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).
The mutual fund then passes along the profits (and losses) of those investments to its shareholders. So if a mutual fund does well, you benefit. But, they’re not risk-free. Read on to learn more about how mutual funds work.
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.
Since mutual funds are easy to understand and a smart investment choice for the majority of savers and investors, these security types are the most commonly held investments in 401(k) plans and IRAs. However, although mutual funds are relatively simple to use, they are not for everyone and investors should be careful to select the best funds that align with their goals and tolerance for risk.
Equity and fixed-income funds have subcategories which allow an investor to cast a narrow net with their investment dollars. For example, an equity fund investor might invest in a technology fund that only invests in eco-friendly technology companies. Likewise, a bond fund investor who is seeking current income might invest in a government securities fund that only invests in government securities. A so-called balanced fund is a mutual fund that owns both stocks and bonds.