Mutual funds are investment products created from pools of funds that many different investors collect. The purpose of a mutual fund is to allow a person to invest in various securities, including stocks, equities, bonds, and other securities.

Through a mutual fund, an investor can access a diversified portfolio of assets that they might not otherwise be able to obtain with a similar amount of capital. Mutual funds may be suitable for novice investors, as the funds are overseen by money managers who help to maximize gains on the investments.

Why Do People Buy Mutual Funds?

Mutual funds are popular among investors because they generally offer:

  • Professional management: Fund managers research securities and monitor performance
  • Diversification: Mutual funds typically invest in a variety of companies and industries to help lower your risk if one company fails
  • Affordability: Most mutual funds set low dollar amounts for initial investments and subsequent purchases
  • Liquidity: Mutual fund investors can easily redeem their shares at any time. Investors can redeem their shares for the current net value minus any redemption fees.

What Types of Mutual Funds Exist?

Most mutual funds fall into four categories. Each type has a different set of features, risks, and rewards:

  • Money market funds have relatively low risks. By law, they can only invest in high-quality, short-term investments issued by U.S. corporations, federal governments, state governments, and local governments.
  • Bond funds have higher risks than money market funds. Bond funds typically aim to produce high returns. Because there are many different types of bonds, their risks and rewards can differ dramatically.
  • Stock funds invest in corporate stocks. Not all stock funds are the same. Growth stock funds focus on stocks that may not pay a regular dividend but have the potential for above-average financial gains. Income funds invest in stocks that pay regular dividends. Index funds track particular market indexes. Sector funds specialize in particular industries.
  • Target date funds hold mixtures of stocks, bonds, and other investments. Over time, the mix of stocks gradually shifts according to the fund’s strategies. Target date funds are sometimes known as lifecycle funds. They are designed for individuals with retirement dates in mind.

How Are Mutual Funds Bought and Sold?

Investors buy mutual fund shares from the fund itself or through a broker rather than from other investors. The price that investors pay for a mutual fund is the fund’s per-share net asset value plus any fees charged at the time of purchase, like sales loads.

Mutual fund shares are redeemable, meaning investors can sell the shares back to the fund at any time. Funds must usually send the payment back within seven days.

Before buying shares in a mutual fund, research your prospects carefully. Find information about the fund’s investment objectives, risks, performance, and expenses.

What Are Mutual Fund Fees?

Running a mutual fund involves costs, just like any other business. Funds pass along their costs to investors by charging fees and expenses. Fees and expenses vary from fund to fund. A fund with high costs must perform better than a low-cost fund to generate the same amount of return for you.

Minor differences in fees can lead to significant differences in returns over time. If you invested $10,000 in a fund with a 10% annual return and annual operating expenses of 1.5, you would have roughly $49,725 after 20 years. If you invested in a fund with the same performance, except with expenses of only 0.5%, after 20 years, you would have $60,858.

Use a mutual fund cost calculator to compute how the costs of different mutual funds add up over time.

Can You Lose Money in Mutual Funds?

All investments carry some risk. You can potentially lose money by investing in a mutual fund. Diversification is often inherent in mutual funds. By investing in one mutual fund, you spread your risk across a number of companies or industries. Investing in individual stocks or other investments can often carry a higher risk than mutual funds.

The sooner you start building the value of your investments, the better. If you need your cash back in five years or less, you may not have enough time to ride out the inevitable peaks and valleys of the market to arrive at a gain. If you need your money in two year’s time and the market crashes, you may have to take your money out as a loss. Generally speaking, mutual funds should be considered a long-term investment. Equity mutual funds should especially be considered long-term investments.

How Can Fraud Be Avoided?

Each mutual fund is required by law to file regular shareholder reports with the SEC. Before making any investment, be sure to read the required shareholder reports.

Additionally, look at investment portfolios of mutual funds that are managed by separate entities known as investment advisers. Investment advisers are registered with the SEC. Always check that the investment adviser is registered before you invest.

What Are Some Advantages and Disadvantages of Mutual Funds?

One of the main advantages of mutual funds is that they provide access to diverse portfolios. Some other advantages of mutual funds include:

  • Products and packages are regulated by the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission)
  • Liquidity: Mutual fund investors may sell their holdings back at the end of the day to reap more immediate profits
  • Professional investment managers help to oversee the investor’s portfolio
  • On the other hand, mutual funds are associated with some disadvantages, which include:
  • Each shareholder often participates proportionally in the gain or loss of the fund.
  • The investor generally isn’t able to customize their products.
  • Fees are typically involved for services and long-run maintenance.

Investors should weigh the pros and cons of mutual funds before committing to a particular product or company.

I Have a Dispute over a Mutual Fund. What Should I Do?

Depending on the type of dispute, there may be various steps you can take. Disputes can be avoided through careful planning and consultation with a legal professional. For instance:

  • Violations should be reported to the SEC
  • Fraud should be avoided at all costs. Don’t get involved with any mutual fund company or an individual product that seems suspicious. Any fraudulent activities should also be reported.
  • Breach of contract may be remedied in a civil court for damages or equitable remedies
  • Lastly, some widespread violations may result in larger class-action lawsuits if many people are affected. These can often involve large economic losses spread out over long periods.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Mutual Funds?

Federal and state laws closely regulate mutual funds. If you have questions or concerns about a financial dispute, you may wish to hire a bankruptcy lawyer or financial lawyers in your area for more advice and guidance. Your attorney can provide you with information and legal advice to help you make the right decisions regarding mutual funds. Also, if you need to file a lawsuit, your attorney can assist you with that process and represent you when you need to attend court sessions.

Use LegalMatch’s services to find a bankruptcy lawyer or financial lawyer in your area today. There is no fee to schedule a consultation, and our services are entirely confidential.