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.
That said, a “no-load” fund is not free. All mutual funds have internal expenses. Part of your investment dollars will help pay the fund company, the fund manager, and other fees associated with running a mutual fund. These fees will often be made transparent to you and are taken out of the assets of the mutual fund. You should always take the time to consider all the various fees and charges when investing in mutual funds.
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Professional Management: Mutual Funds Have a Team of Professionals Researching and Analyzing Investments So You Don’t Have To! Perhaps the greatest benefit of all is that investors can save countless hours of time, energy and frustration involved with the research and analysis required to find quality investments to hold in a portfolio. That’s not to speak of the skill, desire and patience required to do a job well in any professional pursuit. Mutual funds enable investors to do more of the things in life they enjoy rather than spending time and energy on investment matters.
Mutual Funds Lack Liquidity. How fast can you get your money if you sell a mutual fund as compared to ETFs, stocks and closed-end funds? If you sell a mutual fund, you have access to your cash the day after the sale. ETFs, stocks and closed-end funds require you to wait three days after you sell the investment. I would call the “lack of liquidity” disadvantage of mutual funds a myth. You can only find more liquidity if you invest in your mattress.
Investors Can Buy Many Different Types of Mutual Funds. Investment objectives are unique to every investor, which means that there are many different reasons to buy mutual funds. Fortunately, there are several categories of funds that can suit any investment need. Some of the most common investment objectives include retirement and education, each of which may require different funds to suit the needs of the investor. Target retirement funds are good examples of low-cost, diversified funds tailored to meet a variety of time horizons. This category of funds will invest in other mutual funds that combine to be suitable for a certain age range of investor. Target retirement funds are categorized by decade. For example, a 25-year old investor may expect to retire in 35 to 45 years. Therefore a fund like Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 (VFIFX) can work well in a 401(k) or IRA for this investor.