What Is a Mutual Fund?

In order to invest in securities such as stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and other assets, mutual funds aggregate the funds from shareholders. Professional money managers run mutual funds, allocating the assets and attempting to generate capital gains or income for the fund’s investors. The portfolio of a mutual fund is set up and kept up to date in accordance with the specified investment goals in the prospectus.

Small or individual investors have access to professionally managed portfolios of stocks, bonds, and other securities through mutual funds. As a result, each shareholder shares proportionately in the fund’s profits or losses. Mutual funds invest in a huge variety of assets, and performance is typically gauged by changes in the fund’s overall market capitalization, which are obtained from the performance of its underlying investments combined.

Larger financial institutions like Fidelity Investments, Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, and Oppenheimer are the parent corporations of the majority of mutual funds. The fund manager of a mutual fund, often known as the investment adviser, is required by law to act in the best interests of mutual fund shareholders.

  • An investment vehicle of this type that consists of a portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other securities is known as a mutual fund.
  • Small or individual investors can access diverse, expertly managed portfolios through mutual funds.
  • The various categories that mutual funds fall under describe the different types of securities, investing goals, and return types that they invest in.
  • Annual fees, cost ratios, and commissions paid by mutual funds may have an impact on their overall returns.
  • Employer-sponsored retirement plans commonly invest in mutual funds.

How Are Mutual Funds Priced?

The performance of the securities that the mutual fund invests in determines the value of the fund. Investors purchase the performance of a mutual fund’s portfolio—or, more specifically, a portion of the value of the portfolio—when they purchase a unit or share of the fund. Purchasing shares of a mutual fund is distinct from purchasing stock. Mutual fund shares do not grant their owners any voting rights, in contrast to stock. A mutual fund share is an investment in a variety of stocks or other securities.

The term “net asset value” (NAV) per share, or NAVPS in some cases, refers to the cost of a mutual fund share. The total value of the securities in the portfolio is divided by the total number of outstanding shares to get a fund’s NAV. All shareholders, institutional investors, and corporate officers or insiders are considered to have any outstanding shares.

The current NAV of a mutual fund, which doesn’t change during market hours but is settled at the conclusion of each trading day, is normally the price at which shares of the fund can be bought or redeemed. When the NAVPS is resolved, a mutual fund’s price is likewise updated.

Investors in mutual funds benefit from diversification because the typical mutual fund includes a variety of securities. Think about a shareholder who exclusively invests in Google stock and depends on the company’s profitability. Gains and losses are based on the success of the company as all of their money is tied to it. But a mutual fund might own Google because the gains and losses of just one stock are balanced out by the gains and losses of other businesses held by the fund.

How Are Returns Calculated for Mutual Funds?

Investors who purchase Apple shares are actually purchasing a share or a portion of the business. A mutual fund investor purchases a portion of the mutual fund and its assets in a similar manner.

Investors typically earn a return from a mutual fund in three ways:

  • The fund receives revenue from stock dividends and interest on bonds held in its portfolio, and it distributes nearly all of this income to fund owners each year in the form of distributions. Investors in funds frequently have the option of receiving a cheque for dividends or reinvesting the earnings to buy more shares of the mutual fund.
  • If the fund sells securities that have increased in price, the fund realizes a capital gain, which most funds also pass on to investors in a distribution.
  • When the fund’s shares increase in price, you can then sell your mutual fund shares for a profit in the market.

Investors looking at mutual fund returns will notice “total return,” or the change in value of an investment over a predetermined time period. Included in this are any income, dividends, or capital gains that the fund made as well as any changes in market value over time. Total returns are often computed for periods of one, five, and ten years as well as from the opening day of the fund, or the inception date.

Types of Mutual Funds

Although there are numerous mutual fund varieties, the majority of them fall into one of four broad groups: stock funds, money market funds, bond funds, and target-date funds.

  1. Stock Funds
  2. Bond Funds
  3. Index Funds
  4. Balanced Funds
  5. Money Market Funds
  6. Income Funds
  7. Global Funds
  8. Specialty Funds
  9. Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)

💰 Stock Funds

This fund primarily invests in stocks or equities, as the name suggests. There are numerous subcategories within this group. Some equity funds are labelled as small-, mid-, or large-cap based on the size of the companies they invest in. A few others go by the names aggressive growth, income-oriented, value, and others, depending on their strategy to investing. Equity funds can also be divided into those that invest in domestic (U.S.) companies and those that do so overseas. The following style box serves as an example of how to utilise one to comprehend the universe of equity funds.

The size of the companies, their market capitalizations, and the growth potential of the invested equities can all be used to categorise funds. Value funds are a type of investment strategy that seeks out high-quality, slow-growing businesses that are undervalued by the market. Low price-to-earnings (P/E), low price-to-book (P/B), and high dividend yields are characteristics of these companies.

Growth funds, on the other hand, focus on businesses that have experienced rapid increases in earnings, sales, and cash flows. These businesses often don’t pay dividends and have high P/E ratios. A “blend,” which is simply defined as businesses that are neither value nor growth stocks and are categorised as being somewhere in the middle, is a compromise between rigorous value and growth investments.

Market capitalizations for large-cap corporations are substantial, with values exceeding $10 billion. The market capitalization is calculated by dividing the share price by the total number of outstanding shares. Large-cap stocks are typically held by blue-chip companies with well-known names. Those stocks with a market cap between $250 million and $2 billion are referred to as small-cap stocks. These smaller businesses are typically younger, riskier bets. The space between small- and large-cap companies is filled by mid-cap stocks.

A mutual fund may combine its investment style and business size strategies. A large-cap value fund, for instance, would focus on large-cap firms with sound financials but recently declining share prices and would be positioned in the upper left quadrant of the style box (large and value). The antithesis of this would be a small-cap growth fund, which makes investments in emerging technology firms with promising growth potential. A mutual fund of this type would be located in the bottom right quadrant (small and growth).

💰 Bond Funds

The fixed income category includes mutual funds that produce a minimum return. A fixed-income mutual fund concentrates on assets including corporate bonds, government bonds, and other debt instruments that have a fixed rate of return. Interest revenue generated by the fund portfolio is distributed to the shareholders.

These funds, which are also known as bond funds, are frequently actively managed and look to purchase relatively discounted bonds with the intention of reselling them for a profit. While bond funds are not without risk, these mutual funds are expected to offer larger returns. A fund that focuses on high-yield junk bonds, for instance, carries significantly greater risk than a fund that invests in government securities.

Bonds come in a wide variety of forms, thus bond funds can differ significantly depending on where they invest. Additionally, all bond funds are vulnerable to interest rate risk.

💰 Index Funds

Stocks that track a significant market index, such as the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average, are purchased by index funds (DJIA). These funds are frequently created with cost-conscious investors in mind because this method needs less research from analysts and advisors, which results in lower costs being passed on to shareholders.

💰 Balanced Funds

Stocks, bonds, money market instruments, or alternative assets are all included in the mix of asset classes that balanced funds invest in. This fund, also referred to as an asset allocation fund, seeks to lower the risk of exposure to various asset classes.

So that the investor can have a predictable exposure to different asset classes, some funds are created using a fixed allocation strategy. To satisfy different investor goals, other funds employ a dynamic allocation percentages technique. This could involve adapting to changes in the market, the business cycle, or the investor’s own life phases.

💰 Money Market Funds

The short-term debt instruments that make up the money market are secure, risk-free investments, mostly Treasury bills. While the investment is guaranteed, investors won’t see significant profits. A typical return is marginally higher than the earnings in a standard checking or savings account and marginally lower than the normal certificate of deposit (CD).

💰 Income Funds

The goal of income funds, for which they are named, is to consistently offer current income. These funds invest mostly in reputable corporate and government bonds, holding them until maturity to generate interest income. Although fund holdings may increase in value, the main goal of these funds is to give investors consistent cash flow. As a result, retirees and conservative investors make up the target market for these funds.

💰 Global Funds

An international fund, often known as a foreign fund, only makes investments in assets that are situated abroad. However, global funds are able to make investments anywhere in the world. Their volatility is frequently influenced by the specific economic and political dangers of the nation. However, by increasing diversification, these funds can be included in a well-balanced portfolio because returns in other nations might not be connected with returns in the country of origin.

💰 Specialty Funds

Sector funds are focused strategic funds intended for particular economic sectors, like the financial, technological, or healthcare ones. Since the companies in a certain sector frequently have a high degree of correlation with one another, sector funds can be particularly volatile.

Ethical or socially conscious funds only invest in businesses that adhere to their standards or core values. Tobacco, alcohol, weapons, and nuclear power are a few examples of “sin” businesses that some socially conscious funds avoid investing in. Other funds invest mostly in environmentally friendly technologies, such solar and wind energy or recycling.

💰 Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)

The exchange-traded fund is a variation on the mutual fund (ETF). Despite using tactics similar to mutual funds, they are not thought of as mutual funds. They have the advantages of stocks in addition to being set up as investment trusts that trade on stock markets.

ETFs can be purchased and sold at any time throughout the trading day. ETFs can also be bought on leverage or sold short. ETFs often charge less in fees than a comparable mutual fund. Active options markets, where investors can hedge or leverage their positions, are another advantage for many ETFs.

Mutual Fund Fees

A mutual fund may charge shareholders or annual running costs. The expense ratio, which typically ranges from 1-3 percent, represents the annual percentage of the funds under management that goes toward annual fund operating expenses. An investment fund’s expense ratio is calculated by adding its advisory or management charge and operating expenses.

Shareholder fees are the commissions, sales fees, and redemption costs that investors directly pay when buying or selling mutual funds. What is referred to as “the load” of a mutual fund are sales commissions or fees. Fees are levied when shares of a mutual fund with a front-end load are purchased. Mutual fund fees are levied for a back-end load when an investor sells their shares.

However, occasionally an investment firm will provide a no-load mutual fund, which has no commission or sales fee. Instead of going through a third party, an investment corporation distributes these funds directly. For early withdrawals or selling the holding before a set period of time has passed, some funds impose fees and penalties.


Mutual funds are subject to industry regulation that ensures accountability and fairness to investors.


☑️ Liquidity

☑️ Diversification

☑️ Minimal investment requirements

☑️ Professional management

☑️ Variety of offerings


High fees, commissions, and other expenses

Large cash presence in portfolios

No FDIC coverage

Difficulty in comparing funds

Lack of transparency in holdings

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