Simplicity: Mutual Funds Are Easy to Understand, Anything can be made into something more complex than it needs to be and mutual funds are no exception to this truth. However, mutual funds require no experience or knowledge of economics, financial statements, or financial markets to be a successful investor. For beginners, here is a simple definition of mutual fund: A mutual fund is an investment security type that enables investors to pool their money together into one professionally managed investment. Mutual funds can invest in stocks, bonds, cash and/or other assets. These underlying security types, called holdings combine to form one mutual fund, also called a portfolio.
In different words, Mutual funds can be considered baskets of investments. Each basket holds dozens or hundreds of security types, such as stocks or bonds. Therefore, when an investor buys a mutual fund, they are buying a basket of investment securities. Simple! Yes, there are many things to know about mutual funds but compared to the broad world of financial products, mutual funds are quite easy to use and understand.
Investors Can Buy Many Different Types of Mutual Funds. Investment objectives are unique to every investor, which means that there are many different reasons to buy mutual funds. Fortunately, there are several categories of funds that can suit any investment need. Some of the most common investment objectives include retirement and education, each of which may require different funds to suit the needs of the investor. Target retirement funds are good examples of low-cost, diversified funds tailored to meet a variety of time horizons. This category of funds will invest in other mutual funds that combine to be suitable for a certain age range of investor. Target retirement funds are categorized by decade. For example, a 25-year old investor may expect to retire in 35 to 45 years. Therefore a fund like Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 (VFIFX) can work well in a 401(k) or IRA for this investor.
Mutual Funds Lack Liquidity. How fast can you get your money if you sell a mutual fund as compared to ETFs, stocks and closed-end funds? If you sell a mutual fund, you have access to your cash the day after the sale. ETFs, stocks and closed-end funds require you to wait three days after you sell the investment. I would call the “lack of liquidity” disadvantage of mutual funds a myth. You can only find more liquidity if you invest in your mattress.
Mutual funds can be structured in several different ways, including open-ended mutual funds vs. closed mutual funds being one particularly important distinction. To learn more about the way mutual funds are organized, you’ll want to read How a Mutual Fund Is Structured. You may also want to delve into Making Money from Mutual Funds, which explains how investors actually profit (or experience losses) from owning a stake in a mutual fund.