History of Funds
Humans have been investing for thousands of years, but the idea of “diversification” and pooling resources to spread risk is relatively new. The first modern day mutual fund in the U.S. was created in the 1920s. It was a way for investors to diversify their investment holdings with little capital. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that the mutual fund industry started to take off.
Prior to 1971, all mutual funds were “active”, meaning the investment manager could choose whatever stocks and bonds he or she saw fit. In 1971, Wells Fargo established the first index fund, which was built to replicate a certain index, not outperform it. It was a revolutionary concept that John Bogle mastered to build the largest mutual fund company of all time, Vanguard.
As indexing gained popularity, the first Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) was created in the late 1980s. The first ETFs were low-cost index funds that gave investors the ability to access cheap market exposure. The ETF industry has seen exponential growth since the Great Financial Crisis in 2008. Currently, there are over 5,000 ETFs that investors can trade, compared to roughly 1,000 ETFs in 2009. One of the most well-known ETFs, the S&P 500 Trust ETF (SPY), was created in 1993 and now has over $260 billion in assets.
Differences between ETFs and Mutual Funds
Why would someone invest in an ETF vs a mutual fund or vice versa? While there are many similarities between the two investment vehicles, there are a few key differences.
One of the key differences is how they trade. ETFs trade intra-day, just like a stock. This means that if you put in an order to buy an ETF, you have possession of the ETF as soon as the trade executes. A mutual fund trade will execute at the end of the day. At the end of the trading day, all the underlying holdings are priced, which then allows the mutual fund to be accurately priced. Therefore, you can only buy or sell a mutual fund at the end of the day, once the price is known.
The vast majority of mutual funds are actively managed, meaning there is a manager making buy and sell decisions. Their goal is to purchase investments that may outperform the index in that asset class. Active management can be beneficial in inefficient markets, like bonds and international stocks, because a manager can identify opportunities and weaknesses. Most ETFs are passive index funds. Because mutual funds are more active, they typically have higher internal expense ratios than ETFs. ETFs are generally more tax efficient as well. If an ETF is an index fund, the turnover of the underlying funds is usually less than an actively managed mutual fund. This can cause ETFs to generate less capital gains distributions compared to a mutual fund.
At Sharkey, Howes, & Javer, we use a combination of mutual funds and ETFs. In certain markets, such as international stocks and bonds, we believe an active mutual fund manager can at times add value above and beyond the benchmark index. In more efficient markets like U.S. large companies, we think investing in ETFs provides a lower cost of entry to the stock market. Learn more about mutual funds and ETFs and how to implement them in your portfolio by getting in touch with us today for a complimentary consultation with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.