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Overview:

  • A mutual fund is an investment vehicle made up of a pool of money collected from many investors for the purpose of investing in securities such as stocks, bonds, money market instruments and other assets. Mutual funds are operated by professional money managers, who allocate the fund's investments and attempt to produce capital gains and/or income for the fund's investors. A mutual fund's portfolio is structured and maintained to match the investment objectives stated in its prospectus.

  • A mutual fund is a collection of stocks, bonds, or other securities. When you buy a mutual fund, you own the share of the mutual fund. The price of each mutual fund share is called its NAV or net asset value. That's the total value of all the securities it owns divided by the number of the mutual fund's shares.
  •     Advantages

    Increased diversification

  • A fund diversifies holding many securities. This diversification decreases risk.
  • Daily liquidity

  • Shareholders of open-end funds and unit investment trusts may sell their holdings back to the fund at regular intervals at a price equal to the net asset value of the fund's holdings. Most funds allow investors to redeem in this way at the close of every trading day.
  • Professional investment management

  • Open-and closed-end funds hire portfolio managers to supervise the fund's investments.
  • Ability to participate in investments

  • that may be available only to larger investors. For example, individual investors often find it difficult to invest directly in foreign markets.
  • Service and convenience

  • Funds often provide services such as check writing.
  • Government oversight

  • Mutual funds are regulated by a governmental body.
  • Transparency and ease of comparison

  • All mutual funds are required to report the same information to investors, which makes them easier to compare to each other.
  •     Disadvantages

    Fluctuating Returns

  • Like many other investments without a guaranteed return, there is always the possibility that the value of your mutual fund will depreciate. Equity mutual funds experience price fluctuations, along with the stocks that make up the fund. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) does not back up mutual fund investments, and there is no guarantee of performance with any fund.
  • Cash

  • As you know already, mutual funds pool money from thousands of investors, so every day people are putting money into the fund as well as withdrawing it. To maintain the capacity to accommodate withdrawals, funds typically have to keep a large portion of their portfolios in cash. Having ample cash is great for liquidity, but money sitting around as cash is not working for you and thus is not very advantageous.
  • Costs

  • Mutual funds provide investors with professional management, but it comes at a cost – those expense ratios mentioned earlier. These fees reduce the fund's overall payout, and they're assessed to mutual fund investors regardless of the performance of the fund. As you can imagine, in years when the fund doesn't make money, these fees only magnify losses
  • Diversification

  • Many mutual fund investors tend to overcomplicate matters – that is, they acquire too many funds that are highly related and, as a result, don't get the risk-reducing benefits of diversification; in fact, they have made their portfolio more exposed, a syndrome called diworsification. At the other extreme, just because you own mutual funds doesn't mean you are automatically diversified. For example, a fund that invests only in a particular industry sector or region is still relatively risky.
  • Lack of Transparency

  • One thing that can lead to diworsification is the fact that a fund's purpose or makeup isn't always clear. Fund advertisements can guide investors down the wrong path. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that funds have at least 80% of assets in the particular type of investment implied in their names; how the remaining assets are invested is up to the fund manager.
  • Evaluating Funds

  • Researching and comparing funds can be difficult. Unlike stocks, mutual funds do not offer investors the opportunity to compare the P/E ratio, sales growth, earnings per share, etc. A mutual fund's net asset value gives investors the total value of the fund's portfolio, less liabilities, but how do you know if one fund is better than another?
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