Index Funds For Beginners: How to Get Started with Investing

Index funds are a cost-effective way to invest in the stock market. But they don’t offer much customization, so it’s difficult for beginners to figure out how to get started or what choices they have when choosing an index fund. Here you’ll learn more about indexes and index funds generally, as well as how you can choose one that suits your needs.,

Investing in an index fund is a good way to invest your money. The “how to invest in an index fund” will teach you how to get started with investing.

Vintage asset diversification page.

I’m not sure about you, but despite my repeated efforts to thoroughly comprehend and appreciate how the stock market works, I’m still a complete novice. I consider myself to be a somewhat intellectual, business-savvy person, therefore I should be able to comprehend this information, but I can’t. And, to be honest, investing bores me so much that I don’t have the motivation to keep trying to figure it out. Furthermore, I understood at some point throughout my investing research that if I really wanted to succeed, I would have to devote a significant amount of time and effort to studying and maintaining my investment portfolio. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” as Oklahoma’s Sweet Brown put it.

I’m a “know-nothing investor,” as Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger puts it. According to him, the majority of ordinary people who trade in the stock market are novices. And there’s no problem with it. The majority of people do not have the time or finances to become expert investors. Indeed, according to Munger and other financial gurus such as Warren Buffett and Jack Bogle, even novice investors may do well in the stock market. They can even outperform expert stock pickers in several circumstances.

It just takes two things: 1) admitting and accepting that you’re a novice investor, and 2) investing in index funds.

Number 1 is something I can’t really assist you with, but I can put you in the right way with number 2. Today, we’ll look at how to get started investing in index funds.

What Is an Index Fund and How Does It Work?

To comprehend what an index fund is, we must first comprehend what a stock market index is. A stock market index is a number that represents a set of stocks’ relative worth. The number of stocks in a stock market index fluctuates as the value of the stocks in that index changes. You’ve probably heard of stock indexes if you routinely watch or listen to the news. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones are two of the most extensively used stock market indices. Each stock market index is made up of a variety of stocks. Both are used to determine how the market as a whole is functioning.

An index fund is a form of mutual fund (one that pools money from a group of investors) that has a portfolio built to mimic a certain stock index (like the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial). If you purchase an index fund that tracks the S&P 500, the fund will strive to hold the S&P 500 companies in the same quantities that they exist in the market. The performance of an index fund following the S&P 500 will typically match that of the index.

Aside from monitoring a specific stock market index, index funds may also be built to track a specific industry, such as technology or healthcare.


What Is the Difference Between Traditional Mutual Funds and Index Funds?

“I think that 98 or 99 percent of investors, if not more than 99 percent, should diversify widely and avoid trading. This leads them to a very low-cost index fund.” Warren Buffett (Warren Buffett, Warren Buffett, Warren Buffett, Warren Buffet

The most significant distinction between index funds and typical mutual funds is that mutual funds are actively managed, while index funds are not. An actively managed mutual fund has a fund manager who chooses stocks and attempts to schedule his buying and selling to achieve the greatest return and beat the market using his market expertise. Instead of humans determining which stocks to include in an index fund, a computer monitors the market and rebalances the fund as required to keep it in line with the stock market index it’s tracking.

“Don’t I want to beat the market?” you may be wondering. Isn’t that how you earn money in stocks? So why should I invest in index funds rather than mutual funds?”

This is a fantastic question, and the solution is threefold: 1) You’ll beat actively managed funds over the long term with index funds, 2) you don’t need much experience with investing to win with index funds, and 3) you’ll retain more of your profits with index funds than you would with actively managed funds.

Below, we go through each of these three advantages in further depth.

Three Advantages of Index Funds

“The ideal approach to buy common stocks for most investors, both institutional and individual, is to invest in an index fund with low costs. Those who pursue this road will almost certainly outperform the vast majority of investing professionals in terms of net profits (after fees and expenditures).” Warren Buffett (Warren Buffett, Warren Buffett, Warren Buffett, Warren Buffet

1. Index Funds Outperform Actively Managed Portfolios Over Time

Maintaining a diverse portfolio is one of the investing tenets. In a volatile market, it lowers risk. If one stock underperforms, you’ll be able to offset the loss with other stocks or bonds. While actively managed mutual funds are often adequately diversified, research has shown that they do not outperform passively managed mutual funds in the long term. Only 39 percent of actively managed funds outperformed their benchmark in 2012. (a benchmark is a standard that a manager uses to measure their fund against; usually a stock market index like the S&P 500). Princeton economist Burton G. Malkiel claims that most active fund managers underperform the S&P 500 in his book A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing. Certain actively managed funds may outperform the market in some years, but they will almost certainly underperform in the long run. And the explanation is simple: even for specialists, picking winning stocks and timing the market exactly right on a regular basis is difficult.

Index funds will not significantly beat the market, but they will not significantly underperform it either. You receive a standard return. Being average outperforms the market when most actively managed funds underperform.


To be clear, investing in an index fund does not ensure that you will gain money or that you will not lose money. You’ll perform as well as the stock in a given year if you invest in index funds, which follow a stock index. If you held money in the Vanguard 500 Index Fund (which follows the S&P 500) in 2009, for example, your balance would have plummeted. However, given the S&amp has been on a run recently, if you maintained invested in it regularly, even through the terrible times, you would have seen a big return on your investment. However, there’s always the possibility that the S&P 500 would plummet again in the future, causing your S&P 500 index fund to plummet as well.

Playing the long game with index funds is the key to success. Invest in index funds on a regular basis, even when the market is down, and you’ll be OK in the long term, since the market rises over time.

2. You Don’t Need a Lot of Investing Experience

“By investing in an index fund on a regular basis, for example, the novice investor may really beat most financial specialists.” Surprisingly, when ‘stupid’ money recognizes its boundaries, it stops being dumb.” –Charlie Munger is a character in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Some diehard investors will argue that index fund investing is inefficient and that you’re missing out on better returns if you don’t actively manage your portfolio or spend more time researching fund managers with a track record of outperforming the market (though even if you do find that guy, there’s no guarantee he’ll repeat his performance on a consistent basis).

But here’s the catch: just to have a chance of beating the market, you’ll need to put in a lot of time and effort. You must invest while eating, sleeping, and breathing. As I said at the outset of this essay, I just do not have the time to spend in that manner, and I believe that most typical men are in the same position. Even if you invest a lot of time and money into studying companies or actively managed mutual funds, there’s a strong possibility you won’t be able to match the market. Why waste all that effort if the outcomes aren’t up to par? Personally, I’d rather accept the average performance of index funds and devote more time to my company or family. The irony is that by settling for average, novice investors will almost certainly beat skilled stock pickers.

Index funds are suited you if you don’t know much about investing or economics, or just don’t have time to conduct extensive study.

3. Index funds allow you to keep more of your money.

“After reviewing the statistics over many years, I am confident in reiterating the advice I have always offered to fund investors: Do not let the tyranny of compounding expenses overpower the enchantment of compounding returns.” —Bogle, Jack


It doesn’t matter whether an actively managed fund equals or outperforms an index like the S&P 500 since you’ll lose a significant amount of money in fees. And when I say enormous, I mean up to 25% of your investment return. What the hell is going on?!

For the following three reasons, index funds allow you to retain more of your money:

There are no (or very few) sales commissions. When you buy an actively managed mutual fund, you’ll usually have to pay a 4-6 percent sales fee to the brokerage company. So, if you invest $1,000 in an actively managed fund, the company will take $60 from you (assuming a 6% sales charge) before your money is invested. That may not seem like a lot, but it adds up quickly when you make many transactions. The commission charge pays for the fund manager’s expertise and assistance, according to the brokerage business selling you the fund. However, as we’ve seen, the majority of fund managers underperform the market!

There is no need to pay for “expertise” and hence no need to pay a sales fee since index funds are designed to follow a certain stock market index. When you invest in an index fund, more of your money goes to your investment rather than to the country club membership of some broker.

Operating costs are low. In addition to the 4-6 percent haircut you get when you buy an actively managed fund, they remove 1-2 percent of your fund’s balance each year to pay the fund manager and other fees. The expenditure ratio is the term for this. A 1% deduction from your fund’s balance each year may not seem like much, but it adds up over time. As an example, suppose you put $10,000 into an actively managed fund with a 1% annual fee ratio. The fund grows at a 10% annual rate, and you don’t touch it for 20 years. You would have got $67,275 after 20 years if you hadn’t had to pay the annual cost charge. However, since you had 1% removed from your amount each year for the last 20 years, you only have $56,100. The broker pocketed $11,175 of your return (or 16.6%). Yeesh.

Operating expenses are much cheaper in an index fund since it is not managed by a person. The cost ratios of most index funds are less than.5%, and some are even less than.2%. The fee ratio of the index fund in which I invest is.18 percent. In the case above, if you had an expenditure ratio of.18 percent, you would have only lost $2,168 to operating costs. It’s a lot better than losing $11,000.

Tax-effective. Unless you’re selling a lucrative stock that’s been kept in a tax-free retirement account, you’ll have to pay taxes on the sale, and those taxes may eat into your profits if you’re not cautious. Actively managed fund managers sell lucrative equities on a regular basis, and each time they do, a taxable event occurs, which is passed on to you, the investor.


Because index funds often have minimal buying and selling, tax expenses are lower, and you retain more of your money.

How to Get Started Investing in Index Funds

Here are a few resources I suggest looking at if you want to start investing in index funds.

Learn about index funds and how to invest in them. Take my word for it, but don’t take my word for it. Make your own investigation. I found the following books to be useful in learning about index funds and investing in general:

  • The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing is a book written by Bogleheads for Bogleheads. Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard and the developer of the index fund, has long advocated for regular Joes to participate in index funds. Over the years, he’s amassed a devoted following of investors who appreciate his straightforward financial advice. They’re known as Bogleheads, and they have a strong online community where they debate Bogle’s concept of investing. The forum, as well as the whole site, is fantastic. I strongly advise you to have a look at it. The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing is an easy-to-read book that highlights the primary principles found on the Bogleheads’ website.
  • The Little Book of Common Sense Investing is a book that explains how to invest in a way that makes sense. Written by Jack Bogle himself, this book is a common sense approach to investing for the novice investor. Invest for the long term with a diverse portfolio of low-cost index funds, according to the advise.
  • The Investor’s Manifesto is a manifesto written by investors for investors. Another book aimed at the typical investor that argues the case for investing in low-cost index funds.

Begin looking for funding. Start looking at individual funds once you’ve done some study on index funds. A three-fund portfolio consisting of a local total market index fund, an overseas total market index fund, and a bond total market index fund is recommended on the Bogleheads’ Wiki. This blend of local and overseas stock funds, as well as bond funds, can provide a rookie investor with lots of diversification without requiring too much effort (thus the nickname “lazy portfolio”). The Bogleheads may also recommend particular funds from different brokerage providers for your lazy portfolio. Each fund has its own set of expenses and investment minimums. Look through them to see which ones are best for you.

Consider lifecycle funds for even more relaxed investment. When investing in index funds, it’s common advice to spread your money among a few different funds to acquire a well-rounded asset allocation. You don’t want to put all of your money in stocks, such as an index fund that follows the S&P 500. You should also diversify by investing in bond funds or real estate funds to mitigate any stock market downturns. Financial gurus suggest that you have a 90/10 stock/bond asset allocation while you’re young. As you age older, your asset allocation should move to include less equities and more conservative assets such as bonds and cash.


The difficulty with asset allocation is that it might vary without you doing anything depending on how your investments perform; for example, your stock fund may rise while your bond fund falls, affecting the asset ratio you were looking for. When this occurs, you should rebalance your portfolio to restore the right asset allocation. This may need selling some bond funds and purchasing more stock index funds, or vice versa.

But, let’s face it, let’s be honest. Most individuals are too lazy to investigate which index funds should be included in their portfolio and/or to rebalance it once a year when it becomes out of balance. I’m sure I am.

Consider lifestyle funds if you’re searching for even more laid-back, know-nothing investing. These index funds, also known as target-date funds, feature an age-appropriate asset allocation of stock index funds and bond index funds. If you’re young, a target-date fund will typically have a stock/bond fund ratio of 90/10. The target-fund rebalances itself as you become older, moving to more conservative assets. Your fund will have a 10/90 stock/bond fund ratio by the time you reach retirement age. And you didn’t have to do anything to bring about that change. Isn’t it amazing?

Target-date funds aren’t ideal, to be sure. There are various disadvantages. If you choose and adjust your own index fund portfolio, you’ll probably obtain a greater return. Target-date funds, on the other hand, “embodie the 85 Percent Solution: not ideal, but simple enough for anybody to get started—and they function just fine,” as financial guru Ramit Sethi writes in his book, I Will Teach You to be Rich. To put it another way, that’s excellent enough for the inexperienced investor.

Target-date funds are a favorite of mine. I have a big portion of my retirement in the Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 Fund, while having money in other index funds (VTIVX). So far, I’ve gotten a 26 percent return on my investment. Have there been any significant decreases since I invested? Yep. When the stock market as a whole fell, the fund’s value fell as well. However, when the market has recovered, it has always gone back up. In the years ahead, I’m confident I’ll witness even more significant declines in my wealth. I’m not going to freak out, however. Investing in index funds is, once again, a long-term strategy.

Create an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and begin investing. If you want to save even more money on taxes, invest in index funds via a retirement plan such as an IRA or 401(k) (k).

What are your thoughts on index funds? Let us know in the comments!



Index funds for beginners are a good way to get started with investing. They offer low fees and diversification in one package. The best index funds for 2021 can be found on our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Index Funds Good for beginners?

A: Yes, index funds are a good way for beginners to start investing their money.

How should a beginner invest $1000?

A: A great option for beginners is to invest in a good beginner robot kit, such as the VEX IQ. They are affordable and have lots of features so it can be fun from the very beginning. Its also worth mentioning that you should buy at least one additional rotor blade set if youre going with this plan because they tend to break easily during learning stages.

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