Best Index Funds for Every Investor

Decisions can be difficult when you’re faced with too many choices.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Decisions can be difficult when you’re faced with too many choices. Take, for instance, index funds. Investors looking for a good, passively managed U.S. stock fund have more than 600 distinct mutual funds and exchange-traded funds from which to choose. More than 85 are tied to Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index in some fashion or another.

Luckily, you don’t have to comb through the lists to find the best funds. We’ve done the work for you.

Here are our favorite index funds in eight key categories, including companies of all sizes in U.S. and international stock markets. We also include total-market choices here and abroad for investors who want to keep things simple with a one-stop fund. Why no bond funds? Research shows that fixed income is one area where it pays to go active.

To find our favorite stock index funds, we stuck to some basic indexing tenets: Invest in broad indexes that track wide swaths of the market and that are weighted by market value—meaning the bigger the company, the bigger its position in the index. Then we focused on funds that charge among the lowest fees and that have performed closely in line with their indexes over time. Where possible, we make recommendations for a mutual fund and an ETF in each category—the one exception is in foreign, large-company stock funds.

Data is as of May 23, 2017. Click on symbol links in each slide for current share prices and more.

Nellie S. Huang
Senior Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Nellie joined Kiplinger in August 2011 after a seven-year stint in Hong Kong. There, she worked for the Wall Street Journal Asia, where as lifestyle editor, she launched and edited Scene Asia, an online guide to food, wine, entertainment and the arts in Asia. Prior to that, she was an editor at Weekend Journal, the Friday lifestyle section of the Wall Street Journal Asia. Kiplinger isn't Nellie's first foray into personal finance: She has also worked at SmartMoney (rising from fact-checker to senior writer), and she was a senior editor at Money.