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What is the Wilshire 5000?

Learn how to invest in the Wilshire 5000, an index that tracks the entire US market.

What is the Wilshire 5000?

The Wilshire 5000, also called the FT Wilshire 5000 Index (FTW5000), is an index that tracks all US equities actively traded on the American Stock Exchange. This broad-based market index was named for its nearly 5,000 stocks when first launched in 1974 — but the index hasn’t held more than 5,000 companies since 2005. As of 2022, the index holds 3,569 stocks.

A stock must meet three criteria to be included in the Wilshire 5000:

  • The company must be headquartered in the US.
  • Its stocks must be actively traded on an American stock exchange.
  • Stocks must have publicly available pricing information.

How to invest in the Wilshire 5000

To invest in the Wilshire 500, either purchase ETFs that track the total US market or buy individual stocks within the index. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Choose a broker. Compare trading platforms to find the brokerage that best meets your investment needs.
  2. Open an account. Next, complete an online application with your name, contact details and proof of ID. You’ll also need to fund your account before you start trading.
  3. Buy stocks and ETFs. Use your platform’s research tools to find the stocks or funds you’d like to purchase, then place a buy order.
  4. Monitor investments. Log in to your brokerage account to track your investment performance.

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How does the Wilshire 5000 work?

The Wilshire 5000 is commonly used as a barometer for the US market. However, it tracks many more stocks than other indexes that are often referred to when assessing market performance, such as:

  • The S&P 500, which tracks the 500 largest companies on US exchanges.
  • The NASDAQ 100, which tracks the 100 largest nonfinancial companies listed on the NASDAQ.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which tracks 30 of the largest blue-chip companies in the US.

There are several versions of the Wilshire 5000:

  • Full market capitalization. This is the version most commonly referred to when you hear the Wilshire 5000 mentioned in financial news. It weighs companies in the index according to their market cap.
  • Float-adjusted market capitalization. The float-adjusted version of the Wilshire 5000 weighs companies according to market cap, but in this case market cap is calculated based on the value of their shares that are available to be bought on the open market.
  • Equal weight. As the name suggests, this version gives every company in the Wilshire 5000 equal weight.

Finally, there are also several other indexes in the Wilshire 5000 series:

  • FT Wilshire 2500 Index
  • FT Wilshire Mega Cap Index
  • FT Wilshire Large Cap Index
  • FT Wilshire Mid Cap Index
  • FT Wilshire Small Cap Index
  • FT Wilshire Micro Cap Index

What are the biggest stocks in the Wilshire 5000?

The biggest stocks in the Wilshire 5000 by market cap are:

What ETFs or mutual funds track the Wilshire 5000?

With over 3,500 stocks in the Wilshire 5000, investing in individual stocks in the index can be time-consuming and also incur plenty of brokerage fees. So if you want to diversify your portfolio, you may want to invest in a Wilshire 5000 fund. But few funds track this index, so investment opportunities are limited.
Wilshire offers a mutual fund that tracks the Wilshire 5000. Known as the Wilshire 5000 Index Investment Fund (WFIVX), it has an expense ratio of 0.62%. As of December 2022, the fund had net assets of $242 million.

Total market ETFs

Given the limited choice of Wilshire 5000 funds available, you may also want to consider investing in ETFs designed to track the total market. Check out the details of some popular total market ETFs in the table below.

TickerETFExpense ratioNet assets (as of December 2022)
ITOTiShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF0.03%$39.52B
IWViShares Russell 3000 ETF0.20%$10.34B
SCHBSchwab U.S. Broad Market ETF (SCHB)0.03%$20.1B
SWTSXSchwab Total Stock Market Index 0.03%$19.09B
VTHRVanguard Russell 3000 ETF0.10%$2.81B
VTIVanguard Total Stock Market ETF0.03%$1.15T
VTSAXVanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral Shares0.04%$1.2T

Why should I invest in the Wilshire 5000?

There are several reasons why you might want to invest in the Wilshire 5000:

  • Buy the market. The Wilshire 5000 acts as a barometer for US markets. Unlike other indexes that only capture a slice of the market, the Wilshire 5000 aims to track the entire US stock market.
  • Diversification. The Wilshire 5000 covers a generous selection of stock market sectors and industries. A diversified portfolio can help you ride out market volatility.
  • Convenience of total market ETFs. Investing in a comprehensive index fund provides instant portfolio diversification, providing an easy and low-cost way to gain widespread market exposure.

What are the risks of investing in the Wilshire 5000?

There are a few risks to consider before you invest in the Wilshire 5000:

  • Dominated by large caps. The Wilshire 5000 is sometimes criticized for overweighting large-cap stocks. As a result, the index is largely dominated by the biggest companies it tracks. To build a balanced portfolio, consider investing in indexes that specifically target small-cap stocks, like the Russell 2000.
  • You may need to invest in a fund. For many investors, it’s simply not practical to invest in a wide range of individual companies featured in the Wilshire 5000, so you’ll probably need to consider an index fund.
  • Limited choice. Wilshire 5000 index funds aren’t as common as ETFs that track the S&P 500, the NASDAQ 100 and other major indices.
  • Don’t forget global stocks. While investing in the total US market will help diversify your portfolio, US stocks will sometimes experience downturns. For a truly diversified portfolio, you may want to consider investing in international stocks too.

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Bottom line

  • The Wilshire 5000 is among the broadest and most comprehensive indexes to track the US market. You can invest by purchasing individual stocks, or by investing in funds that track the index or the total US stock market.
  • But remember that the Wilshire 5000 is heavily impacted by large-cap stocks. So if you’re interested in investing in smaller businesses, you may want to consider building out your portfolio with funds that track targeted subsections of the market.
  • The quickest way to meet your investment goals is by using the right platform. Explore your brokerage account options with multiple trading platforms for the account best suited to your investment needs.

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Tim Falk is a freelance writer for Finder. Over the course of his 15-year writing career, he has reported on a wide range of personal finance topics. Whether you're investing in stocks and ETFs, comparing savings accounts or choosing a credit card, Tim wants to make it easier for you to understand. When he’s not staring at his computer, you can usually find him exploring the great outdoors. See full bio

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Melanie Huddart is a personal finance editor and updates writer who's proofed and polished thousands of articles to help people make more informed financial decisions. She specializes in issues around accessibility and equality, as well as removing biases in managing finances for people who are unbanked or marginally banked. Melanie is an ASL-English Interpreter with experience in writing and learning assistance in college and high school classrooms, teaching English and Indigenous studies both in-person and online. She holds a BA in honors English and a Bachelor of Education from York University in Toronto. See full bio

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