Why Choose Mutual Funds Over ETFs? (2024)

Debates regarding the relative efficacy and profitability of mutual funds versus exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are common in the investment community. Mutual funds and ETFs have benefits and drawbacks. Though ETFs offer market-based trading and typically lower expense ratios, investors may choose mutual funds over ETFs for several reasons.

Key Takeaways

  • Mutual funds are an established investment vehicle, but ETFs have gained popularity.
  • Some mutual funds are actively managed and have some risk due to leverage but limit the amount that can be used.
  • ETFs are generally less expensive than mutual funds but with less management and reduced services.

Strategy and Risk Tolerance

Mutual funds are available for all different types of investment strategies, risk tolerance levels, and asset types. ETFs can be limiting as they are mostly passively managed indexed funds that invest in the same securities and mirror the chosen index.

Unlike ETFs, mutual funds can offer more specific strategies as well as blends of strategies. Mutual funds offer the same type of indexed investing options as ETFs but also an array of actively and passively managed options that can be fine-tuned to cater to an investor's needs.

Investing in mutual funds allows investors to choose a product that suits their risk tolerance levels and meets specific investment goals, such as dividend income or retirement planning.

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Active Management Without Leverage Risk

By using borrowed money to increase the size of the fund's investment, leveraged ETFs seek to generate a multiple of an index's returns. While these securities track a given index, using debt without shareholder equity makes leveraged and inverse ETFs risky investments over the long term due to leveraged returns and day-to-day market volatility.

Mutual funds are strictly limited regarding the amount of leverage they can use. Mutual funds can borrow capital, but they must ensure that they have "an asset coverage of at least 300 percentum," or only one-third of the total value of a fund. Mutual funds offer many combinations of security and risk to investors.

Individuals can choose mutual funds that focus on long-term capital gains that primarily invest in proven growth stocks but also look to benefit from early identification of up-and-coming businesses poised for exponential growth. The tried-and-tested stocks form a solid basis for long-term gains, while investments in newer or undervalued stocks provide the potential for rapid growth in exchange for a certain degree of risk.

Automatic Investment and Customer Service

Mutual funds offer automatic investment plans and ETFs do not. These services facilitate regular contributions and allow investors a consistent way to grow their investments, especially for retirement. The practice of investing a set amount each month allows for dollar-cost averaging, where investors pay less per share over time by purchasing more shares with the same amount of money in months when the share price is low.

Unlike ETFs, mutual funds can be purchased in fractional shares or fixed dollar amounts.

ETFs typically have lower expense ratios than mutual funds because they offer minimal shareholder services. Though mutual funds may be slightly more costly, fund managers provide support services. In addition to phone support from knowledgeable personnel, mutual funds may offer check-writing options and other shareholder services that ETFs don't provide.

Dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs) take the stress of decision-making by automatically converting dividend distributions into investment growth.

How Are Mutual Funds Priced?

Mutual funds always trade at Net Asset Value (NAV). Mutual fund orders are executed once daily and all investors receive the same price.

Do Mutual Funds Have Minimum Investment Requirements?

Most mutual funds require a minimum initial investment based on a flat dollar amount.

How Are Mutual Fund Investors Taxed?

When a mutual fund sells securities in the fund, it may trigger capital gains for shareholders, even for those with an unrealized loss on the total mutual fund investment. Investors are liable for taxes on the capital gains earned.

The Bottom Line

Both mutual funds and ETFs can be smart investment choices, and many investors may choose both. However, there are some clear reasons why mutual funds may be the better choice for an investor's goals and strategy, such as those that want periodic investment or a wide variety of fund options.

Why Choose Mutual Funds Over ETFs? (2024)


Why Choose Mutual Funds Over ETFs? ›

Unlike ETFs, mutual funds can offer more specific strategies as well as blends of strategies. Mutual funds offer the same type of indexed investing options as ETFs but also an array of actively and passively managed options that can be fine-tuned to cater to an investor's needs.

Why would you choose a mutual fund over an ETF? ›

If you focus on passively managed stock mutual funds, they're actually cheaper than passively managed stock ETFs, as you can see in the chart below. So in 2022, stock index mutual funds charged an average of 0.05 percent (asset-weighted), while a comparable stock index ETF charged 0.16 percent.

What are some of the arguments for why an ETF is better than a mutual fund? ›

Key Takeaways. Many mutual funds are actively managed while most ETFs are passive investments that track the performance of a particular index. ETFs can be more tax-efficient than actively managed funds due to their lower turnover and fewer transactions that produce capital gains.

What is the biggest difference between ETF and mutual fund? ›

How are ETFs and mutual funds different? How are they managed? While they can be actively or passively managed by fund managers, most ETFs are passive investments pegged to the performance of a particular index. Mutual funds come in both active and indexed varieties, but most are actively managed.

What is the #1 reason investors prefer mutual funds for investing? ›

Mutual funds offer diversification or access to a wider variety of investments than an individual investor could afford to buy. Investing with a group offers economies of scale, decreasing your costs. Monthly contributions help your assets grow. Funds are more liquid because they tend to be less volatile.

Are mutual funds better than ETFs? ›

The choice comes down to what you value most. If you prefer the flexibility of trading intraday and favor lower expense ratios in most instances, go with ETFs. If you worry about the impact of commissions and spreads, go with mutual funds.

How are mutual funds different from ETFs? ›

With a mutual fund, you buy and sell based on dollars, not market price or shares. And you can specify any dollar amount you want—down to the penny or as a nice round figure, like $3,000. With an ETF, you buy and sell based on market price—and you can only trade full shares.

What are the advantages of mutual funds? ›

Investing in mutual funds offers several benefits such as professional management, diversification, liquidity, low cost, tax benefits, affordability, safety, and transparency.

What are the benefits of a mutual fund? ›

Benefits Of Mutual Funds
  • Diversification. When you invest in mutual funds, your fund manager will invest your money in different securities including equity, stocks, debt funds and other money market instruments. ...
  • Professional Management. ...
  • Liquidity. ...
  • Smaller, Disciplined Investments. ...
  • Convenience And Simplicity.

Why are mutual funds considered a better investment? ›

A mutual fund provides diversification through exposure to a multitude of stocks. The reason that owning shares in a mutual fund is recommended over owning a single stock is that an individual stock carries more risk than a mutual fund. This type of risk is known as unsystematic risk.

What are three disadvantages to owning an ETF over a mutual fund? ›

Disadvantages of ETFs
  • Trading fees. Although ETFs are generally cheaper than other lower-risk investment options (such as mutual funds) they are not free. ...
  • Operating expenses. ...
  • Low trading volume. ...
  • Tracking errors. ...
  • The possibility of less diversification. ...
  • Hidden risks. ...
  • Lack of liquidity. ...
  • Capital gains distributions.

What is the advantage of an ETF over a mutual fund quizlet? ›

*ETFs typically have higher daily liquidity and lower fees than mutual fund shares, making them an attractive alternative for individual investors.

What are the pros and cons of a mutual fund? ›

Some of the advantages of mutual funds include advanced portfolio management, dividend reinvestment, risk reduction, convenience, and fair pricing, while disadvantages include high expense ratios and sales charges, management abuses, tax inefficiency, and poor trade execution.

Should you only invest in mutual funds? ›

All investments carry some risk, but mutual funds are typically considered a safer investment than purchasing individual stocks. Since they hold many company stocks within one investment, they offer more diversification than owning one or two individual stocks.

Is mutual fund a best option? ›

Mutual funds may be a good investment for anyone looking for diversification in their portfolios. Learn whether mutual funds can be the right investment for you. Mutual funds offer diversification and convenience at a low cost, but whether to invest in them depends on your individual situation.

Should I switch from mutual funds to ETFs? ›

For some, switching to ETFs makes sense because the expenses associated with mutual funds can consume a portion of profits. Also, if you prefer an investment that will grow in value over time without increasing your tax liability each year through capital gains distributions, ETFs can be beneficial.

Why are ETFs so much cheaper than mutual funds? ›

The administrative costs of managing ETFs are commonly lower than those for mutual funds. ETFs keep their administrative and operational expenses down through market-based trading. Because ETFs are bought and sold on the open market, the sale of shares from one investor to another does not affect the fund.

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