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Difference Between ETF and Mutual Fund

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The main difference between ETFs and mutual funds is investment options. ETFs are passively managed, while mutual funds are actively managed. Before choosing the right fund for them, investors should be aware of their options. Each type of fund has its pros and cons. More importantly, mutual funds can be combined with ETFs to create a diverse portfolio.

What is an ETF?


ETFs are often less expensive than traditional shares and can be used to enter a position. Institutional investors create or redeem ETFs in large quantities. The shares trade daily between investors, just like stocks. ETFs can be traded short, just like stocks. These provisions are useful for traders and speculators but not for long-term investors. However, ETFs are constantly priced by the market. This means that trading can take place at prices other than the NAV. This may allow for arbitrage. ETFs provide tax benefits to investors. ETFs and index funds are passively managed, so they tend to make fewer capital gains than actively managed mutual fund portfolios.

What is a Mutual Fund?

mutual fund

Mutual fund comes with a higher minimum investment requirement than ETFs. These minimums may vary depending on which type of mutual fund you choose and what company you are investing in. The Vanguard 500 Index Investor Fund requires a $3,000 minimum investment. On the other hand, American Funds requires a $250 initial deposit for The Growth Fund of America.

Mutual funds are actively managed by fund managers or teams that make decisions about buying and selling securities or stocks within the fund to beat the market and maximize their profits. These funds are usually more expensive because they require more effort and time to research and analyze securities. Mutual funds are purchased and sold directly between the investors and the fund.

Differences between ETFs and Mutual Funds


Mutual funds are typically managed by professionals who try to beat the market through buying and selling stocks with their investment expertise. This is often called "active management" and can lead to higher costs for investors.

ETFs are passively managed funds. These funds track pre-selected indexes, such as S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100. A few actively managed ETFs function more like mutual funds and have higher fees.

ETFs can be more successful in the short term than actively managed funds, but long-term results differ. Actively managed mutual funds are often less profitable than ETFs due to their higher expense ratios.


ETFs can be bought and sold just like stocks. ETFs are subject to price fluctuations throughout the day. Orders for mutual funds are only processed once per day. Sellers and buyers receive the same price. ETFs can be purchased and traded like stocks so you can buy for the same price as one share." Mutual funds can be purchased at a flat rate. This makes it easier to purchase ETFs.

Expense Ratios

An expense ratio measures how much money investors spend each year to own a fund. It is a percentage of the total amount invested. Passively managed ETFs are very affordable. Some ETFs have expense ratios of as low as 0.03 percent, which means investors pay $0.30 per $1,000 invested. This is significantly lower than actively managed funds.

The average annual expense ratio for actively managed funds was 0.677% in 2018, compared to 0.15% for passively managed funds (e.g., most ETFs). However, ETFs don't always offer the best value. When considering your investment options, it's worth comparing mutual funds and ETFs.

Comparison Chart: ETF Vs Mutual Fund

FactorsETFMutual Fund
TransactionETF units are available for purchase or sale at the current market price during a trading dayThey can be purchased or sold at their Net Asset Value (NAV), fixed per trading day
Expense RatioLower expense ratioThe expense ratio for active mutual funds is higher
Lock-in PeriodNo lock-in periodLock-in periods are available for both ELSS and close-ended funds
LiquidityETFs offer greater liquidityLiquidity in mutual funds is comparatively low
BrokerageETF investors pay brokerageBrokerage is not available
Demat AccountMandatoryNot necessary


The funds from various investors are combined into a single pool, then invested in a collection of securities. These securities can form stocks, bonds, or even commodities like gold. This is one of how exchange-traded funds are similar to mutual funds. The management of this fund is then entrusted to qualified professionals.

Because they are bundles of different equities, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) enjoy diversification benefits. Therefore, even if the performance of one stock is terrible, there is always the potential that another will do better. This assists you in mitigating the hazards that you face. Compared to investing in individual equities, these strategies have a lower level of risk because of diversification.


Which Is Better: An ETF Or A Mutual Fund?

The average investor won't see much difference between mutual funds and ETFs. They should perform the same way as mutual funds, so long they are tracking the same investments using the same methods. ETFs typically have lower capital gains taxes than mutual funds due to subtle differences between how ETFs and mutual fund investors deal with investor transactions.

Are Mutual Funds Safer Than ETFs?

Due to their structure, neither the ETF nor the mutual fund is safer than the other. The fund's assets determine safety. Stocks are riskier than bonds, and corporate bonds carry a greater risk than U.S. Treasury bonds. However, higher risks (especially if they are diversified) can lead to higher long-term returns.

It is important to understand the characteristics of your investments and not just the ETF or mutual funds. ETFs and mutual funds that track the same index will produce approximately the same returns, so you aren't exposed to more risk.


An ETF can be a good option for investors because it has low commissions and tax advantages and allows easy trading. However, in certain circumstances, such as stock index funds, a mutual fund can be more affordable than ETFs. If they are held in tax-advantaged accounts, their tax implications will not matter. You need to understand where your funds are invested and how they can help you reach your financial goals.

Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
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