The 4 Best Total Market Index Funds

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A total stock market index fund is an investment vehicle that contains a basket of stocks within a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks an equity index. An equity index contains numerous stocks across various industries designed to represent the performance of the overall equity market. However, investors can’t buy an index directly, but instead, can invest in a fund that mirrors a broad-based index, such as the Russell 3000 Index, the S&P 500, or the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index,

By investing in stocks linked to a given index—called a benchmark—a total market index fund’s performance aims to mirror the equities within the underlying. The stocks within these funds may include those issued by large, well-known corporations and stocks of smaller, lesser-known companies.

In this article, we highlight four of the most prominent total market index funds, including their one-year performance, investment minimums, and the expense ratio for each of the funds.

Key Takeaways

  • A total stock market index fund is an investment vehicle that contains a basket of stocks within a fund that tracks an equity index.
  • The major broad-based indexes used as benchmarks include the Russell 3000, the S&P 500, and the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index.
  • The best total market index funds by popularity include the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares (VTSAX), the Schwab Total Stock Market Index Fund (SWTSX), the iShares Russell 3000 (IWVB), and the Wilshire 5000 Index Investment Fund (WFIVX).

Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares (VTSAX)

The Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares (VTSAX) seeks to track the investment results of the CRSP U.S. Total Market Index. The fund is designed to provide investors exposure to the entire U.S. equity market, which includes small, mid-sized, and large companies. The fund’s goal is to provide a low-cost, broad exposure to the equity markets by investing in companies that primarily trade on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASDAQ.

Some of the characteristics of the fund include:

  • Total net assets: $1.2 trillion
  • One year return: 51.05% as of April 30, 2021
  • Expense ratio: 0.04% as of April 29, 2021
  • The VTSAX has a $3,000 minimum investment requirement

For those who can’t meet the $3,000 initial investment requirement, Vanguard also offers an exchange traded fund (ETF) called the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI). The ETF version is similar to the VTSAX and costs the price of one share.

Equity Sector Diversification

Below are the weightings of the major industries within the VTSAX portfolio:

  • Technology companies: 25.50%
  • Consumer discretionary: 16.40%
  • Industrials: 14.20%
  • Healthcare companies: 13.10%
  • Financial services: 11.90%

Stock Holdings

The Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares is considered a large-cap blend, evidenced by some of its top 10 holdings, which make up 22.10% of the fund as of March 31, 2021:

  • Apple, Inc. (AAPL)
  • Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)
  • Amazon.com (AMZN)
  • Alphabet Inc. (GOOG)
  • Facebook Inc. (FB)
  • Tesla Inc. (TSLA)
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)

Schwab Total Stock Market Index (SWTSX)

The Schwab Total Stock Market Index (SWTSX) tracks the total return of the entire U.S. equity market as measured by the Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index. The fund is designed to be a comprehensive blend of large, small, and mid-sized corporations. The SWTSX has a low cost with no investment minimum.

Some of the characteristics of the fund include:

  • Assets under management: $15.90 billion
  • One year return: 50.94% as of April 30, 2021
  • Expense ratio: 0.03%
  • Investment minimum: None

Equity Sector Diversification

Below are the weightings of the major industries within the SWTSX as of March 31, 2021:

  • Technology: 25.76%
  • Healthcare: 13.45%
  • Consumer discretionary: 12.34%
  • Financial services: 11.79%
  • Communication services: 10.00%

Stock Holdings

The SWTSX’s top 10 holdings comprise approximately 20% of the portfolio and include the following as of March 31, 2021:

  • Apple, Inc. (AAPL)
  • Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)
  • Amazon.com (AMZN)
  • Facebook Inc. (FB)
  • Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL)
  • Tesla Inc. (TSLA)
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)

iShares Russell 3000 ETF (IWV)

The iShares Russell 3000 (IWV) by BlackRock Inc. is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the performance of the Russell 3000 Index, which measures the investment results of the broad U.S. equity market. Like its peers, IWV uses an indexing approach to select a sample of stocks that represent the underlying benchmark.

Some of the characteristics of the fund include:

  • Assets under management: $11.50 billion
  • One year return: 50.63% as of April 30, 2021
  • Expense ratio: 0.20%
  • Investment minimum: None

Equity Sector Diversification

IWV’s sector allocations are similar to those of the Vanguard and Schwab funds. As of May 10, 2021, the top industries within the IWV include:

  • Technology: 22.74%
  • Healthcare: 13.42%
  • Financial services: 12.25%
  • Consumer discretionary: 12.16%
  • Communication services: 9.98%

Stock Holdings

Similar to the previous two funds, the IWV also has more than 20% of its assets weighted in its top 10 holdings as of May 10, 2021. Some of those holdings include:

  • Apple, Inc. (AAPL)
  • Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)
  • Amazon.com (AMZN)
  • Facebook Inc. (FB)
  • Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL)
  • Tesla Inc. (TSLA)
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)

Small stocks listed in a total market index fund are often thinly traded, which may result in high trading spreads and significant transaction costs.

Wilshire 5000 Index Investment Fund (WFIVX)

The Wilshire 5000 Index Investment Fund (WFIVX) is a mutual fund that tracks the investment results of the Wilshire 5000 Index, a capitalization-weighted index of the market value of all actively traded U.S.-headquartered stocks. The index typically holds more than 3,500 stocks.

Some of the characteristics of the fund include:

  • Assets under management: $224 million
  • One year return: 48.88% as of April 30, 2021
  • Expense ratio: 0.63%
  • Investment minimum: $1,000

Equity Sector Diversification

The sector allocations for the WFIVX as of March 31, 2021 include:

  • Technology: 24.97%
  • Healthcare: 13.03%
  • Consumer discretionary: 12.33%
  • Financial services: 11.83%
  • Communication services: 9.79%

Stock Holdings

Similar to the previous funds, the WFIVX also has more than 20% of its assets weighted in its top 10 holdings as of March 31, 2021. Some of those holdings include:

  • Apple, Inc. (AAPL)
  • Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)
  • Amazon.com (AMZN)
  • Alphabet Inc. (GOOG)
  • Facebook Inc. (FB)
  • Tesla Inc. (TSLA)
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)
Comparing 4 Total Stock Market Index Funds
Total Stock Market Index Fund Assets Under Management One Year Return Expense Ratio
Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares (VTSAX) $1.2 trillion 51.05% 0.04%
Schwab Total Stock Market Index (SWTSX) $15.90 billion 50.94% 0.03%
iShares Russell 3000 ETF (IWV) $11.50 billion 50.63% 0.20%
Wilshire 5000 Index Investment Fund (WFIVX)​ $224 million 48.88% 0.63%

Total Stock Market Funds FAQs

What Is a Total Stock Market Index Fund?

A total stock market index fund is a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks an equity index such as the Russell 3000 Index, the S&P 500, or the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index, as its benchmark.

How Many Stocks Are in the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares Fund?

The Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares Fund has more than 3,000 equity holdings.

How Do I Invest in a Total Market Index Fund?

Investors can invest in a total market index fund by opening a brokerage account that offers ETFs and index funds including the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares Fund (VTSAX), the Schwab Total Stock Market Index Fund (SWTSX), the iShares Russell 3000 (IWVB), and the Wilshire 5000 Index Investment Fund (WFIVX).

What Companies Are in the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares Fund?

With more than 23% of its portfolio invested in the technology sector, companies in the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares fund (VTSAX) include Apple, Inc., Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com, Facebook Inc. A, and Alphabet Inc. A.

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