What’s difference ? index fund vs mutual fund

Investors pay extra for actively managed mutual funds, hoping they outperform index funds.
Many actively managed mutual funds underperform because client fees reduce fund returns. The Differences That Really Count When Comparing Index Funds and Mutual Funds

The primary distinction between index funds and mutual funds is that index funds invest solely in a predetermined list of securities (such as stocks issued by companies included on the S&P 500), whereas active mutual funds invest in an ever-evolving list of securities selected by an investment manager. Index funds are a type of passively managed mutual fund.

If they invest for a sufficient amount of time, investors may have a better chance of obtaining larger returns with the help of an index fund. Investigating these distinctions in greater depth sheds light on the reasons why.

Comparison between index funds and mutual funds in a flash

Index fund

Mutual fund

Investment objective

Match the investment returns of a benchmark stock market index (e.g. the S&P 500).

Beat the investment returns of a related benchmark index.

Invests in

Stocks, bonds and other securities

Stocks, bonds and other securities.

Management style

Passive. Investment mix is automated to match the exact holdings of the benchmark index

Active. Stock pickers (fund managers/analysts) choose fund holdings.

Average management fee (expense ratio)*



*Asset-weighted averages from 2021 Investment Company Institute data

Passive vs. active management

Managing a mutual fund involves making investment decisions on a daily (and often even an hourly) basis. One of the key distinctions between index and traditional mutual funds is the identity of the fund manager or managers who are in charge of making investment decisions.

Because an index mutual fund’s holdings are automated to track an index like the S&P 500, there is no need for active human oversight to select which investments to acquire and sell inside the fund. What’s difference ? index fund vs mutual fund If a stock is included in the index, then the fund will also include that stock.

Index investing is regarded as a passive investment technique due to the fact that no one is actively managing the portfolio and that performance is determined only by the price movements of the individual stocks that comprise the index rather than by someone trading in and out of stocks.

All of the investment choices for a mutual fund that is actively managed are made by either the fund manager or the management team. They can search across indexes and investment types for fund holdings as long as they match the fund’s goal.
They choose which portfolio equities to buy and sell and how many.

Investment goals

If you can’t win against them, you might as well join them. This is, in essence, what index investors are doing with their money.

An index fund’s sole investment aim is to replicate the performance of the index it tracks, known as the underlying benchmark index. An S&P 500 index mutual fund will experience the same ups and downs as the S&P 500 index itself.

An actively managed mutual fund seeks to generate returns that are superior to those of the market as a whole and to outperform the averages of the market as a whole. This is accomplished by having investment professionals strategically select investments that they believe will boost overall performance.

It has been demonstrated throughout history that outperforming passive market returns

sometimes known as indexes, on an annual basis is a highly challenging endeavor. Only 10.62% of funds were able to outperform the S&P 500 over the course of the past 15 years, as indicated by the S&P Indices versus Active (SPIVA) rating.

Having said that, there are some managers of funds that are able to outperform the market when the circumstances are favorable. According to the scorecard, during the course of the previous year, 44.57% of funds were successful in outperforming the market. How? Consider the treacherous terrain of the year 2022: some of the most successful corporations in the S&P account for a significant portion of that index, yet some of those companies have experienced losses.If you choose active management, especially when the market as a whole is falling, you may have the possibility to generate better returns, at least in the near term. This is especially true when the general market is down.

Instead of tracking an index, a fund manager may buy value equities or shift asset allocation to different companies to diversify your portfolio.  What’s difference ? index fund vs mutual fund This may be done in place of tracking an index.

But with an actively managed fund, in exchange for the possibility of outperformance, you’ll pay a higher price for the manager’s expertise. This brings us to the next—and perhaps most important—difference between index funds and actively managed mutual funds: cost.


Index funds have lower costs than actively managed mutual funds.

You may probably guess that having individuals in charge of things results in increased expenses. To get more people to invest in the mutual fund, there are expenses such as salary for the investment managers, bonuses, employee perks, the cost of office space, and the cost of marketing materials.

Who is responsible for the costs? The expense ratio of the mutual fund is the name given to the fee that you, the shareholder, are responsible for paying.

And herein lays one of the greatest Catch-22s that the world of investing has to offer: Investors pay more to own shares of actively managed mutual funds, hoping they perform better than index funds. But the higher fees investors pay cut directly into the returns they receive from the fund, leading many actively managed mutual funds to underperform.

What kind of effect do fees have on returns?

Some mutual fund managers handle taxes, which balances index funds’ tax efficiency.

Examine the cost: Mutual fund fees investors need to know

Fees hurt beyond the expense ratio.
index vs mutual fund

It reduces compounding and growth because it’s deducted from investors’ annual profits.
Fees double beyond the expense ratio.
It’s taken directly from investors’ annual gains, so less money compounds and grows.
It’s a costly double whammy.

Index funds are tax-efficient, but some mutual fund managers handle taxes, which can even things out

Long-term capital gains taxes are lower than short-term ones since these mutual fund managers can offset gains against losses and keep assets for at least a year


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