research and seek personalized advice from a financial advisor based on your unique investment goals and risk tolerance. Remember to diversify your investments and regularly review your portfolio to ensure it aligns with your financial objectives.


Overview of Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF and Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF

The Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF and Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF are popular investment options that provide exposure to the S&P 500 index, a benchmark for the U.S. stock market. These ETFs offer investors a convenient way to invest in a diversified portfolio of large-cap U.S. stocks.

Both the Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF and Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF passively manage by closely tracking the performance of the S&P 500 index, rather than selecting individual stocks actively. This approach keeps fees low and allows investors to gain broad market exposure.

While the Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF and Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF have similar investment objectives, there may be slight differences in performance and expenses. Reviewing the fund’s prospectus is important for understanding any variations and making an informed investment decision.

When choosing between the two Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETFs, investors should consider their own investment goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Consulting with a financial advisor who can provide personalized advice based on individual circumstances may be beneficial.

What is Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF ?

The Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF is an exchange-traded fund that mirrors the performance of the S&P 500 Index, comprising the top 500 U.S. companies. This ETF is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, offering investors a means to access the U.S. market without having to buy individual stocks.

It provides a diversified investment by holding a broad range of the top 500 U.S. companies. The Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF is widely popular among Canadian investors due to its cost-effectiveness and is a favored choice to invest in the U.S. market. With its low management expense ratio, it effectively minimizes costs for investors.

The Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF is highly trusted for its exceptional investment management expertise and competency. When selecting between different ETFs, investors should assess their objectives and risk tolerance.

This ETF is well-suited for individuals seeking exposure to the U.S. market and who are comfortable with potential currency risks. Before investing in any ETF, conducting thorough research is crucial. Take into account historical returns, volatility management, and operating expenses to make an informed decision.

What is Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF ?

The Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF is a fund that aims to replicate the performance of the S&P 500 Index. It is specifically designed for investors who are interested in gaining exposure to the top 500 U.S. companies, which make up a significant portion of the U.S. stock market. This ETF offers the advantages of both mutual funds and stocks, providing investors with diversification and flexibility.

One notable feature of the Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF is its low management expense ratio, which helps to minimize costs for investors. It offers a cost-effective way for investors to access a diverse portfolio of U.S. stocks.

Before investing in the Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF, it is important for investors to carefully consider their goals and risk tolerance. It is worth noting that investing in any stock market carries a level of risk, and Canadian investors should also take into account the potential currency exposure since the returns of this ETF are in U.S. dollars.

A fun fact about the Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF is that Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors, recommends low-cost index funds like this for long-term investment success.

Key Differences Between VFV and VSP

When it comes to VFV and VSP, there are key differences worth exploring. We’ll take a closer look at various aspects like investment objectives, currency hedging, performance, expense ratios, and dividends. Each sub-section uncovers essential insights that will help you make informed decisions about VFV and VSP. So, let’s dive in and discover the contrasting features of these investment options without any fluff!

Investment Objective

The Investment Objective of an Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) is of utmost importance for investors. It serves as a guide, outlining the fund’s goal and clarifying what it aims to achieve. The Investment Objective may vary depending on factors such as assets, sector, or strategy.

Investors should carefully review the Investment Objective to ensure that it aligns with their goals and risk tolerance. For instance, some ETFs are designed to track the performance of an index, such as the S&P 500, while others concentrate on a specific sector or asset class.

Understanding the Investment Objective is crucial as it provides valuable insights into potential returns and risks. This understanding helps investors determine if the fund’s strategy is suitable for their needs. For example, investors seeking exposure to the U.S. market would search for an ETF with a corresponding Investment Objective.

Investors should evaluate the track record of the ETF, analyzing its historical performance and whether it has consistently met its Investment Objective. Factors such as expenses, fund age, and sector exposure can further assist in assessing the suitability of an ETF.

By comprehending the Investment Objective, investors can make well-informed decisions and select ETFs that align with their goals, risk tolerance, and desired exposure to specific markets or sectors.

Currency Hedging

Currency hedging is a crucial consideration when investing in ETFs. It involves effectively managing the influence of currency fluctuations on investment returns. ETFs that do not incorporate currency hedging are exposed to the changes in the exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and the foreign currency of the underlying assets. Such exposure can have either positive or negative effects on investment returns.

The primary objective of currency hedging is to minimize the risk associated with currency fluctuations. This is achieved by utilizing financial instruments to counterbalance the impact of these fluctuations. By employing currency hedging, investment returns become more stable, providing investors with a sense of predictability.

Different approaches exist when it comes to currency hedging in ETFs. Some ETFs fully hedge their currency exposure, while others opt for partial hedging or choose not to hedge at all. The decision regarding the extent of currency hedging depends on various factors, including the investment strategy, investor preferences, and prevailing market conditions.

Investors should carefully consider the implications of currency hedging while selecting between different ETFs. It is vital to assess the potential impact of currency fluctuations on investment returns and align them with their specific goals and risk tolerance.

Historically, currency fluctuations have exerted a significant influence on investment returns for international investors. The strength of the Canadian dollar can diminish the value of foreign investments when converting them back to Canadian dollars, whereas a weaker Canadian dollar can enhance returns. The use of currency hedging enables investors to effectively manage currency risk and safeguard their investment returns. By incorporating strategies to hedge against currency volatility, investors can mitigate the impact of such fluctuations and achieve predictable investment outcomes in the constantly evolving global investment landscape.


When evaluating ETF performance, it is important to consider various factors. Reviewing the historical returns is essential. Specifically, one should examine the compounded annual return over a specific time period.

It is crucial to assess how well the ETF has managed market volatility. Look for strategies that minimize downside risk and enhance potential upside.

It is necessary to consider the operating expenses of the ETF. This can be evaluated by understanding the management expense ratio (MER), which provides insights into the costs of owning the fund. Lower fees can have a positive impact on long-term investment returns.

It is important to assess whether the ETF aligns with market trends and sentiment. Strong performance during positive market conditions can indicate its ability to generate returns.

The age of the fund also plays a role in evaluating its performance and stability. A longer track record provides more confidence in the fund’s performance.

It is also crucial to examine the sectors in which the ETF has exposure. Diversification across sectors helps minimize the impact of industry risks on performance.

Understanding the ETF’s investment portfolio makeup is equally important. A well-diversified portfolio, consisting of top 500 U.S. companies like the S&P 500, provides broad market exposure.

It is advisable to consider the assets under management of the ETF. A larger fund may indicate greater investor confidence and liquidity.

Expense Ratio

The expense ratio is a crucial factor to consider when investing in ETFs. It represents the annual cost of owning an ETF, stated as a percentage of the total assets managed. A lower expense ratio is generally better because it means you pay less in fees to the fund manager. This can significantly impact your investment returns over time.

When comparing expense ratios, it’s important to consider the average expense ratios of similar ETFs in the market. A higher expense ratio might be justified if the ETF offers unique features or outperforms its peers. Conversely, a lower expense ratio might be more attractive if the ETF provides similar exposure and performance as its competitors.

It’s also worth noting that expense ratios can vary based on the asset class and investment strategy of the ETF. For instance, actively managed ETFs often have higher expense ratios compared to passively managed index ETFs. ETFs with exposure to niche or international markets might have higher expense ratios due to higher operating costs.


Dividends in ETF investing have some important points to consider:

  • ETFs distribute dividends to investors. These dividends are a portion of the profits earned from the underlying holdings.
  • Frequency: Dividend payments can vary depending on the ETF. Some distribute dividends quarterly, annually, or monthly. Check the dividend distribution schedule of the specific ETF.
  • Yield: The dividend yield is the percentage of the ETF’s share price paid out as dividends. This yield can vary depending on the performance of the underlying holdings and the dividend policies. Consider the dividend yield when comparing different ETF options.
  • Tax considerations: Dividends received from ETFs may be subject to taxes. The tax treatment of dividends can vary depending on factors such as the investor’s tax bracket and the type of account in which the ETF is held. Consult with a tax advisor for clarity on the tax implications.
  • Reinvestment options: Some ETFs offer dividend reinvestment programs (DRIPs) where investors can automatically reinvest their dividends to purchase additional shares of the ETF. This can potentially compound investment returns over time.

Benefits of VFV and VSP

Discover the incredible advantages of VFV and VSP in the investment world. In this section, we’ll uncover the benefits that come with these investment options. From gaining exposure to the U.S. market to achieving diversification and enjoying lower costs, we’ll explore how VFV and VSP can enhance your investment portfolio. Get ready to unlock new opportunities and maximize your financial potential.

Exposure to U.S. Market

Exposure to the U.S. market is crucial when investing in ETFs. The U.S. market holds significant influence and a multitude of investment opportunities. Opting for ETFs that provide exposure to the U.S. market enables investors to reap the benefits of the performance of the top 500 U.S. companies, including renowned names such as Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon.

By investing in ETFs that mirror the S&P 500 index, such as VFV and VSP, investors can replicate the performance of these companies and gain exposure to the overall U.S. market. This exposure proves advantageous for diversification purposes as it allows investors to allocate their investments across various sectors and industries within the U.S. market.

Investing in ETFs that offer exposure to the U.S. market also presents the potential for robust investment returns. The U.S. market has consistently demonstrated strong growth and resilience, making it an appealing investment option.

It is important to note that investing in the U.S. market also exposes investors to currency risk. Fluctuations in the exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and the U.S. dollar can impact the returns on investments in U.S.-based assets. Hence, investors should assess their risk tolerance and investment objectives before determining their level of exposure to the U.S. market.


Diversification is crucial for successful investing. By diversifying your portfolio, you can reduce risk and potentially increase returns. Here are some important points to consider:

– Invest in different asset classes: Spread your investments across stocks, bonds, commodities, and real estate. This protects against losses in one asset class by benefiting from growth in another.

– Choose low correlation investments: Look for assets that don’t move in the same direction at the same time. For example, when stocks perform poorly, bonds often perform well.

– Consider international investments: Investing in assets from different countries provides geographic diversification, reducing the impact of economic or political events in a single country.

– Allocate your investments: Determine the percentage of your portfolio for each asset class based on risk tolerance, goals, and time horizon.

– Regularly review and rebalance: Periodically rebalance your portfolio to maintain your target asset allocation. Sell assets that have performed well and buy those that have underperformed to align with your desired allocation.

In 1952, Harry Markowitz introduced the concept of diversification and showed how it reduces risk while maintaining returns. His work earned him the 1990 Nobel Prize in Economics and laid the foundation for modern portfolio management.

Lower Costs

– ETFs offer lower expense ratios compared to actively managed mutual funds, making them a cost-effective choice for investors. Both the Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF and Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF have low expense ratios, allowing investors to keep more of their returns.

– ETFs also provide savings for investors in terms of front-end loads. Unlike some mutual funds, ETFs do not charge front-end loads, which can save investors money, especially when making regular contributions. Investors in VFV and VSP can take advantage of this benefit as well.

– In addition to lower expenses, investors can further reduce costs through commission-free trading offered by some brokerage firms for certain ETFs like VFV and VSP. This eliminates transaction fees and provides additional cost savings.

– Another way that ETFs help minimize costs is through their unique creation and redemption process, which helps to minimize capital gains taxes for investors. Typically, taxes are incurred when investors sell their shares, but the tax efficiency of ETFs can help investors save on taxes and increase overall returns.

– ETFs also have lower operating expenses compared to actively managed funds. This is because ETFs aim to replicate the performance of an index, rather than making active investment selections. VFV and VSP, in particular, have lower operating expenses, making them attractive options for cost-conscious investors.

By incorporating all of these cost-saving features, ETFs provide investors with a more cost-effective and efficient investment option compared to actively managed mutual funds.

Considerations when Choosing Between VFV and VSP

When it comes to choosing between VFV and VSP, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. In this section, we’ll explore the factors that play a crucial role in this decision-making process. From investment goals and currency exposure to risk tolerance, we’ll uncover the essential elements that can influence your choice between VFV and VSP. So, let’s dive in and discover the factors that can help you make an informed decision in your investment journey.

Investment Goals

Understanding your investment goals helps you select the most suitable ETF that aligns with your Investment Goals. Investors aim to achieve Long-term growth by increasing the value of their portfolio over time and obtaining a higher return on their initial investment. Some investors prioritize generating steady cash flow and regular dividend payments from their investments for Income generation. Risk-averse investors seek to preserve their capital and protect their initial investment to minimize the risk of losing money for Capital preservation. Investors diversify their portfolio by investing in different assets or sectors to spread their risk and potentially increase their overall return for Diversification. Many individuals invest to build a nest egg for retirement and ensure they have enough money to live comfortably after they stop working for Retirement planning.

Currency Exposure

When considering currency exposure in ETF investing, it is important to understand its impact on your investment. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Currency Risk: Currency exposure refers to the potential risk associated with fluctuations in exchange rates. If an ETF holds investments in a foreign currency, changes in the value of that currency can affect the ETF’s returns.

2. Diversification: Investing in ETFs that provide exposure to different currencies can help diversify your portfolio and reduce the impact of currency risk. By holding both Canadian and U.S. dollar-denominated ETFs, for example, you can benefit from currency diversification.

3. Market Volatility: Currency exchange rates can be volatile, especially during periods of economic uncertainty or geopolitical events. This volatility can impact the overall performance of an ETF, particularly if the ETF has a high level of currency exposure.

4. Hedging Strategies: Some ETFs employ currency hedging techniques to minimize or eliminate currency exposure. This can help protect the value of your investment from currency fluctuations, but it may also incur additional costs.

5. Investment Potential: Currency exposure can offer opportunities for investors to capitalize on currency movements. For instance, investing in a Canadian dollar-denominated ETF can potentially increase investment returns if you believe the Canadian dollar will strengthen against the U.S. dollar.

Considering these factors will help you make informed decisions about the level of currency exposure you want in your ETF portfolio.

Risk Tolerance

When it comes to risk tolerance in investments, assess your comfort level with market volatility. Your risk tolerance depends on your financial goals and personal circumstances.

1. Define your goals: Clearly define your financial goals and investment objectives. Do you want long-term growth or short-term gains? This determines your risk level.

2. Consider time horizon: Determine how long you are willing to invest. Longer time horizons allow for more aggressive investments, while shorter time horizons may require a more conservative approach.

3. Evaluate financial situation: Consider your financial stability, liquidity needs, and overall health. If you have stable income and emergency funds, you may be more willing to take on higher investment risks.

4. Analyze risk tolerance: Assess your emotional and psychological response to market volatility. Some people can tolerate more risk and losses, while others prefer stable investments.

5. Diversify portfolio: Spread investments across different asset classes to mitigate risk. Diversification reduces the impact of one investment on your overall portfolio.

6. Seek professional advice: Consult a financial advisor to assess your risk tolerance and create a tailored investment strategy.

Remember, risk tolerance is personal. Find the right balance between risk and reward that aligns with your financial goals and comfort level in investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between VFV and VSP?

VFV and VSP are both Canadian-listed S&P 500 ETFs offered by Vanguard. The primary difference is that VSP is hedged for the Canadian Dollar (CAD), while VFV is not. VSP adjusts for changes in the exchange value between USD and CAD, while VFV tracks the performance of the S&P 500 without hedging for currency fluctuations.

What are the advantages of holding VFV?

VFV has historically outperformed VSP over the long term and provides exposure to the US dollar. It also has a low management fee of 0.08% and does not incur currency conversion fees. Holding a Canadian traded ETF with underlying US stocks or ETFs like VFV is subject to a withholding tax on dividends.

Why would someone choose to hold VSP instead of VFV?

VSP may be a better option for investors with a shorter time horizon who want to minimize currency fluctuations. It adjusts for changes in the exchange value between USD and CAD, which can help protect against currency risk. VSP has slightly outperformed VFV in the past year but has a similar management fee.

How do VFV and VSP compare in terms of performance?

VFV has had a strong performance over the past three years and has historically outperformed VSP over various time frames, including the 10-year, 5-year, 3-year, 1-year, and year-to-date returns. It’s important to note that past performance is not indicative of future results.

Are there any fees associated with VFV and VSP?

Both VFV and VSP have a management expense ratio (MER) of 0.09%, which is relatively low compared to mutual funds. This means that the cost of owning these ETFs is minimal, allowing for faster growth of investments over time.

Can VFV and VSP be held in an RRSP?

Yes, both VFV and VSP can be held in an RRSP. It’s important to note that holding a Canadian traded ETF with underlying US stocks or ETFs, like VFV or VSP, is subject to a withholding tax on the dividend even in an RRSP. It is recommended to consult with a financial advisor to understand the tax implications and benefits of holding these ETFs in an RRSP.