Exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, and mutual funds are both investment products that represent a basket or collection of securities.”They provide investors access to underlying investments, like stocks or bonds, and generally provide more diversification than a single stock or bond,” said Wendy Liebowitz, vice president and branch leader at Fidelity Investments.
ETFs differ in how they are traded
Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, explained that mutual funds only trade once per day, after the market close at a price based on the value of all the fund’s assets less the expenses. ETFs, as the name implies, McBride said, trade on an exchange and this means investors can buy or sell throughout the trading day at a price that fluctuates as the prices of the underlying investments change.
“Many fund companies offer both a mutual fund and an ETF version of the same investment, and the ETF is typically the lower-cost option in terms of expense ratio,” he said. “Just make sure your brokerage permits you to invest commission-free, as any brokerage commissions erase the modest expense advantage of ETFs.”
ETFs are more passive
“However, most ETFs outperform mutual funds in the same investment style as they cost less and passively track an index like the S&P 500 or the Russell 2000 Index rather than try to pick winners but end up with laggards,” Rosenbluth said. “Most ETFs available track an index and are passively managed, while most mutual funds are actively managed with the team picking through a larger universe of investments.”
ETFs generally cost less
The fees you pay to purchase ETFs tend to be lower than mutual funds, but this does vary depending on the investments. A significant reason it’s cheaper is that an ETF is a passive fund.”ETFs tend to have a lower cost of ownership, with expense ratios often less than 0.20%, while mutual funds are often five times as expensive,” said Rosenbluth.
ETFs can offer tax advantages
Another difference to consider is tax efficiency. “Generally, holding an ETF in a taxable account will generate less tax liabilities than if you held a similarly structured mutual fund in the same account,” said Liebowitz with Fidelity Investments. Although both are subject to capital gains and dividend income tax, Liebowitz said ETFs generally have fewer taxable events than mutual funds.
Understand the ramifications of investing
Liebowitz stated it is important to review the portfolio fundamentals of any fund before investing. “While an ETF and mutual fund might have the same investment objective or investment ‘style,’ the composition of each fund could vary, so investors should compare the annual turnover ratio, concentration risk, expense ratio, and other risk factors to determine if it is right for them and what they are trying to achieve with their investment,” she said.
Despite their differences, Liebowitz explained that both mutual funds and ETFs can offer investors exposure to a diversified basket of securities to help meet their financial goals and objectives – and it doesn’t have to be one or the other. “Investors should pick the best choice for their specific investing needs, keeping their time horizon, risk tolerance, financial circumstance, and short- and long-term goals in mind before making any investment decision,” added Liebowitz.
Critics by InvestorVanguard
ETFs and mutual funds both come with built-in diversification. One fund could include tens, hundreds, or even thousands of individual stocks or bonds in a single fund. So if 1 stock or bond is doing poorly, there’s a chance that another is doing well. That could help reduce your risk—and your overall losses.
ETFs and mutual funds both give you access to a wide variety of U.S. and international stocks and bonds. You can invest broadly (for example, a total market fund) or narrowly (for example, a high-dividend stock fund or a sector fund)—or anywhere in between. It all depends on your personal goals and investing style.
ETFs and mutual funds are managed by experts. Those experts choose and monitor the stocks or bonds the funds invest in, saving you time and effort. Although most ETFs—and many mutual funds—are index funds, the portfolio managers are still there to make sure the funds don’t stray from their target indexes.
An ETF could be more suitable for you. You can buy an ETF for the price of 1 share—commonly referred to as the ETF’s market price. Depending on the ETF, that price could be as little as $50 or as much as a few hundred dollars. A mutual fund may not be a suitable investment. Mutual fund minimum initial investments aren’t based on the fund’s share price. Instead, they’re a flat dollar amount. Most Vanguard mutual funds have a $3,000 minimum. That would buy you 30 shares of a hypothetical fund with a net asset value (NAV) of $100 per share.
- “Mutual Funds”. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
- “Mutual Funds and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) – A Guide for Investors”. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
- World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3055
- The Origins of Mutual Funds”. Yale School of Management. Social Science Research Network.
- The Rise of Mutual Funds: An Insider’s View. Oxford University Press.
- Investment Company Liquidity Risk Management Programs
Definition of regulated investment company
- “The Laws That Govern the Securities Industry”
- “Canadian Securities Administrator: Overview”.
- Largest ETFs: Top 100 ETFs By Assets
- ETFs Changing the Way Advisors Do Business, According to State Street and Wharton Study
- Market share of largest providers of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) in the United States”
- “Benefits of ETFs”. Fidelity Investments.
- “How ETFs Work“Add an ETF without breaking the bank”. The Vanguard Group.“A Guide To Understanding Mutual Funds (2007)”
- U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
- SPDR ETFs: Basics of Product Structure”. State Street Global Advisors
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