Vanguard Index Fund List 2016

Vanguard is well-known for its low-cost stock-based mutual funds, and its index funds are some of the cheapest of all. Here's a list of Vanguard's current roster of index funds available as "investor shares" and the indexes they track so you can review your options and make the best decisions for your portfolio.

What is an index fund?

An index fund is a mutual fund or ETF that tracks a certain index, either through directly buying the stocks in the index, or through derivative instruments. For example, an S&P 500 index fund would own all 500 stocks in that index, in the same proportions.

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Index funds are also known as passively managed funds because their managers don't actually choose the stocks -- rather, they buy and sell based on the construction of the index. For this reason, index funds tend to have relatively low expense ratios when compared with actively managed funds, since those managers (theoretically) need to be skilled stock-pickers.

Vanguard's large-cap index funds

Data source: Vanguard.

Vanguard's mid-cap index funds

Data source: Vanguard (Growth and Value fund returns are from August 2006 inception through 6/30/2016).

Vanguard's small-cap index funds

Data source: Vanguard.

Vanguard's total stock market funds

Data source: Vanguard.

Vanguard's international stock index funds

Data source: Vanguard.

Vanguard's U.S bond index funds

Data source: Vanguard.

Vanguard's international and global bond index funds

Data source: Vanguard.

Vanguard's balanced index fund (stocks and bonds)

Data source: Vanguard.

Choosing the best index funds for you

In a nutshell, the best index funds for you are those that fit into your specific investment objectives. For example, if you have a relatively low risk tolerance, a small-cap growth fund might not be the best choice for you. And, if you have nothing but U.S.-based companies in your current portfolio, an international index fund could help you get some much-needed geographical diversification.

The point is that this list can serve as a good starting point, but you still need to do your homework and make sure the funds you choose can help you meet your goals.

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Matthew Frankel has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.