Mutual Funds: What Are They?
  1. Mutual Funds: Introduction
  2. Mutual Funds: What Are They?
  3. Mutual Funds: Different Types Of Funds
  4. Mutual Funds: The Costs
  5. Mutual Funds: Picking A Mutual Fund
  6. Mutual Funds: How To Read A Mutual Fund Table
  7. Mutual Funds: Evaluating Performance
  8. Mutual Funds: Conclusion

Mutual Funds: What Are They?

The Definition
A mutual fund is nothing more than a collection of stocks and/or bonds. You can think of a mutual fund as a company that brings together a group of people and invests their money in stocks, bonds, and other securities. Each investor owns shares, which represent a portion of the holdings of the fund.

You can make money from a mutual fund in three ways:
1) Income is earned from dividends on stocks and interest on bonds. A fund pays out nearly all of the income it receives over the year to fund owners in the form of a distribution.
2) If the fund sells securities that have increased in price, the fund has a capital gain. Most funds also pass on these gains to investors in a distribution.
3) If fund holdings increase in price but are not sold by the fund manager, the fund's shares increase in price. You can then sell your mutual fund shares for a profit.

Funds will also usually give you a choice either to receive a check for distributions or to reinvest the earnings and get more shares.

Advantages of Mutual Funds
• Professional Management - The primary advantage of funds is the professional management of your money. Investors purchase funds because they do not have the time or the expertise to manage their own portfolios. A mutual fund is a relatively inexpensive way for a small investor to get a full-time manager to make and monitor investments. (For more reading see Active Management: Is It Working For You?)

Diversification - By owning shares in a mutual fund instead of owning individual stocks or bonds, your risk is spread out. The idea behind diversification is to invest in a large number of assets so that a loss in any particular investment is minimized by gains in others. In other words, the more stocks and bonds you own, the less any one of them can hurt you (think about Enron). Large mutual funds typically own hundreds of different stocks in many different industries. It wouldn't be possible for an investor to build this kind of a portfolio with a small amount of money.

Economies of Scale - Because a mutual fund buys and sells large amounts of securities at a time, its transaction costs are lower than what an individual would pay for securities transactions.

Liquidity - Just like an individual stock, a mutual fund allows you to request that your shares be converted into cash at any time.

• Simplicity - Buying a mutual fund is easy! Pretty well any bank has its own line of mutual funds, and the minimum investment is small. Most companies also have automatic purchase plans whereby as little as $100 can be invested on a monthly basis.

Disadvantages of Mutual Funds

• Professional Management - Many investors debate whether or not the professionals are any better than you or I at picking stocks. Management is by no means infallible, and, even if the fund loses money, the manager still gets paid.

• Costs - Creating, distributing, and running a mutual fund is an expensive proposition. Everything from the manager's salary to the investors' statements cost money. Those expenses are passed on to the investors. Since fees vary widely from fund to fund, failing to pay attention to the fees can have negative long-term consequences. Remember, every dollar spend on fees is a dollar that has no opportunity to grow over time. (Learn how to escape these costs in Stop Paying High Mutual Fund Fees.)

• Dilution - It's possible to have too much diversification. Because funds have small holdings in so many different companies, high returns from a few investments often don't make much difference on the overall return. Dilution is also the result of a successful fund getting too big. When money pours into funds that have had strong success, the manager often has trouble finding a good investment for all the new money.

• Taxes - When a fund manager sells a security, a capital-gains tax is triggered. Investors who are concerned about the impact of taxes need to keep those concerns in mind when investing in mutual funds. Taxes can be mitigated by investing in tax-sensitive funds or by holding non-tax sensitive mutual fund in a tax-deferred account, such as a 401(k) or IRA. (Learn about one type of tax-deferred fund in Money Market Mutual Funds: A Better Savings Account.)

Mutual Funds: Different Types Of Funds

  1. Mutual Funds: Introduction
  2. Mutual Funds: What Are They?
  3. Mutual Funds: Different Types Of Funds
  4. Mutual Funds: The Costs
  5. Mutual Funds: Picking A Mutual Fund
  6. Mutual Funds: How To Read A Mutual Fund Table
  7. Mutual Funds: Evaluating Performance
  8. Mutual Funds: Conclusion
RELATED TERMS
  1. Mutual Fund

    An investment vehicle that is made up of a pool of funds collected ...
  2. Mutual Fund Yield

    Dividend payments divided by the value of a mutual fund’s shares. ...
  3. Fund Of Funds

    A mutual fund that invests in other mutual funds. This method ...
  4. Fund Supermarkets

    An investment firm or brokerage that offers investors a wide ...
  5. Mutual Fund Custodian

    A trust company, bank or similar financial institution responsible ...
  6. Mutual Fund Timing

    A legal, but frowned-upon practice, whereby traders attempt to ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. How do I calculate the loan-to-value ratio using Excel?

    Learn what a mutual fund and a money market fund are, and understand the differences between each and how they serve various ... Read Answer >>
  2. How much of a company's stock can a mutual fund own?

    There is no written rule that stipulates how much of a company a mutual fund can own. Instead, there are two major factors ... Read Answer >>
  3. How do I judge a mutual fund's performance?

    Evaluate mutual fund performance utilizing resources such as Morningstar; compare the fund with others in its peer group ... Read Answer >>
  4. Why do mutual funds require minimum investments?

    Learn how funds usually set minimum investments to keep away small, short-term traders from impacting the cash flow and the ... Read Answer >>
  5. Do mutual funds pay dividends or interest?

    Learn how and why mutual funds pay interest or dividends, including the different funds and which types generate each type ... Read Answer >>
  6. Why have mutual funds become so popular?

    Learn why mutual funds are such a popular investment option, including the advantages of diversification, customizability ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Labor Market

    The labor market refers to the supply and demand for labor, in which employees provide the supply and employers the demand. ...
  2. Demand Curve

    The demand curve is a graphical representation of the relationship between the price of a good or service and the quantity ...
  3. Goldilocks Economy

    An economy that is not so hot that it causes inflation, and not so cold that it causes a recession. This term is used to ...
  4. White Squire

    Very similar to a "white knight", but instead of purchasing a majority interest, the squire purchases a lesser interest in ...
  5. MACD Technical Indicator

    Moving Average Convergence Divergence (or MACD) is a trend-following momentum indicator that shows the relationship between ...
  6. Over-The-Counter - OTC

    Over-The-Counter (or OTC) is a security traded in some context other than on a formal exchange such as the NYSE, TSX, AMEX, ...
Trading Center