While it can be confusing, the answers to the following three questions will help you navigate the mutual fund waters—from how they work to how to add them to your investment portfolio. What Is a Mutual Fund? For all intents and purposes, mutual funds serve as an alternative for investors who can’t afford an individually managed account. Mutual funds are formed when investors with smaller amounts of capital, pool their money together and then hire a portfolio manager to run the consolidated pool’s portfolio—subsequently buying different stocks, bonds, or other securities in a manner consistent with the fund’s prospectus. Each investor then receives their respective piece of the pie while sharing the expenses, which show up in something called the mutual fund expense ratio.
Thanks to computers and the Internet, investing in mutual funds has never been easier. That said, there are many important considerations an investor should take into account before adding shares of a mutual fund to their portfolio. Mutual funds come in a multitude of varieties, including those that focus on different asset classes, those that seek to mimic an index (also known as index funds), and those that focus on dividend stocks. The list covers everything from geographic mandates to those that specialize in investing in securities that fall within a certain market capitalization.
Mutual fund research can be made easier with a good online research tool. Whether you are a beginner or a pro; if you are looking to buy the best mutual funds, review an existing fund, compare and screen different funds or you are just trying to learn something new, mutual fund research sites go a long way in helping streamline and clarify investment research objectives. Past performance of a mutual fund may not be a guarantee of future results but knowing how to analyze performance–what to look for and what to avoid–will help better-inform your investment decisions. To say that the best S&P 500 Index funds are those having the lowest Expense Ratios is mostly correct. However, in addition to low costs, a delicate balance of science and art to indexing exists, allowing only a few mutual fund companies to offer the best index funds.
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.
Dave Ramsey is a good entertainer and seems like a genuinely nice person. However, regarding mutual funds, his investment philosophies border on dangerous. It is possible to glean a few good mutual fund investment tips from his talk radio show, but any investor is wise to understand the difference between entertainment and sound investment practices. Armed with sound insight on mutual funds, investors can do well to build their own portfolios. But remember that mutual fund research, analysis and portfolio management is not for everyone. If you don’t enjoy doing it, chances are you won’t be good at it.
Mutual Funds Offer Transparency. Mutual fund holdings are publicly available (with some delays in reporting), which ensures that investors are getting what they pay for. Investors can also see the underlying securities (stocks, bonds, cash, or a combination of those) that the mutual fund portfolio holds. All of the information you need to know, plus some you don’t need for investing, will found in the mutual fund prospectus, which can easily be found on the mutual fund company’s website.