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.
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.
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Best Funds for Beginning Investors. Whether you are just getting started investing or wanting to build a portfolio from the bottom up in the best way possible, there are a handful of outstanding mutual funds to get the job done. Choosing the best mutual funds for is much more than buying the best performers of the past year. Instead, investors are wise to know their investment objectives and future plans and prepare for a long-term strategy. For example, if you’re saving for retirement, it’s likely your time horizon is more than ten years. It means you can take more risk, which essentially means you will likely have more of your investment assets allocated to stock funds than bond funds.
Mutual funds are organized into categories by asset class (stocks, bonds, and cash) and then further categorized by style, objective or strategy. Knowing how mutual funds are categorized aids in choosing the best funds for asset allocation and diversification purposes. For example, there are stock mutual funds, bond mutual funds, and money market mutual funds. Stock and bond funds, as primary fund types, have dozens of sub-categories further describing the investment style of the fund.
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.