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While there are some actively managed ETFs, these tend to have higher prices. ETF investors may also have to pay a brokerage commission on each transaction, though some ETF providers offer no-commission ETFs. From the perspective of passive investors, below is a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of ETFs.

Both ETFS and mutual funds provide an easy way to invest in stocks and build a diversified investment portfolio. Like mutual funds, ETFs invest in a variety of companies. A comparable index mutual fund, the Vanguard 500 Investor Shares ( VFINX ), has an expense ratio that is more than three times as high.

Since then Rydex has launched a series of funds tracking all major currencies under their brand CurrencyShares. A portfolio of investments. ETFs trade like stocks, with trade commissions when bought or sold. Many funds have investment minimums of $1,000 or more. A mutual fund offers more diversification by bundling many company stocks into one investment.

Since most retirement investing is done through monthly contributions, those operating and transaction fees can quickly eat into your returns if you're charged every month you add to your investment. As products are rolled out, investors tend to benefit from increased choices and better variations of product and price competition among providers.

For example, an actively managed clean technology mutual fund would be comprised of stocks that the fund's analysts think will provide the best returns. This just means that most trading is conducted in the most popular funds. For example, if you prefer active instead of passive investment management, you'll probably want to choose mutual funds since all ETFs are passively managed.

As with any index fund, the management team is not assigned the task of evaluating or researching the different stocks it holds. At the end of the day, both mutual funds and ETFs can provide diversification, flexibility and exposure to a wide array of markets at a relatively low cost.

Most, though not all ETFs feature a "passive" management approach and most, though not all mutual funds feature an "active" management approach; the expense ratios respective to both instruments may also vary; and the features and functionalities that make either instrument a good match for an individual investor is contingent upon the investor's financial goals, resources and individual investing preferences.

With ETFs, you can trade more flexibly, as these products are traded intraday. Actively managed funds are typically more expensive than ETFs or index funds—in large part, to compensate management. So investors can buy only a few shares, which is a positive for an investing novice.

Exchange-traded funds have proliferated in the last five years, but have not yet received much attention in the academic literature. ETFs offer greater flexibility than mutual funds when it individual retirement account comes to trading. If appreciated stocks are sold to free up the cash for the investor, then the fund captures that capital gain, which is distributed to shareholders before year-end.

ETFs can entail risks similar to direct stock ownership, including market, sector, or industry risks. ETFs may involve trading commissions, but some brokerages offer commission-free ETFs. The short-term trading fee may be more than applicable standard commissions on purchases and sells of ETFs that are not commission-free.

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