Sarah Neudorf January 15, 2020 Mutual Fund
Index Funds Of course for many of us, our primary investment vehicles are index funds. These are funds which are designed to match the performance of a major stock index. This takes the decision making away from a money manager. It also makes deciding on a fund very easy. If I want to match the market, I simply buy the index I want to match and move on with my life. In many ways this is a win-win.
The obvious advantage of mutual funds is that they allow you to pool your money with other investors and leave the decision making to someone else. You do not have to spend your days conducting in-depth analysis of stocks and other investments. You simply invest in a mutual fund and let the manager make the decision for you. That is the theory, but of course we all know we are going to have to do some research before we invest in a mutual fund. How much mutual fund analysis is appropriate before making an investment?
Index Funds: Any fund that is made up of a static portfolio structured to mirror the investments of a proposed market index is classified as an index fund. There are small cap indices, bond indices, international indices, specialty indices and many others. The most widely used is the S&P 500 index where the fund uses the same 500 stocks that are included in the Standard and Poors 500. These portfolios are only changed when and if the index changes its holdings which allows for a very tax efficient, low turnover investment.
Because these funds are not actively managed, you cannot weed out under-performing securities from the overall index. This can and does have a detrimental effect on your returns. If market conditions warrant action, index funds usually will not be altered unless it happens to coincide with their regular re-balancing schedule.
Make sure the management team has not changed by the way. You do not want to pay for fabulous past results only to find out there is a new portfolio manager in town running your mutual fund. Watch out for the fad funds by the way. By the time an entire mutual fund sector is hot, and ripping up the charts with performance, it is too late 90% of the time, for you to be an investor. You do not want start becoming an investor in gold as it passes $1200 per ounce. That is the time you want to be thinking about exiting, not entering.
Another thing to keep in mind is not to buy loaded funds. These are funds that have sales charges attached to them. If you purchase these types of finds, you will be paying sales charges on top of other fees. Do not forget to overlook the mutual funds risk factor. If the fund looks to unstable over the years, or shows signs of it being too risky, do not get involved. And also check with the SEC to make sure the company is decent and has a good reputation.
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