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.
Other Types of Mutual Funds: Index Funds. Today, not all funds are managed by a financial manager. Index funds use a computer program to buy all of the stock in a particular index, such as the Russell 3000 or the S&P 500, regardless of how they’re performing. They don’t have to do research or try to time the movement in the market to buy or sell at the ”right” time. Index fund fees, therefore, are generally much lower than the fees for managed funds, and, therefore, the return on investment is higher.
Balanced Funds: Also called hybrid funds or asset allocation funds, these are mutual funds that invest in a balanced asset allocation of stocks, bonds, and cash. The allocation usually remains fixed and invests according to a stated investment objective or style. For example, Fidelity Balanced Fund (FBALX) has an approximate asset allocation of 65% stocks and 35% bonds. It considered a medium risk or what industry experts might call a moderate portfolio. Vanguard also has an outstanding index balanced fund, Vanguard Balanced Index (VBINX), which is suitable for investors looking for moderate risk. Balanced funds can be ideal for beginning investors because they are well-diversified and can, therefore, be used as stand-alone investments or as core holdings to begin a larger portfolio.
As with all financial investments, the risk level is an important consideration when evaluating mutual funds. As an investor, you should make every effort to understand how much risk you are willing to take and then seek a fund that falls within your risk tolerance. Naturally, you are investing with some objective in mind, so narrow down your list of candidates by concentrating on funds that meet your investment needs while staying within your risk parameters. In addition, check to see what the minimum amount is to invest in a fund. Funds have different minimum thresholds depending on whether it is a retirement account or nonretirement account.
Opening an investment account is incredibly easy at most mutual fund companies. The easiest way to open an account is online. Information required will include things you already know, such as your name, address, date of birth, and social security number. You’ll also need to know which type of account is best for your investing needs. Here are the basic account types and how they work: Individual Brokerage Account: This is a regular brokerage account established for an individual (one person). Contributions are not tax-deductible, and investors pay taxes on capital gains and dividends. For more on this, see this article on taxation of mutual funds.
If you’re a bit more experienced in investing or are fortunate enough to have a bit of money to ”play around with” for a while, a somewhat more aggressive approach might be right down your alley. Determining Asset Allocation. Once level of risk tolerance is determined, consider your desired asset allocation—the mix of investment assets (stocks, bonds, and cash) comprising your portfolio. The proper asset allocation will reflect your level of risk tolerance: aggressive (high tolerance for risk), moderate (medium risk tolerance) or conservative (low risk tolerance).
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