Mutual Fund Basics

If you are considering investing in the stock market in one way, shape, form, or fashion you’ve probably heard the term “mutual fund.” If you are like I was, you probably have no real clue as to what the term actually means in terms of financial benefits or even exactly what a mutual fund is. Hopefully, reading this will clear up a few of the details for you so that you can move on to make informed decisions about where and how to invest your money.

I should begin by pointing out that there really is no method for investing that is completely without risk. That being said, mutual funds have lower risks that many other investment options, which makes them an attractive purchase for those that are unsure about investing. In fact, for the purpose of savings, mutual funds often have much better rates of return than the average savings account at your local bank and the risks are minimal in this type of investment, particularly compared to other riskier ventures.

So back to basics, mutual funds are, simply put, a collection of stocks and bonds that are owned by a group of people rather than one individual investor. This accomplishes a few things. First of all, it allows investors to buy in with considerably less money than it would take to purchase the same ‘portfolio’ on their own and it spreads the damage out among a group of people should something go wrong. In addition, because it isn’t one single stock or bond or generally even one sector of the stock market, the risks for a complete and total loss are reduced to some degree. Keep in mind however that the market does simply have bad days on occasion and there is little that can be done about that short of stuffing your money under your mattress and it certainly won’t grow there.

There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages in regard to purchasing mutual funds. You won’t find the flashy swings, dips, dives, and other grand maneuvers in the typical mutual funds. Most mutual funds are selected because of their stability not for in hopes of massive profits though some mutual funds are, admittedly, more aggressive than others. It really depends on how much of a gambler you are by nature and how much of your investment and retirement you are willing to risk whether or not you will be satisfied with mutual funds as part or all of your investment portfolio.

Diversification is one of the key ingredients of a healthy portfolio and mutual funds will help you work the diversity you need into your portfolio in short order. If you are young and just beginning your career and in no real hurry for retirement this is one of the safest ways to invest your money for the long haul. Unfortunately it may lead to a comfortable retirement but is unlikely to lead to a flashy retirement, as most mutual funds do not have the high payoffs that many investors seek.

There are essentially three types of mutual funds with a few variations on each.

First there are money market funds. These funds are great for the long-term investor who has a slow and steady approach to investing and will generally be better than leaving your money in a savings account collecting interest but there are better earning funds to be found.

Second are the equity funds. These funds provide slow growth over time as well as some income along the way.

Finally there are the fixed income funds. The purpose of these funds is to provide a current income over time. These are not funds that are anticipated to increase in value only to maintain a certain standard of living. This is great for those who have retired or investors that are extremely conservative in nature.

Hopefully this finds you knowing a little more about mutual funds in general and preparing to learn even more about how to take control of your investment options and make these key decisions for your future and that of your family.