What Happens When ETFs Get Too Expensive?

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) are generally considered a low-cost, low-risk investment type because the funds include diversified portfolios of shares. However, the prices of ETFs fluctuate with the stock market, and sometimes they grow too expensive for traders to buy or become overvalued.

When ETFs get too expensive, traders often anticipate a crash to follow, but this usually is not the case. Though they may have a difficult time selling to buyers who don’t believe the growth is sustainable. On occasion, ETFs are overvalued, meaning their assets are not worth the cost.

Read on to learn more about ETF values, what makes them increase, and how to know if an ETF has become too expensive. This article will tell you everything you need to know about how ETFs work in the stock market and how you can make the most money by investing wisely.

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How to Determine an ETF Is Too Expensive?

When ETFs become too expensive, new investors overpay for their shares, spending more than the assets in the fund are worth. Sellers benefit from the high costs if they can find buyers.

Often shareholders worry that a crash will follow rising ETF costs. However, this is rarely the outcome. Both Amazon and Netflix are examples of companies whose shareholders thought about selling due to the rising costs of shares, only to find that the trajectory was sustainable and worth sticking with long term.

Sometimes trading costs seem high, but they are fair considering the increase or expected increase of the value of the assets.

There are three ways that you can determine whether an ETF is overpriced or too expensive to invest in:

Shiller Price-to-Earnings Ratio 

The Shiller Price-to-Earnings Ratio is a method for analyzing a fund’s trajectory. You simply look at the annual price of the fund for the last ten years, then divide them by the earnings of the companies in the fund. You should also adjust for inflation. High numbers indicate that the fund is overvalued.

S&P Dividend Yield

The S&P Dividend Yield is a metric for determining the overall state of the stock market. To calculate this dividend, average the 12-month dividend per share of the S&P 500 and then divide it by the index’s average stock price. The average yield is about 4.3%. Higher numbers indicate that stocks are being sold at higher than normal prices.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is an indicator used by Warren Buffet to determine the market capitalization of the stock market relative to the GDP. When the Buffet Indicator, or market capitalization-to-GDP ratio, is above 100%, many investors believe that the market is overvaluing shares and funds.

Why ETF Market Prices Go Up?

When the market price of an ETF goes up, it could be a sign that the fund’s assets have appreciated, but it could be a normal fluctuation of the market. A change in market price is not necessarily lasting.

The market price of an ETF is the price at which you can purchase or sell an ETF during trading hours, and it changes as buyers and sellers interact with each other. Generally, when buyers start investing in a fund, the cost of investing rises, which benefits early investors in a lucrative business or asset.

Why ETF Net Asset Values Go Up?

When the Net Asset Value (NAV) of an ETF goes up, it’s a sign that the associated assets and industries are performing well.

The NAV of an ETF is calculated at 4:00 pm EST every day after the stock markets close. It is evaluated as the fund’s total value, subtracting liabilities and dividing over the total number of shares.

The NAV doesn’t fluctuate as much as market price, but it does change when stocks are bought and sold and when the performance of the fund’s assets and industries change.

Why Some ETFs Are More Expensive Than Others?

Some ETFs are simply more expensive than others, mainly due to differences in investment fees and the value and uniqueness of the assets under the fund.

Investment Fees

Investment fees are an important factor to take into account when buying ETF shares, especially if you deal with a stockbroker instead of trading directly. Even small differences in fee percentages add up significantly over the long run. So be careful about going through stockbrokers or choosing funds with high fees.

Usually, you can achieve the same diversified, strong portfolio of stocks through purchasing an ETF as you would by purchasing multiple stocks in a portfolio put together by a professional.


More specialized funds tend to be more expensive because they’re more valuable. Unique assets on the market are less likely to suffer a closure and more likely to be high earning. Just be sure that you’ve researched your funds thoroughly before investing in a high-fee ETF, even if it’s quite specialized.

What Causes ETF Closures?

ETF closures can be inconvenient and burdensome; even though investors are usually able to liquidate their shares, there is a tax burden associated with the influx of funds and a hit to the trader’s reputation.

The main cause of ETF closures is when an ETF can no longer generate enough revenue to cover its costs. Usually, this happens to funds with low Assets Under Management (AUM) and low issuer strength, especially if the assets in the fund are not unique.

So, when your ETF starts sinking in price, it might be a good idea to sell or trade if you want to avoid dealing with an ETF closure. However, there is always risk in trading too soon, and you’ll likely receive a tidy sum, even if you hold onto the fund.

How To Earn More Money Investing in ETFs?

When investing in ETFs, you’ll want to keep these tips in mind to earn the most money:

  • If you can, invest on your own. Paying an advisor will result in much higher fees. As a reference, independent investment costs are usually around 0.04% per year, whereas investment through a broker or advisor will cost 0.7% to 1% per year.
  • Invest in a low-cost fund with steady growth. This will ensure that your wealth builds at a constant rate, which is more important than any immediate, drastic performance increases.
  • Choose a diversified ETF. You don’t want your funds to depend on the success of a single kind of asset or industry.
  • Choose a passively-managed ETF. Actively managed ETFs involve portfolio managers who buy and sell company shares in the fund, which results in higher trading costs.
  • Buy into an ETF when prices are low. By watching the trends in market value fluctuation, you can determine the best time to buy into a fund. You want to find a fund when the prices are lower than average, then stick with it as prices increase.
  • Pay attention to the NAV of your funds. Market prices fluctuate considerably, and so when you’re evaluating your funds, make sure that you take into account the NAV, which is a more stable indicator for long-term trajectory.

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Before concluding this article, I wanted to share few trading and investment resources that I have vetted, with the help of 50+ consistently profitable traders, for you. I am confident that you will greatly benefit in your trading journey by considering one or more of these resources.


When ETFs get too expensive, it becomes a seller’s market, and typically, buyers have difficulty finding a good way to invest. Not to mention, they don’t want to invest in a high-value stock just to have the value drop again in the next fluctuation. It’s best to look at the performance of a stock in the long run before deciding on buying into an ETF that appears too expensive.

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    Navdeep Singh

    Navdeep has been an avid trader/investor for the last 10 years and loves to share what he has learned about trading and investments here on TradeVeda. When not managing his personal portfolio or writing for TradeVeda, Navdeep loves to go outdoors on long hikes.

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