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The Standard & Poor's 500 Index, or simply S&P 500, is a market-capitalization-weighted index of 505 large-cap U.S. companies that make up 80% of U.S. equity by market cap. It is widely regarded as the best gauge of large-cap U.S. equities and often referred to as “the market” because it is comprised of stocks that span all market sectors. Some of the S&P 500's largest components include Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Apple Inc. (AAPL), Inc. (AMZN), Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL), and Facebook Inc. (FB).

There are many funds whose portfolio of stocks are designed to track those of the S&P 500 due to its popularity as a barometer of U.S. equity markets, including both mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The latter type of fund differs from traditional mutual funds in that they are listed on exchanges and trade throughout the day like ordinary stock.

Below we look at the top S&P 500 index funds, one with the lowest fees and the other with the highest liquidity. All data is below is as of May 21, 2020.

Key Takeaways

  • Index investing has been gaining momentum over the past decade, with passive funds often outperforming for their active counterparts for lower cost.
  • Among index investors, the S&P 500 has been the most widely watched benchmark index to track.
  • Here we look at a few of the most highly rated, low-cost S&P 500 index funds.

Lowest Cost S&P 500 Index Fund: Fidelity 500 Index Fund (FXAIX)

FXAIX is a mutual fund. Because index-tracking funds will follow the performance of the Index, one of, if not the, biggest determinant of long-term returns is how much it charges in fees.

  • Expense Ratio: 0.015%
  • 2019 Return: 31.47%
  • Yield: 2.25%
  • Assets Under Management: $213.4 billion
  • Minimum Investment: $0
  • Inception Date: February 17, 1988 (Share Class Inception Date: May 15, 2011)
  • Issuing Company: Fidelity

Lowest Cost Runner Up: Schwab S&P 500 Index Fund (SWPPX)

Schwab's S&P 500 index fund seeks to track the total return of the S&P 500® Index. The fund generally invests at least 80% of its net assets (including, for this purpose, any borrowings for investment purposes) in these stocks; typically, the actual percentage is considerably higher. It generally will seek to replicate the performance of the index by giving the same weight to a given stock as the index does.

  • Expense Ratio: 0.02%
  • 2019 Return: 31.44%
  • Yield: 1.95%
  • Assets Under Management: $40.2 billion
  • Minimum Investment: $0
  • Inception Date: May 18, 1997
  • Issuing Company: Charles Schwab

Lowest Cost Runner Up: Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares (VFINX)

Vanguard was the original index fund and still has the largest assets under management, with around half a trillion dollars in its Vanguard 500 Index Fund. The investment seeks to track the performance of a benchmark index that measures the investment return of large-capitalization stocks. The fund employs an indexing investment approach designed to track the performance of the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

  • Expense Ratio: 0.14%
  • 2019 Return: 31.33%
  • Yield: 2.11%
  • Assets Under Management: $496.5 billion
  • Minimum Investment: $3,000
  • Inception Date: Aug 30, 1976
  • Issuing Company: Vanguard

Lowest Cost Runner Up: State Street S&P 500 Index Fund Class N (SVSPX)

Also in the running is State Street's offering, which also closely tracks the S&P 500 index. This fund, however, requires a minimum of $10,000 invested.

  • Expense Ratio: 0.16%
  • 2019 Return: 31.26%
  • Yield: 1.84%
  • Assets Under Management: $1.5 billion
  • Minimum Investment: $10,000
  • Inception Date: Dec 29, 1992
  • Issuing Company: State Street

Most Liquid S&P 500 Index Fund: SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY)

SPY is an ETF, not a mutual fund, and it's not even the lowest cost S&P 500 ETF. It is, however, the most liquid S&P 500 fund. Liquidity indicates how easy it will be to trade an ETF, with higher liquidity generally meaning lower trading costs. Trading costs are not a big concern to people who want to hold ETFs long term, but if you’re interested in trading ETFs frequently, then it’s important to look for high liquidity funds to minimize trading costs.

  • 2019 Return: 31.22%
  • Expense Ratio: 0.095%
  • Annual Dividend Yield: 1.99%
  • Assets Under Management: $265 billion
  • Inception Date: January 22, 1993
  • Issuing Company: State Street SPDR