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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Investing: What is a Mutual Fund?

Take Ownership in Investment Opportunities
Mutual funds are among the most popular and versatile financial planning vehicles today. They can be useful in achieving the short and long-term goals you've established by completing your personal financial strategy.

A mutual fund is an investment company that combines money from individuals and invests in a diversified portfolio of securities. Each investor is a shareholder who buys shares of the fund. Each share represents a proportion of ownership in the fund's assets.

There are different types of mutual funds, and each type is designed to benefit from either a short-term or long-term investment strategy.
Long-Term Funds
§  Stock/Equity - funds that invest in a variety of stocks.
§  Index - equity funds that attempt to mirror the performance of a specific index, such as the S&P 500.
§  Bond - funds that invest in a variety of bonds.
§  Hybrid - funds that invest in a combination of stocks, bonds and other securities.
Short-Term Funds
§  Money Market -funds that invest in securities that generally mature in one year or less (very liquid).
The stock market is probably one of the best options for people who want to be involved in high-yielding investments. Studies show that the stock market has consistently outperformed all other types of investments over the long-term. However, in a rapidly changing economic and political environment, owning and monitoring a portfolio of stocks require more analysis and effort than the average person can handle.
The conviction to buy a security, the patience to hold on to it as long as necessary, and the wisdom to sell at the right time are qualities that lead to success in the stock market. These qualities, however, are developed through years of experience and require abundant information and capital resources. For the ordinary investor, these qualities can only be obtained through the services of professional fund managers or through investments in actively managed equity funds.
§  Growth Funds - Seek to provide long-term growth of capital by investing in growing, profitable companies.
§  Total Return Funds - Seek to provide long-term growth of capital and income primarily through investments in common stocks.
§  Value Funds - Seek long-term capital growth by investing in a diversified stock portfolio of undervalued companies.
§  World Equity Funds (Global) - Seek long-term growth of capital by investing in stocks and bonds with significant exposure to countries that have developing economies and/or markets.
§  Index Funds - Seek long-term capital growth by investing in a diversified portfolio of common stocks with returns similar to a specific index, such as the S&P 500.
§  Sector Funds - Seek to provide high growth of capital by concentrating assets in equities in one sector of the economy such as biotech, telecommunications, precious metals, etc.
§  Asset Allocation Funds - As market conditions change, these funds shift assets among stocks, bonds and money market securities. Also, unlike many mutual funds, these funds usually have no limits on the percentage of assets that can be invested in each asset class at any given time.
§  Balanced Funds - Seek to provide conservation of capital, current income and long-term growth of capital and income by investing in stocks, bonds and other fixed-income securities.
§  Income-Mixed Funds -Seek to provide current income and, secondarily, growth of capital through a flexible mix of equity and debt instruments.
§  Corporate Bond Funds - Seek current income, while preserving capital, by investing in a diversified portfolio of high-grade corporate fixed-income securities.
§  High-Yield Bond Funds - Seek current income, while preserving capital, by investing in a diversified portfolio of lower grade, higher yielding corporate and/or government fixed-income securities.
§  World Bond Funds - Seek to provide high, long-term total return consistent with prudent management by investing in quality fixed-income securities issued by major world governments and corporations around the world and in the United States.
§  Government Bond Funds - Seek current income while preserving capital,by investing in obligations issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government or its agencies.
§  Strategic Income Funds - Seek to provide a high level of current income and preservation of capital.
§  State Municipal Bond Funds - Seek to provide current income free from federal and state income taxes. Also seeks to preserve capital.
§  Municipal Bond Funds - Seek to provide a high level of current income exempt from federal taxes, consistent with the preservation of capital.
§  Taxable Money Market Funds - Seek to provide income on cash reserves, while preserving capital and maintaining liquidity, through high-quality money market instruments. Pays dividends monthly.
§  Tax-Exempt Money Market Funds - Seek to provide income exempt from federal taxes while preserving capital and maintaining liquidity. Pays dividends monthly.
Mutual Fund Planning
Mutual funds, as with other investments, are affected by changes in economic trends and cycles. The value of investments may rise or fall as the stock and bond markets fluctuate. Understanding certain investment concepts and tactics can help you lessen risk and maximize opportunity.
INFLATION: Inflation is an increase in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods and services, resulting in a continuing rise in the general price level. Over time, inflation reduces the value and purchasing power of money.
RISK VERSUS REWARD: Generally, the greater the amount of risk assumed by an investor is, the greater the potential rewards are. Before you make any investment decisions, you should know your risk tolerance. Factors such as age, income and years until retirement, should be considered before making ANY investment decision.
MARKET FLUCTUATIONS: Upswings or downturns in market activity impact the value of investment instruments or accounts. As a result, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost when ultimately redeemed.
ASSET ALLOCATION: Asset allocation is the process of developing a diversified portfolio by mixing different asset classes - such as stocks, bonds and cash equivalents - in varying proportions to help reduce risk and maximize potential return.
DIVERSIFICATION: An investment portfolio that contains a number of different types of investments tends to have a lower level of risk than a portfolio with more similar types of investments. There is no assurance that a diversified portfolio will achieve a greater return than a non-diversified portfolio.
DOLLAR-COST AVERAGING: Dollar-cost averaging advocates the investment of a constant dollar amount, regardless of the price of the investment. Over a period of time, this generally results in a lower purchase price per investment than if the total purchase was made at one time.
COMPOUNDING: Compounding takes place when the returns (such as interest, dividends and capital gains) on investments start earning returns of their own.
Benefits of Mutual Funds
§  Develop investment strategy and chooses investments that best match the fund objective.
§  Decisions based on extensive knowledge and research of market conditions and financial performances.
§  Adjusts investment mix as economic conditions change.
§  Diversifies portfolio to reduce risk.
§  Easy to buy either through an investment professional or directly from an investment firm.
§  Generally offered as investment selections in 401(k) plans and other employee benefit plans.
§  Offer wide variety of services to meet shareholders' needs.
§  Variety of investment minimums allowing participation at virtually any dollar amount.
§  Allow investors to contribute to and benefit from investment in economy.
§  Potentially tax-deductible or tax-deferred if used within certain qualified retirement plans.
§  Potentially reduce taxes by reducing taxable income.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best source of information is the fund's prospectus. This document contains detailed information about the fund, its features, its performance and more. You should receive and read the prospectus thoroughly before making any financial commitment to the fund.
Yes, The prospectus spells out what requirements apply to fund activities and any fees related to the administration and record-keeping of those events. If you purchased the fund through a registered representative, he or she can also explain these details. Information is also available from the mutual fund company, usually via a Web site or shareholder information line.
Mutual funds are typically part of a longer-term financial strategy, and are not normally intended to be utilized as short-term (12 mos. or less) trading vehicles. Because of the potential for fluctuations in value of the underlying securities in a fund, the fund itself may experience a change in overall value as well. As such, the sale of fund shares that have declined in value should only be considered if such a transaction is consistent with your total financial plans and goals. An important consideration is "time in the market, NOT timing of the market."
The process of pricing a fund usually begins at the end of each business day when the New York Stock Exchange closes.
·       Remember, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
·       To determine a mutual fund's share price, follow this formula:

Fund share price or Net Asset Value (NAV) = Market value in currency of a fund's securities minus its liabilities, divided by the number of investor shares outstanding

Orders received during a business day will be executed at the NAV determined at the close of business that day. This process is referred to as forward pricing.
Buying Tips
§  Match fund objectives to your needs:
·       Understand your risk profile and investment goals.
·       Understand the fund's investment choices/objectives (i.e., industry-specific, socially responsible, etc.) and limitations (i.e., mutual funds may not be best choice for investors close to retirement age, etc.).
·       Market volatility may be greater with non-U.S.-investing funds.
§  Investment professionals are compensated for the services and support they provide investors, generally through a sales commission, or through 12b-1 and/or service fees deducted from the fund's assets.
§  Direct-marketed funds typically offer fund shares with a low sales charge or none at all. Funds that don't charge a front-end or deferred sales charge are called "no-load" funds. Other fees or expenses may apply.
Expenses and Fees
If you are considering the purchase of a mutual fund, be sure you thoroughly understand its sales charges, fee and expense structure. Ask your representative or the mutual fund company for an explanation of:
§  Sales charges
§  Other fund fees/ expenses
§  Transfer fees
§  Redemption fees
§  Visit your local library for magazines or books on mutual funds, securities and personal finance
§  Many mutual fund companies offer toll-free consumer inquiry lines. If you're considering purchasing a fund from a particular company, ask for product literature, visit its Web site,  email: investoholic1@gmail.com or contact this blogger for advise.

source: International Marketing Group (IMG)

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