Think of mutual funds as investment baskets of securities. Each basket has its own objective and manager (or management team). The manager also has a team of analysts that assist in doing the research. Also keep in mind that, when it comes to management, mutual funds fall into two primary categories — one is active management and the other is passive management. Managers of actively-managed funds will use their resources to try and ”beat the market,” which is to say that they’ll attempt to outperform a certain benchmark, such as the S&P 500 index. However, the manager of a passively-managed mutual fund will not try to beat the index but will instead buy and hold a basket of stocks that will replicate the holdings and performance of the index.
In a mutual fund, the value of your shares goes up and down as the value of the stocks and bonds in the fund rise and fall. For the average investor to have the same exposure to those investment options and potential profits on their own would be extremely costly both in terms of the actual investment dollars and in terms of time. Additionally, investing in a mutual fund is generally a cost-effective way to gain access to professional money management. Were you to try and invest in individual securities and actively manage them the way a mutual fund’s manager does, it could very easily become a full-time job. In order to make wise investment decisions when you buy individual stocks and bonds yourself, at the very least you’d have to have the knowledge to do extensive research on various types of businesses in general (automobile, construction, medical) and on specific companies (GE, IBM, Microsoft).
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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.
Variety: Mutual Funds Come In Many Different Categories and Types. As you grow your portfolio of mutual funds, you will want to diversify into various mutual fund categories and types. You can invest in mutual funds that cover the main asset classes (stocks, bonds, cash) and various sub-categories or you can even venture into specialized areas, such as sector funds or precious metals funds. Affordability: Mutual Funds Have Low Minimums, Most mutual funds have minimum initial investment requirements of $3,000 or less. In many cases, if the investor initiates a systematic investment program, where they have a fixed dollar amount or fixed number of shares purchased once per month, the initial investment can be as low as $1,000.
Mutual Fund Fees Cover Administrative Costs. Mutual funds can offer streamlined investing but they’re not free. There are certain fees you have to be aware of when investing in mutual funds.