ETF vs. Mutual Fund – What’s the Difference?

Nowadays, everyone wants to invest in the stock market, but not everyone has the money to do so. If you’re looking to invest but don’t have the capital to buy shares of companies yourself, consider mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

The most significant difference between these two types of investments is their structure. Mutual funds are managed by an individual or investment firm, while ETFs are similar to stocks because they trade on an exchange as any other company does.

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Main Difference

ETFs and mutual funds are two types of investment vehicles with some standard features. Both ETFs and mutual funds can be purchased and sold on exchanges, although ETFs typically have lower liquidity than mutual funds.

ETFs are also typically cheaper to own than mutual funds, although this advantage may diminish asETF prices rise. Mutual fund investors can also take advantage of indexing, which allows them to track a particular market or sector without investing in individual securities.

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What is ETF (Exchange Traded Funds)?

An exchange-traded fund is a type of mutual fund that trades like a stock on an exchange. An investor buys shares of an ETF at a specific price and then sells them later at a different price. Shares of an ETF trade throughout the day, just like stocks do. Furthermore, there are three different EFT types:

  1. Exchange-Traded Open-End Fund
  2. Exchange-Traded Unit Investment Trust (UIT)
  3. Exchange-Traded Grantor Trust

What is Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund is similar to a bank account. You deposit money, and they invest it for you based on what you tell them. Unlike ETFs, mutual funds don’t have a set price. Instead, you pay a fee each time you buy or sell the fund. There are two types of Mutual Funds:

  • Open-ended Mutual Fund
  • Close-ended Mutual Fund

Differences Between ETF and Mutual fund

Both ETFs and mutual funds offer investors access to diversified portfolios of securities. However, ETFs are cheaper than mutual funds, and some people prefer their simplicity over mutual funds’ complexity. ETFs and mutual funds are both types of investment vehicles that allow investors to pool their money together and invest in various assets. However, there are some key differences between the two.

Mutual funds are typically managed, meaning a team of professionals decides which stocks or bonds to buy and sell to try and generate higher returns for investors. On the other hand, ETFs are passively managed, meaning they track an index or benchmark.

This means that the performance of an ETF will generally be very similar to the underlying index, making them a more suitable option for investors who don’t want to worry about active management.

Another key difference between ETFs and mutual funds is how they are taxed. Mutual funds are subject to capital gains taxes whenever the fund sells a security for a profit.

1. Low Expense Ratios

  • One of the key advantages of ETFs over mutual funds is that they tend to have much lower expense ratios.
  • For example, the average expense ratio for an ETF is 0.44%, while the average expense ratio for a mutual fund is 1.42%.
  • This may not seem like a big difference, but over time, it can add up to a significant amount of money.

2. Simplicity

When it comes to investing, there are two primary schools of thought: those who believe in simplicity and those who believe in complexity. Simplicity investors believe that the best way to invest is to keep things as simple as possible.

This school of thought holds that a diversified portfolio of low-cost index mutual funds is all you need to achieve your financial goals. On the other side of the spectrum are complexity investors.

3. Transparency and Liquidity

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing between an ETF and a mutual fund is transparency and liquidity. ETFs are required to disclose their holdings daily, so you always know what you’re invested in.

Mutual funds only have to disclose their holdings quarterly, so you may not know what you’re invested in until after.

4. Diversification

Regarding diversification, both ETFs and mutual funds offer investors a way to spread their money across various investments. However, ETFs tend to be more diversified than mutual funds because they can hold multiple assets, including stocks, bonds, and commodities. Plus, ETFs often have lower expense ratios than mutual funds, which means you’ll keep more money in your pocket.

5. Flexibility with Lifestyle

If you have a more hands-off approach to investing, an ETF may be better for you. With an ETF, you can set it and forget it, knowing that the fund will automatically rebalance itself as needed. On the other hand, mutual funds require more of your attention. You’ll need to monitor your fund’s performance and ensure it aligns with your investment goals.

6. Suitability for Institutional Investors

Institutional investors are organizations that invest, including pension funds, insurance companies, and endowments. These types of investors often have different objectives than retail investors.

For example, an institutional investor might be more interested in investing for stability and income rather than capital gains.

As a result, they might prefer to invest in mutual funds that focus on large-cap stocks and bonds rather than ETFs that track more volatile markets like small-cap stocks or commodities.

Read More: Broad Money vs Base Money: What’s the Difference

7. Harmonization of Global Markets

In today’s global economy, it is more important than ever for investors to have a clear understanding of the differences between ETFs and mutual funds. With that in mind, here is a look at the seventh key difference between these two investment vehicles: Harmonization of Global Markets.

Comparison Chart  Between Mutual Fund and ETF

Comparison MUTUAL FUNDS ETFS
Type of assets Stocks, bonds, gold, etc. Stocks, bonds, gold, etc.
Type of fund management More actively traded More passively traded
Fund expense ratios Higher Lower
Brokerage commissions Often $0, but may range up to $50 Typically $0
Sales commissions (loads) Often none, but sometimes 1 or 2 percent None
When you can trade Priced at the end of the trading day Can be purchased throughout the trading day
Tax efficiency Lower Higher

Conclusion

Both popular investment vehicles are exchange-traded and mutual funds but have fundamental differences. ETFs are more flexible and transparent but also come with higher costs. Mutual funds are less expensive, but they may be less tax-efficient. Ultimately, it depends on your investment goals as to which is right for you.