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.
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.
Frugality: Mutual Funds Cost Less to Manage Than Other Portfolio Types, Costs as a percentage of assets in the portfolio are usually lower for an actively-managed mutual fund when compared to an actively-managed portfolio of individual securities. When you add up transaction costs, annual fees paid to a brokerage firm, and the cost for research tools or investment advice, mutual funds are less expensive than the typical portfolio of stocks. Other variables influence the cost of managing a portfolio, such as the amount of trading activity, the size of transaction, and taxes.
Mutual funds give investors the ability to diversify across a wide variety of investments that they otherwise may not carry in their portfolio as individual securities. Since mutual funds invest in a diverse range of securities and investment options, one mutual fund share actually represents proportionate ownership in each and every investment in the mutual fund’s portfolio. Of most interest to investors is that each share also proportionately represents the profits of those investments as mutual funds are required to pass along profits to their investors by way of mutual fund distributions, which come in several forms.
Choose Wisely When choosing mutual funds for your portfolio, do your homework. Review each fund’s fees and individual asset allocation to make sure you’re choosing a fund that fits your investment goals and risk tolerance. Also, consider a fund’s performance. While past history doesn’t guarantee future results, it’s also wide to look at how much a fund has gained or lost in the past.