Retirement Plan Documentation and Other Sources
Mutual fund companies and retirement plan providers generate a huge amount of fund literature. While marginally useful, this material cannot come close to providing individual investors with what they need to know when it comes to making a buy, sell or hold decision on a mutual fund. (For more insight, see When To Sell A Mutual Fund.)
The material provided by the fund companies (prospectus, annual, semiannual and quarterly reports, and the statement of additional information) is obligatory disclosure information. However, even investment professionals feel that a great deal of this documentation is mostly unintelligible. The glossy brochures and fund profiles produced by retirement plan providers usually get an "A" for the graphics but are short on substantive, insightful content. In fact, many of them have a certain boilerplate quality about them.
According to David Swenson's book, "Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach To Personal Investment" (2005), a typical mutual fund has volumes of reading material. Figure 1, below, shows the number of pages from five typical mutual funds.
|Source: "Unconventional Success" (2005) by David Swenson|
These items total a mere 852 pages for five mutual funds! Compared to five one-page fund reports available from the investment research firms mentioned above, the alternative choice is an easy one.
To find investment quality in a mutual fund, non-professional investors need the analytical perspectives provided by Morningstar and Value Line. These reports, and their targeted evaluative data (which is used in a Fund Investment Quality Scorecard), enable an individual investor to make smart mutual fund choices.
Without doubt, a fund report is the most efficient and effective way to research a mutual fund's investment quality. However, there are also a number of good general investment information websites that can help investors improve their overall mutual fund investing skills.
The American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) publishes its Guide to the Top Investment Web Sites annually in its September issue of the AAII Journal. Its picks for top sites for mutual fund data in 2007 included the following free - either totally or partially - sites: