Advantages & Disadvantages of Mutual Funds
Introduction to Mutual Funds
Mutual funds vs. other investments - Mutual funds offer several advantages over investing in individual stocks. For example, the transaction costs are divided among all the mutual fund shareholders, who also benefit by having a third party (professional fund managers) apply expertise and dedicate time to manage and research investment options.
However, despite the professional management, mutual funds are not immune to risks. They share the same risks associated with the investments made. If the fund invests primarily in stocks, it is usually subject to the same ups and downs and risks as the stock market.
Professional Management - The primary advantage of funds (at least theoretically) is the professional management of your money. Investors purchase funds because they do not have the time or the expertise to manage their own portfolios. A mutual fund is a relatively inexpensive way for a small investor to get a full-time manager to make and monitor investments.
Diversification - By owning shares in a mutual fund instead of owning individual stocks or bonds, your risk is spread out. The idea behind diversification is to invest in a large number of assets so that a loss in any particular investment is minimized by gains in others. Large mutual funds typically own hundreds of different stocks in many different industries.
Economies of Scale - Because a mutual fund buys and sells large amounts of securities at a time, its transaction costs are lower than what an individual would pay for securities transactions.
Liquidity - Just like an individual stock, a mutual fund allows you to request that your shares be converted into cash at any time.
Simplicity - Buying a mutual fund is easy! Pretty well any bank has its own line of mutual funds, and the minimum investment is small. Most companies also have automatic purchase plans whereby as little as $100 can be invested on a monthly basis.
Professional Management - Many investors debate whether or not the so-called professionals are any better than you or I at picking stocks. Management is by no means infallible, and, even if the fund loses money, the manager still takes his/her cut.
Costs - Mutual funds don't exist solely to make your life easier - all funds are in it for a profit. The mutual fund industry is masterful at burying costs under layers of jargon.
Dilution - It's possible to have too much diversification. Because funds have small holdings in so many different companies, high returns from a few investments often don't make much difference on the overall return. Dilution is also the result of a successful fund getting too big. When money pours into funds that have had strong success, the manager often has trouble finding a good investment for all the new money.
Taxes - When making decisions about your money, fund managers don't consider your personal tax situation. For example, when a fund manager sells a security, a capital-gains tax is triggered, which affects how profitable the individual is from the sale. It might have been more advantageous for the individual to defer the capital gains liability.
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