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Stocks vs. Mutual Funds Which Are a Better Investment for You

Are you a newbie in investing and wondering mutual funds or stocks to begin with?

Investing means putting money into something with the hope of making more money later. This can happen when the thing you invest in goes up in value or pays you back with extra money, like dividends from stocks or interest from bonds.

Two common ways to invest are in stocks, which are parts of companies, and mutual funds, which are groups of investments put together. But which one is better for you?

It depends on things like how much risk you’re okay with, what you want to achieve with your investments, and how much control you want over them.

This article will talk about the good and bad sides of both stocks and mutual funds, so you can figure out which are a better investment, stocks or mutual funds for you.

Key Takeaways
  • Mutual funds offer diversification and professional management, but come with management fees and offer potentially lower returns than individual stocks.
  • Stocks allow for higher potential returns and direct ownership in companies, but also carry higher risk and require more research and management.
  • The right choice for you depends on your investment goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon.
  • A balanced portfolio that combines mutual funds (like index funds) with core holdings and stocks (or ETFs) for satellite investments can be a good approach for long-term growth and risk mitigation.
  • Consulting with a financial advisor can help you develop a personalized investment strategy tailored to your specific needs and risk tolerance.

Understanding Stocks and Mutual Funds

Before we get into talking about whether mutual funds or stocks are better, let’s make sure we understand what each one is.

What are Stocks and How Do They Work?

Think about owning a small part of a big company like Apple or Amazon. That is what having a stock means – you own a piece of that company that’s being traded publicly.

When you buy a stock, you are becoming a part-owner of that company, and how much of it you own depends on how many shares you buy.

Here is how stocks work:

  • Companies Sell Stocks: Companies sell stocks to raise money for things like growing their business or doing research. This happens through something called an Initial Public Offering (IPO).
  • Stock Exchanges: Stocks are bought and sold on places called stock exchanges, like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or the NASDAQ.

    People buy and sell stocks through brokers, and the price of stocks fluctuates depending on the number of people who want to buy or sell them.

Types of Stocks

A. Common Stock:

This is the most usual type. People who own common stocks can vote on decisions the company makes, and they might get money back from the company’s profits, called dividends.

The downside is that common stocks are also riskier. If the company does not do well, the stock price can go down, and you might lose money.

B. Preferred Stock:

People who own preferred stocks usually do not get to vote, but they might get a set amount of money back from the company before common stockholders do.

However, the preferred stock prices usually do not change as much as common stock prices.


Let’s say you buy 100 shares of Apple common stock (AAPL) at $200 each.

You’ve spent $20,000 to own a bit of Apple.

If Apple does better and the stock price goes up to $250, you could sell your shares and make $5,000 in profit (100 shares * ($250 – $200)).

But if Apple has problems and the stock price goes down, you might lose money if you sell your shares for less than you paid.

A summary of differences between common stocks and preferred stocks:

Feature Common Stock Preferred Stock
Voting Rights Yes (1 share = 1 vote) No, or limited voting rights
Dividend Payments Variable dividend, depends on company performance Fixed dividend, typically higher than common stock dividend
Priority in Liquidation Lower priority Higher priority than common stock, but lower than bondholders
Price Volatility Higher volatility, price can fluctuate significantly Lower volatility, price typically fluctuates less than common stock
Growth Potential Higher potential for capital appreciation Lower potential for capital appreciation
Example Apple (AAPL), Tesla (TSLA) Wells Fargo Preferred Stock (WFC-B)


What is Mutual Funds and How It Work

In contrast to stocks, where you own a part of one company, a mutual fund is a professionally managed investment pool that combines money from multiple investors.

This pooled money is then used to buy various assets, such as stocks, bonds, and sometimes other things like real estate investment trusts (REITs) or commodities.

You can think of it as a basket filled with different investment items.

Here is how mutual funds work:

  • Fund Management: Each mutual fund has a fund manager who makes decisions about where to invest based on the fund’s goals. These goals can be anything from trying to grow a lot (with more risk) to focusing on getting regular dividends.
  • Share Ownership: Investors buy shares of the mutual fund, which means they own a part of the whole bunch of investments the fund holds. The price of each share, called the Net Asset Value (NAV), depends on the total value of all the investments divided by how many shares there are.
  • Trading and Returns: Mutual funds are priced and traded only once a day, usually at the end of the day, unlike stocks that can be traded throughout the day.

    Investors make money in two main ways:

    A. Capital Appreciation: When the value of the fund’s investments goes up, so do the NAV and the share price, allowing investors to profit when they sell.

    B. Dividend Distribution: Some mutual funds give a part of the money they make from investments back to the shareholders as dividends.

Types of Mutual Funds

There are different kinds of mutual funds to fit different goals and how much risk you are okay with:

  • Index Funds: These try to copy the performance of a certain market index, like the S&P 500. They usually have lower fees than other kinds of funds because they’re not actively managed.
  • Growth Funds: These invest in companies that are expected to grow a lot, aiming for profits from the growing value of their investments. They usually have more risk than index funds.
  • Income Funds: These focus on investments that pay regular income, like bonds or stocks that pay dividends. They usually don’t grow as much as growth funds but offer more steady returns.
  • Balanced Funds: These try to balance between growth and income by investing in both stocks and bonds. They’re not as risky as growth funds but offer more potential for growth than income funds.

Choosing the right mutual fund can give you a way to have a mix of investments without having to choose each one yourself.


Stocks vs. Mutual Funds: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Deciding whether to invest in individual stocks or mutual funds can feel overwhelming for newcomers. Although both options present opportunities for growth, they also carry unique pros and cons.

Let us explore the main disparities between stocks and mutual funds to assist you in determining which option fits best with your investment approach.

Factor Stocks Mutual Funds
Ownership You directly own a share of a company You own a share of the mutual fund, which in turn owns a basket of assets
Investment Type Individual company ownership Diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other assets
Diversification Low – You’re exposed to the performance of a single company High – You’re spread across multiple holdings, mitigating risk
Management Self-directed – You research and choose individual stocks Professional – A fund manager makes investment decisions
Cost Potentially lower transaction fees, but requires research time May have management fees, but reduces research burden
Potential Returns High potential for both capital appreciation (price growth) and capital depreciation (price loss) Lower potential returns than individual high-growth stocks, but also lower risk of significant losses
Control You have voting rights proportional to your shares (common stock) Limited or no voting rights on underlying holdings
Liquidity Generally high – Stocks can be bought and sold throughout the trading day Moderate – Mutual funds are typically priced and traded once daily

Understanding the Trade-offs between Mutual Funds or Stocks:

  • Diversification vs. Control: Stocks may promise higher returns, yet they involve greater risk since all your investments are in one place. Mutual funds offer diversification, but this means sacrificing potential returns and control over individual investments.
  • Management vs. Cost: With stocks, you’re in charge of researching and choosing companies. Mutual funds provide professional management, but you’ll need to pay fees for this service.
  • Time Commitment: Actively managing a stock portfolio demands extensive research and monitoring. Mutual funds save you time, but you’re entrusting your investments to the fund manager’s expertise.

Ultimately, the ideal decision hinges on your investment objectives, risk tolerance, and financial capabilities when considering which are a better investment, stocks or mutual funds for you.


Pros and Cons of Stocks


  1. High Earning Potential: Stocks offer the potential for significant capital appreciation, especially with companies showing strong growth prospects.
  2. Direct Ownership: Owning shares in a company gives you a sense of ownership and voting rights in company decisions (common stock).
  3. Liquidity: Stocks can be bought and sold throughout the trading day, making it easier to access your money when needed.


  1. High Risk: Individual stocks can fluctuate significantly in value, potentially resulting in substantial losses.
  2. Lack of Diversification: Owning only a few stocks concentrates your risk in a small number of companies, leaving you vulnerable to downturns.
  3. Management Time: Actively managing a stock portfolio requires ongoing research, analysis, and monitoring.

Related: Pros and Cons of Investing In a Single Stock


Pros and Cons of Mutual Funds


  1. Diversification: Mutual funds spread your investment across multiple assets, reducing risk compared to individual stocks.
  2. Professional Management: Fund managers handle research and investment selection, saving you time and effort.
  3. Lower Costs: Mutual funds often have lower transaction fees compared to buying individual stocks.
  4. Regular Income: Some mutual funds distribute dividends from the underlying holdings, providing a steady income stream.


  1. Management Fees: Mutual funds typically charge fees for management, which can affect your returns.
  2. Lower Potential Returns: While offering diversification, mutual funds generally offer lower potential returns compared to high-growth stocks.
  3. Less Control: You have limited control over the specific investments held within a mutual fund.


Mutual Funds or Stocks? Choosing Your Investment Path

Several factors influence the decision between stocks and mutual funds:

  1. Risk Tolerance: Consider your comfort with potential losses versus higher returns.
  2. Investment Goals: Determine if you’re aiming for long-term growth or generating income.
  3. Investment Knowledge and Time: Assess your ability to manage investments actively.
  4. Tax Implications: Consider taxes on capital gains and dividends.


Building a Balanced Portfolio

Investing is about crafting a portfolio that matches your risk tolerance and goals. Mutual funds or stocks, both offer avenues for wealth growth, each with its own risk-reward balance. Here’s how a balanced portfolio can help:

The Power of Diversification:

Imagine carrying a basket of eggs. If they’re all from one chicken, one mishap could mean losing everything. But with eggs from multiple sources, a setback in one won’t wipe out everything.

Investing follows a similar principle. A balanced portfolio spreads risk across different assets.

Here is how stocks and mutual funds can help:

Core Allocation: Start with broadly diversified mutual funds like index funds. These funds track market indexes, offering exposure to the market’s long-term growth without the risk of individual stock picking.

Satellite Investments: Supplement your core with individual stocks or sector-specific mutual funds. These can boost returns, but remember to align them with your risk tolerance. Individual stocks carry more risk than mutual funds.

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) as a Complement:

ETFs trade like stocks but hold diversified assets like mutual funds. They offer flexibility for buying or selling during market hours. Consider ETFs that track market indexes or sectors to complement your portfolio.

Remember: There is no one-size-fits-all formula for a balanced portfolio. The right mix depends on your circumstances and goals. A financial advisor can help craft a strategy tailored to you.

Related: Exploring Top AI ETFs: Investing in Artificial Intelligence



Deciding between mutual funds and stocks and considering which are better investments involves weighing various factors. Your choice depends on your unique situation and financial goals. Consider aspects like your risk tolerance, investment objectives, and available resources.

Consulting a financial advisor is invaluable for personalized guidance. They can help assess your risk profile, develop a customized investment strategy, and recommend suitable options, such as stocks, mutual funds, or ETFs.


Disclaimer: The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. Individual financial situations vary, and any investment decisions should be made based on personal circumstances, consultation with a qualified financial advisor, and thorough consideration of risks and potential returns. Past performance of investments is not indicative of future results. Any opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and may not reflect the views of all contributors or entities involved. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made regarding the information’s accuracy, completeness, or reliability. Users of this information do so at their own risk and are encouraged to conduct their own research and due diligence before making any financial decisions.

Amelia Wong

Amelia, a UK-educated corporate finance analyst with over three years in SEO and finance blogging, excels in creating insightful financial...

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