When investing in market-linked instruments, you are likely to compare mutual funds vs stocks. Both options are lucrative, easily accessible, and have immense potential. However, there are some key differences between them, which determine their viability. 


As such, understanding the differences between stocks and mutual funds is key to making an informed decision. This means assessing factors like risks, costs, benefits, rules, and taxation.

What are Stocks?

Simply put, the shares in a stock represent a unit of proportional ownership you have in a firm’s capital. These stocks are then traded in the equities market. When you purchase shares, you participate in the gains and losses made by the organisation. 


The prices of shares depend on factors like the company's performance, its competitors' performance, etc. Firms offer their shares to investors to raise capital which can be used towards covering business expenses. 


Naturally, the more shares you purchase of a company, the larger your stake in it. So, when the firm performs well, your profits are directly reflected in the share price. Alternatively, if the organisation experiences a downturn, your share loses some of its value. In this situation, selling your holdings would lead to loss.

What are Mutual Funds?

Mutual funds are an investment instrument wherein money is pooled from various investors and invested in securities and assets. Through these funds, you can invest in instruments across categories and asset classes. The two most common categorisations are equity and debt mutual funds


When you invest in mutual funds, you receive returns based on the gains or losses experienced by them. Since these funds invest in multiple securities, sometimes across asset types, the risk is well-adjusted. As such, mutual funds are a great option for investors looking to get into the market, without taking on the risk of owning company shares.

Differences Between Stocks and Mutual Funds

Since there are many differences between stocks and mutual funds, you must fully understand these investment tools before you begin investing. However, simply comparing shares vs mutual funds is not enough as mutual funds are quite diverse. 

1. Risk and Return

Comparing mutual funds vs stocks returns is crucial since they highlight a key difference. When you invest in stocks, the risk factor is evident as share prices are subject to volatile markets. However, in case the stock performs well, you will be rewarded with high returns.  


Mutual funds, even when concentrated on one asset type, are quite diverse and safe. In terms of ‘are mutual funds safer than stocks?’, you must understand that your money isn’t being invested in a single instrument. Instead, it has been distributed across securities and companies. 


As such, negative returns from some investments could be offset by others that are doing well. However, mutual funds do have their risks, especially if you opt for a highly targeted fund that invests in volatile securities.  

2. Investment Management

Investments in stocks, while fairly simple, require you to understand the market and the companies you choose very well. Here, the management is completely up to you, and you decide when to buy or sell the units.  


Mutual funds, on the other hand, are managed by professional mutual fund managers. These individuals are seasoned investors with the tools to optimise for the best returns. They constantly update their strategies to have a risk-adjusted approach to investing.


So, in the stocks vs mutual funds debate concerning management, it is clear that mutual funds are simpler. All you need to do is pick the right fund and invest accordingly. In fact, this difference helps answer the question, “Are mutual funds better than stocks?”, since the former seems more convenient.  

3. Portfolio Diversification

You can invest in various assets and sectors through mutual funds and as a result, diversify your portfolio. Conversely, with stocks, investments are made only in a single company. 


Diversifying with stocks is a lot harder and requires more management on your end. Without proper diversification, you may be overly exposed to market risks. This may additionally lead to serious losses. While this is also possible with mutual funds, most of them are far more protected against volatility. 

4. Fees and Charges

Unlike stocks, mutual funds require you to pay comparatively lower transaction and brokerage fees. This is because the fund invests in more securities than you would as an individual investor. Additionally, investing in mutual funds eliminates the need to pay annual maintenance charges for your Demat account, which is required in case of stocks.  


Having an idea of the costs associated with these investments can help you decide between the two. Choosing the one with lower costs is a good idea since it may increase your overall earnings. 

5. Tax Benefits

Mutual funds can help save taxes under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. For this purpose, you can invest in equity linked saving schemes (ELSS). Meanwhile, there are no provisions for tax deductions on your stock investments. You are taxed on your gains and the rate depends on the holding period. 

6. Trading Time

You can purchase stocks only during the active hours of the stock market. On the other hand, mutual funds can be bought at any time. However, it is vital to remember that the applicable Net Asset Value or NAV for mutual funds depends on the particular time at which you invest.


With answers to the question, “What is the difference between mutual funds and stocks?”, you can make informed investing decisions. Remember to always keep your risk tolerance and investment strategy in mind before you invest. Doing so will help you grow your finances efficiently, without incurring any undue losses. 

You should also prioritise portfolio diversification to mitigate risk and secure your financial growth. On Bajaj Markets, you can choose from a variety of investment avenues, including stocks and mutual funds.

FAQs on the Difference Between Stocks and Mutual Funds

What are the risks associated with mutual funds?

Mutual funds are linked to the market and carry associated risks. This includes risk pertaining to interest rates, liquidity, and concentration. To reduce these risks, you need to diversify your portfolio and pick funds across asset classes.

How is the investment management of stocks different from mutual funds?

For stocks, you can invest freely based on your knowledge and research. You will be responsible for managing your investments and can decide when to buy or sell your units. Conversely, in mutual funds, your money is managed by a professional fund manager.

What is the main difference between stocks and mutual funds?

The key difference between stocks and mutual funds is that, through the former, you can only invest in one company. On the other hand, the latter allows you to invest across asset classes and sectors.

Which investment offers better portfolio diversification, stocks or mutual funds?

Compared to stocks, mutual funds offer better portfolio diversification. Depending on the fund, the money is spread across various sectors. This helps in reducing the risk of concentration.

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