Mutual Funds Are Liquid. If you need to withdraw money from your brokerage account, you can get cash from most mutual funds within a few days. If you want to sell your mutual fund, the proceeds from the sale are available as soon as the day after you sell the mutual fund. Some mutual funds have a ”settlement” period of up to three days. But this level of liquidity (quick access to your money), is much better than some investment assets, such as real estate. Mutual Funds Have Audited Track Records : A mutual fund company must maintain performance track records for each mutual fund and have them audited for accuracy, which ensures that investors can trust the mutual fund’s stated returns. Mutual fund companies also offer a prospectus for each fund, as well as semi-annual or annual reports. These documents provide a wealth of information about how the fund invests, the amount of assets under management, the internal fund expenses, and more.
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.
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.
Start your research with one of the best no-load mutual fund companies, such as Vanguard, Fidelity, and T. Rowe Price. No-load mutual funds don’t have sales charges, called loads, which can be as high as 5.75% of the purchase. Therefore, when buying no-load funds, you’re buying shares without paying loads. Also, these mutual fund companies offer many different mutual funds with low expenses, which are measured by an expense ratio. For example, many of Vanguard’s funds have expenses below 0.30%, which is $30 for every $10,000 invested, whereas average expenses for most mutual funds are above 1% or three times that of Vanguard’s.
Saving for Your Initial Mutual Fund Purchase. Most mutual funds have what’s called a minimum initial purchase, which is the amount you’ll need to have saved prior to buying shares of your first fund. Most mutual fund companies have minimum initial purchase amounts of at least $1,000. For example, most of Vanguard’s mutual funds have a minimum initial purchase requirement of $3,000. Fidelity funds are typically at $2,500. However, once you make your first purchase, subsequent purchases of the same fund are usually as low as $100.
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.