Knowing the difference: Telling mutual fund and exchange-traded fund apart.


Stocks or bonds, domestic or foreign, various sectors and industries, value or growth, and so on are all options available to investors. When compared to all the other factors, choosing either to buy a mutual fund or an exchange-traded fund (ETF) may seem little, but there are discrepancies between the two types of funds that may determine how much money you earn and how you earn it. Investors should understand the underlying distinctions between mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) before deciding which is best for their financial goals. Each fund type has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. More crucially, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) may be combined to create a diversified portfolio. 

Both mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) invest in stocks, bonds, and, on rare occasions, precious metals or commodities. They must follow the same rules when it comes to how much they may own, how much they can concentrate in one or a few holdings, how much money they may borrow in relation to the size of their portfolio, and so on. The pathways divide after those items. Some of the distinctions may appear minor, but they might make one sort of fund better suited to your needs than the other.  

Time and cost 

A mutual fund can be purchased at any time of day, but its management is unable to trade inside the fund until the end of the day. Because ETFs can be exchanged at any time of day, the value of your ETF may fluctuate while trading is taking place.  

The Net Asset Value (NAV) of the stocks that make up a mutual fund is the price at which you purchase or sell it, not the price. Your money is utilized to trade the fund’s NAV at the closing of the trading day when you invest in a mutual fund. Mutual funds, for example, usually have a minimum buy-in of $3,000 or more. So, if a share costs $100, you’re purchasing 30.  

When you purchase an ETF, you are paying the current market price for it. At the present price, you can buy one or as many shares as you can afford. 


ETF cost percentages are generally lower than those of most mutual funds. Theoretically, this might provide the investor a modest advantage over index funds in terms of returns. For example, the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) has an expense ratio of 0.03 percent, while the Admiral Shares (VFIAX) mutual fund has an expense ratio of 0.04 percent. 

Both monitor the same index, but VOO has outperformed VFIAX in the long term when they are compared against the 10-year or longer returns.  


Mutual funds can be passively or actively managed, but there are just a few actively managed ETFs available. ETFs are often handled in a passive manner, making them the most similar to index mutual funds. Because ETFs are traded differently, most brokers do not let you set up automatic payments. Since you give them a dollar amount that buys a specified number of shares, mutual funds usually allow you to set up automatic investments.  

You can invest depending on price movements with ETFs, or you may utilize mutual funds with a set-and-forget, buy-and-hold approach with mutual funds. As a buy-and-hold approach, you may also invest in an ETF that tracks an index and provides returns. 

Using one or the other, you may achieve diversity. A portfolio that includes both can provide you with even more diversification while lowering the dangers that come with investing. Furthermore, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have varying fees, charges, and techniques to increase your money.