Build a firm foundation of value investments with ETFs.

When you're looking at the stock market, two of the simplest ways to slice up the universe of investments out there is to divide them into growth versus value. Growth stocks tend to be expanding operations and worrying about increases in revenue and customers, sometimes forgoing tangible profits in order to invest in the future. Meanwhile, value stocks tend to be stable and throw off reliable cash — even if they are sometimes mature or downright stagnant businesses that might not ever get much bigger. While growth gets a lot of attention as investors chase dynamic tech companies, value investing is a crucial part of any portfolio because these stocks are built on strong foundations. If you are looking to bias your investments toward value right now, here are seven exchange-traded funds worth a look.

Vanguard Value ETF (ticker: VTV)

With more than $80 billion in assets, a four-star rating from financial services firm Morningstar and a rock-bottom expense ratio of 0.04% — that costs investors just $4 per year on every $10,000 invested — this Vanguard ETF is a great place to start looking for diversified exposure to value stocks. With more than 300 holdings and top positions that include megabank JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and health care icon Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), this fund exemplifies what many investors are looking for when they think about value investing in established and low-risk companies. To top it off, this value ETF has gained nearly 20% year to date in 2021.

Invesco S&P 500 Pure Value ETF (RPV)

Slightly more selective, this Invesco fund is comprised of about 120 picks and focuses on the top tier of U.S. companies from the S&P 500 Pure Value Index after ranking them across three important value investing factors: book-value-to-price ratio, earnings-to-price ratio and sales-to-price ratio. It also takes an "equal weight" approach to prevent any single position from representing too much of the portfolio just because it's larger than the other stocks on the list. The result is disability insurance provider Unum Group (UNM) and oil refinery HollyFrontier Corp. (HFC) are at the top of the list alongside higher-profile names. With about $3 billion in total assets, this "pure value" approach clearly appeals to many investors.

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Vanguard Mega Cap Value ETF (MGV)

Another slightly more selective value fund is this "megacap" focused investment from Vanguard that is less concerned about diversifying into smaller companies and more concerned with focusing its investments on the biggest and most stable firms on Wall Street. The portfolio is comprised of about 140 total stocks, and the group collectively has a median market cap of more than $150 billion. With MGV, you're admittedly sticking to the usual suspects you may already have plenty of exposure to in other funds — such as Warren Buffett's holding company Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) — but for some value investors who are interested in stability above everything else, this may actually be a good thing.

iShares Russell Mid-Cap Value ETF (IWS)

With $14 billion in assets, this midcap value fund is a liquid and popular way to gain exposure to value-oriented stocks that may be just outside the typical fund's watch list because they are just a bit too small to notice. A collection of about 700 U.S. midcap stocks, you'll find the same quantitative screening techniques here behind other funds — including a focus on lower P/E ratios and higher book value, but with a bias toward smaller stocks. To be fair, there are about 40 stocks with market values of $60 billion or more at present, but these are stocks like copper miner Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) and HVAC company Trane Technologies (TT) rather than the typical large-cap stocks that dominate other funds.

SPDR S&P 600 Small Cap Value ETF (SLYV)

Of course, there's a simpler way to go smaller if you really want to look for the more modest value-oriented plays out there. SLYV looks at companies with market caps in the range of about $200 million to $10 billion and keeps investors positioned in off-the-beaten-path value plays. One downside to this is that smaller companies naturally don't have the deep pockets of megacap banks or industrial giants. However, the screening methodology ensures these are not money-losing tech startups, with a good 25% of the portfolio in smaller financial firms at present and another 17% in industrials to mark the top two sectors. If you really want to avoid overlapping with core large-cap holdings, this small-cap value ETF may be worth a look.

Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF)

If you haven't already noticed from the other funds, financial stocks are regularly featured in value ETFs. That's in part because if you're looking for tangible value in a company, there's nothing more tangible than cash on the books or investments that throw off regular interest payments. XLF is a who's who of this value-oriented sector, with about 70 stocks to give you exposure to big banks such as Citigroup (C) and investment firms such as Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW) and insurer Chubb (CB). There's obvious risk by putting all your eggs in one sector's basket, but when financials are typically over-represented in general value funds, then why not go right to the source?

Schwab Fundamental International Large Company Index ETF (FNDF)

Though the name is pretty darn long, all you need to know is that this Schwab ETF is an international fund that looks for big, value-oriented investments outside the U.S. This may sound a bit more risky, but when you look at top holdings that include U.K. energy giant BP (BP), Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) and Korean powerhouse Samsung Electronics (SSNLF), it's clear that this isn't a list of obscure companies but rather multinationals on equal footing with some U.S. corporations. If you want a diversified approach to value investing, this ETF could be worth a look instead of the prior funds that focus on sector or market cap.

Seven of the best value ETFs to buy:

— Vanguard Value ETF (VTV)

— Invesco S&P 500 Pure Value ETF (RPV)

— Vanguard Mega Cap Value ETF (MGV)

— iShares Russell Mid-Cap Value ETF (IWS)

— SPDR S&P 600 Small Cap Value ETF (SLYV)

— Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF)

— Schwab Fundamental International Large Company Index ETF (FNDF)