Mutual Fund Information

Mutual fund information: picking a mutual fund out of the thousands available can be difficult to do. Here's how to choose the best one for you.

There are thousands of mutual funds to invest your money in. So how do you pick one over the other? Here are some things to look for when making your choice:

1.) Fund Performance. The single most important measure to consider is how the funds have performed over time. Check the three- and five-year annual return (and ten-year if available) and see how well it's done through the years. Anything that has returned at least 10% or more per year over a long period of time would certainly be worth considering.

2.) Fund Management. The next thing to look at is how long the current management has been managing the fund. If a fund has returned 20% a year for the past five years, and the current manager is the one who managed it for those entire five years, you should certainly feel comfortable with that person's skills. If the fund returned 20% for four years and 3% last year, and the current manager just took over last year, I'd be skeptical until he's managed it a few more years.

3.) Volatility. The most volatile funds (like aggressive-growth) will return more in the long run, but will also drop more on bad market days. If you can stomach volatility and are in it for the long-haul, go with a more volatile fund. If you are in it for the short-term or just can't stand to see your fund go down even for a day, get into something more conservative.

4.) Cost of getting into a fund. Every fund will have an expense ratio. This is the percentage of the fund's money that is deducted each year for the fund manager's salary, mailings, marketing, and other costs. As long as the ratio is in line with most other successful funds, I wouldn't be concerned about it. If it's extremely high compared to others, I would certainly expect a much higher return than other funds. Also, you need to be concerned with whether the fund is a "load" or "no-load" fund. In other words, do you have to pay (load) to get into the fund or is there no cost to get in (no-load)? There are many successful no-load funds to get into. I'd only get into a loaded fund if it has produced exceptional returns year after year.

All of the information I mentioned above on mutual funds can usually be found in a special mutual fund issue published at the beginning of each year by Kiplinger's or Money Magazine. Using those sources, along with asking a financial professional should help you pick the fund that is right for you.

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