Mutual Funds

Mutual Funds Made Simple

Mutual funds are the average or inexperienced investor’s best friend. They are designed for every-day people who want help from professionals in managing their investments. To get technical, they are “open-end investment companies” that pool investors’ money and manage it for them.


Investing in mutual funds is quite simple. Tens of millions of Americans trust their money to these investor-friendly investments. Let’s take a look at how investing in mutual funds works.


Jack has a $10,000 CD maturing at the bank in a joint account with his spouse. He also wants to start investing about $5000 a year in a Roth IRA. He is looking to earn more interest on his CD, and wants more investment options for his IRA than his bank offers.


Jack does not really know how to invest his money, so he asks his old friend Jim for advice because he knows that Jim is an experienced investor. Plus, Jack is thrifty and does not trust salesmen, and that includes those who charge you to invest with them.


Jim suggests mutual funds with a major no-load fund family that he does business with. Jim knows how to invest, and helps Jack with the mutual fund applications. This required two different applications. The first was to open a joint account with the $10,000 CD money. The second was to open a Roth IRA.


The $10,000 was spit evenly with half going to a high-quality bond fund, and half to a money market fund. They did this because Jack wanted safety, but also wanted to earn higher interest than he could get at the bank. Jack would not receive the interest income the funds paid in dividends, but decided to have it automatically reinvested to buy more shares, so his investment would grow.


They opened a Roth IRA and set things up so that $400 a month would automatically flow from Jack’s checking account to the IRA with the mutual fund company. Half would go to a balanced fund that invested in both stocks and bonds, and half to a money market fund. Once again, all dividends (and capital gains) would automatically be reinvested to buy more shares.


Jack wanted growth, but Jim knew him very well. Jack did not know how to invest, he was cost conscious, and he avoided risk whenever possible. That’s why Jim had half of Jack’s money going into money market funds. These funds pay competitive interest rates in the form of dividends. If interest rates in the economy change, the rate paid by money market funds change in step. Plus, they have a great record for low risk and high safety.


For now, Jack is happy, especially since all of this cost him nothing in sales charges or fees. For example, he sent the fund company $10,000. All of his money was invested to buy shares, with no sales charges. Plus, he has $400 a month going into funds in his Roth IRA. Once again, all of the $400 is going to work to buy shares, with no sales charges or fees.


The only cost to Jack is yearly expenses. Every mutual fund takes these costs directly from fund assets. Jack wouldn’t even know this if Jim hadn’t told him. On the other hand, Jack’s expenses were very low compared to most funds. 


Jim explained to Jack that on average, his yearly expenses for the type of funds he was in would amount to almost 1% a year with most mutual fund companies. Jack was paying about one-fourth of that, which put a smile on his face.

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