Finding good mutual funds starts with finding good mutual funds companies (families) and some families are friendlier to average investors than others. They offer good investments to folks who simply aren’t sure where to invest money. People get confused by all the sales rhetoric, so here we simplify where to invest with the companies that are investor friendly.
I started following (and selling) this stuff in 1972 as a stock broker, trying to get a handle on where to invest other people’s money… trying to pick only good investments for those who trusted me. Once I learned that funds were the answer to what 90% of people needed, the question became: how do I find good mutual funds? I am writing this in 2014 as a retired financial planner, and would like to share something I’ve learned over the years, so hold your breath.
Your idea of what good investments or good mutual funds are might differ from the ideas a sales rep might have, especially if that person makes money from commissions and other fees. Breathe easy. A financial planner who works for commissions can tell you where to invest and can sell you good mutual funds. The problem is that he or she can’t tell you where to invest in the investor friendly companies… and make a living doing it.
A $20,000 investment in a stock fund could cost you $1000 upfront, $400 a year for expenses, and another $300 a year for additional fees if you invest through a planner. Or, it could cost you a total of $200 a year or less if you invest directly with a major investor- friendly NO-LOAD company.
Truly good mutual funds companies keep investor costs low. They are financially strong; and offer a broad selection of investments with good performance records. Good service is provided at no cost. Enter “no load funds” into a search engine to find them. Names like Vanguard, Fidelity and T Rowe Price will appear. They all offer average investors good investments at low cost. All three of the above meet our qualifications – and the first two are the largest companies in the business.
Good mutual funds are not expensive, and you do not get what you pay for when you pay for high charges and fees. In fact, these extra costs drain money from your account and work against you. The net result is a lower return on investment. I don’t call that investor friendly. When there’s a high cost if investing, that’s not where to invest your money.
Now, once you’ve opened an account with one of the friendly companies you could be facing a list of more than 100 choices to choose from. Now the question of where to invest gets more specific. How do you find good mutual funds to invest in? The general categories are stock (equity), bond, money market, and balanced funds (the latter being a combination of the other three). What you need to understand is that even good mutual funds in the stock category might lose money in 2014 and/or 2015. If the stock market falls, these funds in general will not be good investments. Also, if interest rates climb, bond funds will not be good investments. More than anything else, the markets determine whether or not investors make or lose money. On the other hand, good mutual funds tend to outperform the rest over the long term.
With today’s record low interest rates money market funds don’t look like good investments because they pay almost nothing in interest. But, that’s where to invest money you want to keep safe. If rates go up, money market rates will follow. Balanced funds will be losers if stocks and/or bonds take a big hit. Don’t get depressed. Invest in 2014 and 2015 with your eyes open.
Going into the year 2014, stock funds were very good investments for five years straight; and bonds funds were good mutual funds to invest in for over 30 years. In 2014 and beyond things could get rough. Focus on strategy more than picking good investments in each fund category. Have some cash in a money market fund awaiting future opportunities when the dust settles. Spread your money across all four fund categories, because no one really knows where to invest in times of uncertainty.
As 2014 and 2015 unfold, remember that both stocks and bonds have their up and downs. Over the long term, funds have been good investments for tens of millions of people through good times and bad. Keep in mind that good mutual funds come from good mutual funds companies… and that’s where to invest your money.