Amazon.com stockWho says there's a crisis of consumer confidence? According to data from the National Retail Federation, 60% of shoppers plan to spend an average of $130 on themselves as they browse for gifts for others this season.

But what's good for the economy isn't necessarily good for the wallet. Or is it? The answer depends on where you shop and what you already own.

Buying the Mall One Store at a Time

Buying shares of stock in some of the retailers you patronize can give you your fair share of the profits your purchases help to create.

How you get paid back varies. Some companies pay dividends directly to shareholders; others plow those profits back into the business, hopefully causing your shares to rise in value.

Either way, you should see at least some of the money you spend come back to you -- but only if you invest.

You May Already Own Best Buy

Buying individual stocks is one option. But if your retirement account is invested in an index fund that tracks the returns of the S&P 500 (^GSPC) or Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI), you already own a piece of some of the more popular retailers. Best Buy (BBY) and Home Depot (HD), for example, are included in the baskets of stocks these funds invest in.

You can also target your retail investment dollars even more precisely through exchange-traded funds, or ETFs. ETFs are specialty funds that invest in stocks by industry or purpose. Popular retail ETFs include the Retail HOLDRS (RTH) and SPDR S&P Retail (XRT) funds.

Buying an ETF is like buying a mutual fund. You pay an annual fee for exposure to a basket of investments, typically stocks. Here, buying Retail HOLDRS would get you pieces of Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) and Amazon.com (AMZN), among others. The S&P retail ETF counts Barnes & Noble (BKS) as its largest holding. (Here's an ETF investing primer for more.)

You're probably spending a lot this holiday season, on yourself and your friends and family. Why not get a little something back? Retail ETFs can give you that, and boost your retirement funds in the process.

Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Apple and Netflix at the time of publication. The Motley Fool owns shares of SPDR S&P Retail, Wal-Mart Stores, and Best Buy. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Wal-Mart Stores, Amazon.com, and The Home Depot. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores and writing covered calls in Best Buy.


Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Introduction to Economic Indicators

Measure the performance of the economy.

View Course »

Finding Stock Ideas

Learn to do your research and find investments.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum