Index Fund vs ETF: What’s the Difference?

etfs vs index funds

Expenses for stock mutual funds still remain above those for ETFs, whether you’re comparing a simple average or an asset-weighted average (factoring in how big the fund is). So generally speaking, mutual funds have been actively managed, whereas ETFs have been passive. But these lines have blurred somewhat and it’s possible to find actively managed ETFs and passively managed mutual funds. How a fund actually invests has a lot to do with your costs and potential returns.

etfs vs index funds

So you won’t know what you’re paying until the transaction is complete. But you’ll always pay the exact net asset value of the fund’s holdings. And brokerages may also charge you a fee for trading mutual funds – some may run nearly $50 per trade – though the best brokers offer many funds without a trading commission.

ETF vs. Index Fund: Difference In Fund Management Style

„ETF issuers can choose to track an index or do something more custom to tackle a specific market anomaly.“ Index funds are also a great option when the equivalent ETF is thinly traded, creating a large spread in the difference between the ETF price on the exchange and the value of the underlying assets held by the ETF. If you’re investing in a taxable brokerage account, you may be able to squeeze out a bit more tax efficiency from an ETF than an index fund.

etfs vs index funds

Over the long term, the S&P 500 has seen average annual returns of about 10%. You won’t get that number every year—some years it’ll be higher; some years it’ll be lower—but on average, it’s enough to double your money every 7.2 years or so. Index funds and ETFs provide a simple way to diversify your portfolio. Both offer exposure to hundreds or even thousands of securities, depending on the index they emulate. This can greatly decrease the likelihood your portfolio will be adversely impacted by big market swings. Of note, investment research firms report that few (if any) active funds perform better than passive funds like ETFs and index funds.

iShares Core S&P 500 Small-Cap ETF

Whether you invest in an ETF or an index fund, you are choosing to invest in your future. The differences between the two tend to be small; in fact, index funds and ETFs are often (but not always) the same thing. Thus, which one you choose is less important than the choice to start investing.

  • This lower expense ratio means investors will pay just $3 in annual fees for every $10,000 invested with the fund, versus $78 in a competing fund.
  • If you focus on passively managed stock mutual funds, they’re actually cheaper than passively managed stock ETFs, as you can see in the chart below.
  • In the end, the choice of ETF vs index fund is probably less important than the fact that you’re decided to invest for your long-term goals using a passive investing vehicle.
  • For instance, if you are a long-term investor with long-term goals, you would prefer a disciplined approach to invest.
  • Since June 1999 to Feb 2021, the Nifty 50 Index has seen returns of 13.5 % p.a.
  • This means that the price of any given ETF fluctuates throughout the trading day, while the price of an index fund only changes once a day.

ETFs will typically track a specific index, making them nearly equal to index mutual funds—but there are a few key differences in how an ETF operates. Most retail investors (non-professional, individual investors) prefer index funds. This happens less frequently with index funds than with actively managed mutual funds (where buying and selling occur more regularly), but from a tax perspective, ETFs generally have the upper hand over index funds. To get cash out of an index fund, you technically must redeem it from the fund manager, who will then have to sell securities to generate the cash to pay to you. When this sale is for a gain, the net gains are passed on to every investor with shares in the fund, meaning you could owe capital gains taxes without ever selling a single share. Compared to value investing, index fund investing is considered by financial experts as a rather passive investment strategy.

Key differences between ETFs and index funds

Smart beta investing combines the benefits of passive investing and the advantages of active investing strategies. The goal of smart beta is to obtain alpha, lower risk or increase diversification at a cost lower than traditional active management and marginally higher than straight index investing. It seeks the best construction of an optimally diversified portfolio. The investor should understand market dynamics as they affect asset class behavior and be able to understand and justify their decision-making process, not forgetting that trading costs can reduce investment returns.

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S&P Global’s most recent SPIVA Scorecard shows that 93.40% of U.S. large-cap funds underperformed the S&P 500 over the past 15 years. In contrast, some mutual funds may require you to purchase at least $2,500 to get started, if you’re opening your own individual account, with smaller minimum subsequent deposits. Some mutual funds also charge early redemption fees if you sell your position in less than 30 days.


Similar to common stocks, ETFs are bought and sold on an exchange through a broker. You will be charged a commission each time you buy or sell an ETF, although some online brokerages offer zero-commission ETF trading. Many (but not all) mutual funds also track the performance of an underlying index, and these are sometimes known – confusingly – as index mutual funds, or just index funds.

Constrained Capital ESG Orphans ETF exhibits the most staggering overweight, but it comes as no surprise that Voter fund Strive U.S. Energy ETF DRLL has the highest exposure to the fossil fuel industry. Approximately 97% of the companies in the portfolio earn revenue from fossil fuels. Investors can buy shares of the index fund, which in this example will mirror the gains and losses of the S&P 500. The manager will either buy shares from every company listed on the index or buy shares from a representative sample. When deciding the number of shares to buy, the manager can use a weighting strategy. „Chase Private Client“ is the brand name for a banking and investment product and service offering, requiring a Chase Private Client Checking℠ account.

At the same time, many formerly high risk CCC-rated companies have defaulted due to the COVID-pandemic, so the high yield bond market is actually higher quality than before. In fact, the average historical growth of the S&P 500 is around 10% a year. That means, by investing in index funds that track that market index, you may be able to make similar gains — averaged over the long term. Knowing what investment strategy is right given your answers to questions 1, 2, and 3 above is the first step in finding the portfolio that’s right for you. Whatever your specific situation, however, ETFs and index funds may be a solid choice.

  • If you’re looking for exposure to big tech stocks, Invesco QQQ Trust is an excellent choice.
  • Then, compare each fund’s expense ratio and other fees you might pay, such as commissions to buy or sell the investment.
  • But the difference between expense ratios for widely traded ETFs and index funds has narrowed in recent years and almost disappeared.
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  • This is because Index Funds usually hold some cash at all points to honor redemption requests.

That gives an advantage to ETFs, which are typically passively managed, though again some mutual funds are also passively managed. Most brokers have eliminated trading commissions on nearly all stock trades, and many charge no commission for ETF trades, either. Meanwhile, a broker’s sales commissions for index funds can be very expensive. That said, online brokers generally offer a selection of commission-free funds. There’s just no guarantee that the funds you want to buy are free of commissions. As mentioned earlier, both ETF and Index Funds essentially mirror an index like the NIFTY 50 or the Sensex.