Strategic Investing: FSKAX or VTSAX? Choosing the Right Index Fund

Strategic Investing: FSKAX or VTSAX? Choosing the Right Index Fund

Index funds provide a financial strategy that appeals to both beginners and experienced investors looking to build a diverse portfolio for long-term investing. Fidelity’s Total Market Index Fund (FSKAX) and Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX) are among the popular picks. These funds aim to track the performance of the U.S. stock market, giving investors exposure to multiple sectors and companies of varying size. This piece explores the details of FSKAX and VTSAX, equipping doctors and healthcare professionals with the information to make an informed decision based on each fund’s performance, cost-effectiveness, and investment requirements.


FSKAX and VTSAX are index funds that provide a simple way to invest in the entire U.S. stock market. Let’s break down what these funds are, how they’re similar, and any key differences to consider.

Understanding Index Funds

Index funds are mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) designed to replicate the performance of a specific market index. By mimicking the index, these funds provide broad market exposure, low operating expenses, and low portfolio turnover. These funds are not actively managed, which means they are considered a passive investment strategy and typically incur fewer fees. Investors appreciate index funds for their transparency and consistency, as they are structured to follow the publicly-known indices without a fund manager’s discretion influencing the selection of holdings.

FSKAX: Fidelity Total Market Index Fund

Fidelity’s Total Market Index Fund, or FSKAX, seeks to provide investment returns that correspond to the total return of a broad range of U.S. stocks. It replicates the performance of the Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index. With an inception date in 2011, FSKAX has grown to become a favored choice among investors due to its comprehensive coverage of the U.S. equity market, encompassing everything from large-cap to small-cap stocks. As of the latest data, FSKAX holds thousands of different stocks, prioritizing diversification to mitigate individual stock volatility and sector-specific risks.

VTSAX: Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund

On the other hand, Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund, or VTSAX, tracks the CRSP US Total Market Index. VTSAX was established in 1992 and has since been a cornerstone in the portfolios of investors seeking long-term growth from a broad U.S. equity index. Like FSKAX, VTSAX offers extensive market exposure by diversifying its holdings. As one of the largest mutual funds in terms of assets under management, this fund is known for its low expense ratio and solid track record of replicating the performance of the total U.S. stock market.

Comparison of FSKAX & VTSAX

Let’s delve deeper and see how FSKAX and VTSAX stack up against each other. We’ll compare their expense ratios, holdings, and other features that might influence your investment decision.

Performance Analysis

When you’re assessing index funds, it’s important to look at their performance. FSKAX and VTSAX both track market indices and have historically shown similar returns. In the past few years, these funds have consistently grown, following the trend of the U.S. stock market. Although the numbers may vary slightly, both funds generally yield 5-year average returns of 12%, reflecting how the market performs over time.

Fees & Expenses

When it comes to index funds, a major factor that stands out is their cost effectiveness. In this aspect, both FSKAX and VTSAX excel. VTSAX has an expense ratio of 0.04%, meaning that only $4 is allocated towards fund management fees annually for every $10,000 invested. On the hand, FSKAX offers a lower expense ratio of 0.015%, which equates to just $1.50 per $10,000 invested each year. These minimal fees play a role in supporting long-term growth by letting investors capture a larger share of their investment gains.

Minimum Investment Requirements

VTSAX requires a minimum initial investment of $3,000, which may be a barrier for some new investors. In contrast, FSKAX has no minimum investment requirement, making it more accessible to a broader range of investors—including those just starting out or with limited capital to invest.

Fund Composition & Diversification

Both FSKAX and VTSAX offer extensive diversification, which is a key advantage of investing in total stock market index funds. FSKAX tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index and includes over 3,800 holdings across various sectors. VTSAX, tracking the CRSP US Total Market Index, encompasses over 3,600 holdings. Both funds provide exposure to a wide array of sectors—including technology, healthcare, financial services, and consumer goods—though the exact composition and sector allocations can vary slightly between the two, influencing their performance nuances in different market conditions.

Tax Efficiency & Fund Management for FSKAX or VTSAX

Beyond just the base investment, it’s important to understand how FSKAX and VTSAX are managed and the strategies they employ for tax efficiency. This section will explore how each fund’s management style impacts your tax burden.

Tax Efficiency

Both FSKAX and VTSAX are designed to be tax-efficient, which is an essential factor for investors who hold these funds in taxable accounts. Index funds generally have lower turnover rates, meaning fewer taxable events occur due to the selling of stocks within the funds. This aspect minimizes capital gains taxes that are passed on to investors. VTSAX has a slight edge in tax efficiency due to Vanguard’s unique structure, which allows for tax-free conversion from a mutual fund to an ETF, helping investors manage capital gains more effectively. This can be particularly advantageous during volatile market periods when rebalancing the portfolio.

Fund Management

FSKAX and VTSAX are passively managed funds, meaning they aim to replicate the performance of their respective indices rather than outperform them. This passive management strategy is beneficial for investors looking for consistent market returns with minimal intervention. The management teams for both funds focus on maintaining accurate tracking with the index through strategic purchasing of stocks to mirror the index composition as closely as possible.

Passive management is known for its transparency and predictability, as investors can always view which stocks are held by the funds based on the index they track. This approach reduces the risks associated with active management, where fund managers make frequent buying and selling decisions that can lead to significant discrepancies between the fund’s performance and that of the market.

Who Should Consider FSKAX & Who Should Consider VTSAX?

Now that we’ve established the similarities and differences between these two index funds, let’s explore the different investor profiles that might favor FSKAX or VTSAX, based on their investment goals and preferences.

Ideal Investor for FSKAX

FSKAX is particularly suited for investors who are looking for ease of access and flexibility in investment amounts. With no minimum investment requirement, FSKAX is accessible to everyone, including those who are new to investing or have limited funds to start. Its extremely low expense ratio also makes it a cost-effective choice for investors who wish to maximize their returns by minimizing expenses. Additionally, FSKAX is a great option for investors who prefer to use Fidelity Investment’s platforms and services, which are known for their comprehensive investment tools and customer support.

Ideal Investor for VTSAX

VTSAX appeals to investors who are able to meet the initial minimum investment of $3,000 and are looking for a stable and well-established index fund with a proven track record. It is particularly appealing to those who prioritize tax efficiency, as its structure allows for potentially lower capital gains distributions. VTSAX is also ideal for investors who already have other accounts with Vanguard or who prefer Vanguard’s investment philosophy and customer approach. Long-term investors looking to benefit from the historically robust performance of the CRSP US Total Market Index may also find VTSAX to be the superior choice.

Pros & Cons of Each Index Fund

Before making a decision, it’s important to take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of both FSKAX and VTSAX. This will help you weigh the potential benefits against any drawbacks to see which fund aligns best with your investment strategy.

Pros of FSKAX

  • Lower Expense Ratio: At just 0.015%, FSKAX offers one of the lowest expense ratios in the category, which can significantly enhance net returns over time.
  • No Minimum Investment: FSKAX allows investors to start investing with any amount, making it accessible to beginners or those with limited capital.
  • Broad Market Exposure: By tracking the Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index, this fund provides exposure to a comprehensive range of U.S. equities.

Cons of FSKAX

  • Slightly Lower Market Recognition: Compared to Vanguard’s offerings, Fidelity’s index funds may not have the same level of recognition, which could be a factor for brand-conscious investors.
  • Platform Dependency: The index fund is best accessed through Fidelity’s platform, which might not appeal to those who prefer using other brokerage services.

Pros of VTSAX

  • Established Track Record: VTSAX comes from a well-established fund family known for stability and consistent management quality.
  • High Tax Efficiency: Vanguard’s patented approach to managing index funds can help reduce taxable events.
  • Broad Market Exposure: By tracking the CRSP US Total Market Index, VTSAX gives investors diversification across the entire U.S. stock market.

Cons of VTSAX

  • Minimum Investment Requirement: VTSAX requires a $3,000 minimum investment, which might be a barrier for some investors.
  • Higher Expense Ratio: Although still low, the 0.04% expense ratio is higher than FSKAX, which could impact long-term investment gains.

The Bottom Line: Making the Right Investment Decision

Choosing between FSKAX and VTSAX for strategic investing in index funds involves a nuanced understanding of each fund’s strengths and limitations. Both funds offer robust access to the U.S. stock market and come with the inherent benefits of index funds, including broad diversification, low expense ratios, and a passive management strategy that mirrors the market’s performance.

FSKAX may be more suitable for those who value extremely low fees and have lower initial capital or prefer the flexibility of no minimum investment. Its accessibility makes it an excellent choice for new investors looking to dip their toes into the stock market without a significant upfront commitment. On the other hand, VTSAX is ideal for investors who can meet the initial investment requirement and are looking for better tax efficiency. The longstanding reputation of Vanguard also make it a favored choice among many seasoned investors.

Ultimately, the decision between FSKAX and VTSAX should align with your investment goals, financial situation, and preferences regarding the specific features each fund offers. Both funds are capable of serving as a cornerstone of a diversified investment portfolio, providing solid growth over time through a straightforward and effective investment strategy.

Additional Investment Fund Resources

Ready to learn more about different investment options? Check out the other articles in this series:

The information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. For specific financial counsel on investments, we strongly recommend seeking the guidance of a qualified expert.

Published on Apr 22, 2024

Written by The Influent Staff

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