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.
This is work that most of us are not interested in, do not have the time for, and, most importantly, are probably not as qualified to do. By purchasing shares of a mutual fund, you’re also purchasing the money management and investment skills of the fund manager whose job it is to invest and reinvest the mutual fund’s capital based on the fund’s established goals.
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Mutual Funds Are Diversified Investments. The nature of mutual funds as pooled investments that are professionally managed means that investors generally can easily accomplish one of the most important standards of smart investing — diversification. To diversify means to spread market risk by holding a variety of several different securities, rather than just a few. Most mutual funds invest in dozens or hundreds of stocks or bonds within one portfolio. Depending upon the type of fund, this accomplishes the fundamentals of diversification with as little as one or two mutual funds. However, when building a portfolio of mutual funds, especially as investment assets and objectives grow more complex over time, investors are smart to diversify across several funds in different categories.
When you can keep expenses low, and buy quality funds at the same time, your long-term returns are likely to be superior.
In addition, retirement plans (IRAs, 401ks, etc.) are not impacted by capital gains distributions. There are also strategies to avoid the capital gains distributions including tax-loss harvesting and selling a mutual fund prior to the distribution. Are There Disadvantages of Mutual Funds? Are there disadvantages of mutual funds? Absolutely, there are disadvantages of mutual funds. There are advantages and disadvantages of investing in each and every investment vehicle. However, if you come across a list of the disadvantages of mutual funds, scrutinize each item on the list and determine if it applies as a disadvantage of mutual funds or a disadvantage of a particular mutual fund (or to investment vehicles as a whole regardless of the structure).