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Introduction to Mutual Funds

Mutual Funds

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Mutual funds are investment companies which combine money you entrust to them with a large pool of funds from other investors. They use the money to trade bonds, equities, and their many subtypes. In exchange they give you partial share ownership of the fund’s total holdings. Shares are purchased from the fund, share exchanges, or previous fund investors. Once you own a fund’s shares you have a fractional ownership of the fund and by extension, all investments they own. If the investments climb in value, the value of your share ownership increases. If these investments decline in value, you will suffer a loss. The fund provides you with capital gains and dividends from the returns in accordance to your percentage of ownership.

Mutual funds are not investment instruments. They are investment vehicles which are composed of hundreds of different assets. Fortunately, your mutual fund comes with a fully staffed management team composed of managers, co-managers, assistants, and analysts. This team visits firm’s physical locations, researches its financials, investigates their strategy, and watches the firm in the marketplace. It then decides to buy, sell, or hold investments based on their analysis.

Mutual Funds can also gain advantages from their size. An individual investor typically does not have enough capital to get bulk discounts on fees, commissions, and purchases. Mutual funds combine the capital of many small investors and use them to gain the benefits of an institutional large investor. The result is an increase trading efficiency and bulk price reductions in trading fees and commissions.

The management team makes decisions for you. You lose the benefit of being able to control every investment in the fund. As a result, sometimes funds will sometimes have individual investments you don’t want, skip over those you do want, and hold the same investments as other parts of your portfolio. They will also overlap investments with other funds in your portfolio. Fortunately, the fund keeps and distributes records and status reports which lists investments the fund currently owns. The prospectus also lists the specific investment objective of the fund. Most investments outside the specific objective will be avoided by the fund.

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