Choosing The Best Mutual Funds To Invest In

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There may be no rule in the investing community that carries more weight than diversification. Diversification may simultaneously reduce one’s exposure to risk while increasing their chances of investing in a lucrative opportunity. That said, proper diversification can be just as difficult as difficult to achieve as finding the next great “multi-bagger.” True diversification requires a mind for due diligence and a penchant for translating everything the market has to say for the foreseeable future; that, or a mutual fund. Mutual funds do the heavy lifting for today’s investors so that they don’t need to be professionals themselves. If for nothing else, the best mutual funds to invest in award investors of every level the ability to invest like a professional.

What Are Mutual Funds?

In their simplest form, mutual funds are professional money managers who make investments on behalf of their clients. More specifically, these funds are investment vehicles that allow investors to pool their money together to invest in several securities. Instead of each investor choosing which securities to invest in, however, professional money managers associated with the fund will split up the collectively pooled capital and divide it amongst a predetermined “basket” of stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and similar assets.

The securities each mutual fund chooses to invest in are directly correlated to a benchmark, or goal the money manager is hoping to achieve. Some funds, for example, will prioritize growth stocks for investors with long investment horizons; others may choose to hedge their bets and reduce their exposure to risk for those on the brink of retirement. Case in point: There’s typically a mutual fund to fit any investment strategy.

Realizing mutual fund profits isn’t all that different from investing in individual stocks. Investors will be paid out based on the growth of the securities in the mutual fund. That said, the collective nature of a mutual fund will disperse earnings between the fund’s participants based on the percentage of the initial investment. Since mutual funds are a collective pool of capital, each shareholder will benefit or lose equally (based on the size of their original investment).

Due, in large part, to professionally managed portfolios, mutual funds are a great way for novice investors to get a feel for the stock market and other similar securities. Enlisting the services of a professional money manager, and someone who is most likely more adept to the ebbs and flows of Wall Street can be a smart move for someone who is otherwise unfamiliar with the stock market. Subsequently, the passive nature of mutual funds is a great benefit for anyone looking to remove themselves from the decision-making process of managing a portfolio. For a fee, of course, mutual funds may serve as the “one-stop-shop” for investors who aren’t comfortable (or don’t have the time) managing their own investments.

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mutual funds

Types Of Mutual Funds

Mutual funds operate in a wide variety of asset classes, and even across several equities. Some funds focus solely on the stock market; whereas others may prefer a more balanced portfolio with less risk exposure. Either way, it’s important to know that mutual funds may invest in several securities. Consequently, there are numerous types of mutual funds:

  • Equity Funds: As their name would lead investors to believe, equity funds primarily build their portfolios around equities (otherwise known as stocks). Simply put, equity funds invest primarily in a wide variety of traditional stocks. The types of stocks each equity fund invests in, however, will depend on the fund itself. If for nothing else, equity funds tend to specialize in certain categories of stocks. It has become commonplace for funds to focus on businesses of a certain size:  small-, mid-, or large-cap. However, others may invest primarily in foreign stocks, dividend stocks, or even those with a propensity for high risk, high reward. All things considered, there are several different types of equity funds because there are many different types of stocks.

  • Fixed-Income Funds: Mutual funds in the fixed-income category tend to specialize in investments with predictable income. Government bonds, corporate bonds, and other debt instruments, for example, promise a set rate of return at a predictable date. Therefore, fixed-income bonds will build portfolios around scheduled income. These types of funds tend to correspond with lower returns, but they don’t expose investors to as much risk. As a result, fixed-income funds are usually best reserved for people nearing retirement.

  • Index Funds: Growing more popular with each passing year, index funds attempt to mimic the returns of today’s most popular indices: the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), the NASDAQ—just to name a few. By buying stocks that correspond with a major market index, these funds will produce returns similar to the entire index itself. As a result, index funds are best left for cost-sensitive investors who are content keeping pace with a particular index, and not beating it.

  • Balanced Funds: As the most diversified of all mutual funds, balanced funds specialize in investing in assets across several classes. A balanced fund, for example, will combine stocks with fixed-income investments like bonds. In doing so, balanced funds tend to trade a high upside for diversified protection. Holding several classes of assets reduces the fund’s exposure to risk. However, the concept of the hedge also limits upside.

  • Money Market Funds: These funds have developed a reputation for safe, dependable returns. In fact, the returns associated with money market funds are so safe that the returns are comparable to a savings account. By investing primarily in government Treasury bills, returns are all but guaranteed, which significantly reduces risk and upside. That’s not to say returns are guaranteed in a money market fund, but rather that these funds are the safest on this list.

  • Income Funds: Not unlike fixed-income funds, income funds focus on income-producing assets. However, while fixed-income funds can invest in both bonds and other debt instruments, income funds tend to stick to government and high-quality corporate debt. By holding the debt of promising companies or local municipalities until maturation, income funds award investors with steady cash flow.

  • International & Global Funds: Global funds invest in assets scattered across the entire globe. For example, a global fund will grant investors exposure to both foreign markets and the one in their home country. International funds, on the other hand, invest exclusively in assets outside of the investor’s home country. These funds award great diversification but can expose investors to more volatility.

  • Specialty Funds: Specialty funds are hard to place in a single category, as they are typically made up of assets spanning all of the funds on this list. In other words, specialty funds don’t limit themselves to a specific type of investment. A specialty fund, for example, may invest in bonds and foreign assets at the same time. More often than not, however, specialty funds tend to focus on a single segment of the economy at a time and evolve along with the economy itself.

Average Mutual Fund Returns

Average mutual fund returns will vary between each type and the timeframe being used to calculate returns. Equity funds, for example, tend to concede with higher returns but are slightly riskier than their counterparts over long periods of time. Money market funds, on the other hand, have become synonymous with notoriously low returns, but the risk is almost irrelevant. Returns share a direct correlation with risk. While there are exceptions, riskier funds tend to reward investors with higher returns. Consequently, funds with little exposure to risk are less rewarding. As a result, investors will want to determine how much risk they are comfortable taking on to determine acceptable returns.

Investors comfortable with the risk associated with equity funds should be happy with a return somewhere in the neighborhood of 8.0%-10.0% over the course of about 10 years. Those who are more risk-averse, however, should aim for the 4.0%-5.0% return associated with fixed-income funds.

Which Mutual Funds Give The Best Returns?

Historically, every type of mutual fund has combined to provide investors with relatively dependable returns. As recently as 2019, in fact, “mutual funds in seven broad categories have averaged a return of roughly 13%, more than double the average annual return over the past 15 years,” according to Kent Thune at The Balance. Nonetheless, one type of fund stock out from the rest: large-cap equity funds. “U.S. large-cap stock funds have been the best performing category of the seven we looked at, and short-term bond funds, the worst,” said Thune.

It needs to be noted, however, that it’s not enough for investors to evaluate mutual funds based solely on returns; they need to simultaneously consider their investing window and acceptable risk tolerance. In addition to personal preferences, investors also need to consider management fees, the fund’s track record, and even the money managers themselves. All of these things need to be considered when trying to determine which mutual funds give the best returns.

The Best Mutual Funds To Invest In

There isn’t a single, objective winner when it comes to picking the best mutual funds to invest in. If for nothing else, intrinsic value can’t be placed on risk and peace of mind. Investors on the verge of retirement, for example, will value risk-averse money market funds over their riskier, higher-yielding counterparts. Younger investors with a longer investment horizon, on the other hand, will prefer equity funds. Therefore, to pick the best mutual fund to invest in, investors must first get their own priorities in order.

Here are two of the best mutual funds; one for risk-averse investors and one for those ok with a little exposure:

  1. T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth (NASDAQMUTFUND: TRBCX): Meant for investors with longer time horizons and a penchant for slight risk, the T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth fund prioritizes two types of returns: long-term capital growth and income. The fund invests the majority of its net assets into large and medium-sized blue-chip stocks. As blue-chip stocks, the majority of the fund’s holdings have a proven track record and seem to offer a good mixture of risk versus reward for patient investors. Year-to-date, this fund has awarded investors with a return of 24.55%, far exceeding what many would call a good return.

  2. Fidelity Total Bond Fund (NASDAQMUTFUND: FTBFX): The Fidelity Total Bond Fund puts the majority of its assets into debt securities and repurchase agreements for said securities. In doing so, the Fidelity Total Bond Fund seeks to provide risk-averse investors with a high level of current income.

mutual funds to invest in

How To Choose The Best Mutual Fund To Invest In

With several types to choose from, mutual funds can intimidate even the most veteran of investors. The sheer variety is enough to cause anyone to second guess their investment decision. That said, there’s no reason to panic. If for nothing else, people have been investing in mutual funds with a high degree of success since they were founded. Subsequently, they have paved the way for the rest of the investing world with a series of logical steps.

To make investing in your first mutual fund easier and less scary, follow these steps:

  • Identify Your Goals & Risk Tolerance

  • Choose A Style & Fund Type

  • Understand The Different Fees & Loads

  • Choose Active Or Passive Management

  • Research Past Results

  • Focus On What Matters

Identify Your Goals & Risk Tolerance

Mutual funds were designed to cater to specific investors. As a result, there’s a fund for just about every type of investor out there. Therefore, instead of choosing a fund immediately, first, take a look at what you hope to accomplish and how much risk you are comfortable taking on between now and retirement.

Choose A Style & Fund Type

Once you have identified your goals and risk tolerance, proceed to choose the type of fund that suits your needs the best. Again, there are several types of mutual funds. Which one works for you will depend on the previously discussed goals and risk tolerance.

Investors nearing retirement will want to look to lock in returns as much as possible. With fewer years to make up for any mistakes, more secure returns hold a higher priority. The closer one gets to retirement, in fact, the fewer risky investment options they should have in their portfolio, and mutual funds are no exception. Older investors will want to reduce their risk of exposure and secure more income. Fixed-income funds and money market funds, for example, are a great complement to a retired investor’s portfolio.

Younger investors, on the other hand, are granted the benefit of time. With a longer investment horizon, younger investors can take on more risk in exchange for higher returns. Equity funds—particularly small and medium cap funds—grant investors the opportunity to compound returns almost exponentially in the right portfolios.

Understand The Different Fees & Loads

Mutual funds are directed by professional money managers, meaning someone else will be doing the investing for contributors to the fund. That said, nothing comes for free. To enlist the services of the fund, investors will need to pay fees and loads. Fees are universal, but how they are changed from mutual fund to mutual fund can vary. More often than not, those fees can be classified in one of two ways: annual operating fees and shareholder fees.

Annual operating fees (expense ratios) are an annual percentage of the funds under management. The more money the fund manages, the more the annual operating fee will be. It is common for the expense ratio to range between 1.0% and 3.0%. Funds will typically use this money to pay advisory or management fees and administrative costs.

Shareholder fees are incurred when shareholders decide to either buy or sell. These actions aren’t free and may be applied either at the purchase or sale of assets (depending on the shares’ class. Fund contributors will incur sales costs, commissions, and redemption fees anytime they buy or sell.

Loads, on the other hand, determine when fees will be incurred. Front-end loads, for example, witness the fund take the commission out of the initial investment. Back-end loads will incur charges at the time of a sale. Loads can make a difference in the number of fees investors incur, so they need to be taken into consideration when deciding how long the investment will be. Upfront fees, for example, are not well suited for short-term investments. Back-end loads, on the other hand, work well for investors with long time horizons.

Choose Active Or Passive Management

Next, investors will need to decide if they prefer an active or passive management style. That’s not to say whether or not the investor themselves will be actively involved in making decisions, but rather what the money manager will be making their decisions based off of.

Actively managed mutual funds, as their names suggest, come complete with managers who make all of the investment decisions. The managers will actively choose which securities and equities best represent their clients’ needs (the same needs you decided on in the first step on this list). At this time, active managers will mind due diligence and compile an investment portfolio worthy of your money. More importantly, active managers always seek to outperform the major indices.

Not surprisingly, passive management takes less of a “hands-on” approach. Instead of a money manager actively managing your money, they will invest it in an index fund and attempt to match the index’s returns. Passive funds tend to be a lot more diversified, which reduces risk, but also returns.

In choosing an active or passive mutual fund, you will once again need to with your risk tolerance with your potential gains. Those with a long-term horizon may want to seek an active money manager who can beat the market. However, some investors may want to play it safe and mimic the major indices’ returns with an index fund.

Research Past Results

When researching mutual funds, it’s always a good idea to look at past performance. After all, there’s no point in giving your money to an incompetent manager. To be fair, most mutual funds have a pretty good track record, but they are not all created equal. Some mutual funds have a better track record than others, and it’s up to investors to pick the managers they are most comfortable with.

In particular, there are three things investors will want to look at when evaluating a fund’s past results:

  1. Was the mutual fund able to deliver on their promised results in the past?

  2. How volatile was the mutual fund compared to major indices?

  3. How high was the rate of turnover at the mutual fund?

These three indicators will give investors a good look at a mutual fund’s past performance. While they are not all that needs to be considered, they are a great place to start asking questions.

Focus On What Matters

Researching past results will give investors a good idea of how funds operate, but there’s more to today’s best funds than what they have done in the past. In other words, investors won’t make money off of what the fund did before they arrived; they will only make money on the capital they invest moving forward. Therefore, it’s important to look into a fund’s prospects.

In looking to the future, heed the words of Morningstar’s five P’s: Process, Performance, People, Parent, and Price. The investment research company evaluates funds based on these principles and may provide peace of mind for investors. The five P’s help Morningstar evaluate individual investment strategies, the longevity of each fund’s managers, their expense ratios, and other important factors. Their findings can help investors find the best funds to place their money in, with confidence. Of course, nothing is ever guaranteed, but professional research from Morningstar is certainly helpful in making a decision.


To be clear, even the best mutual funds to invest in are incomplete without a diversified portfolio around them. In other words, mutual funds shouldn’t be the sole component of any portfolio but are better suited to complement other holdings. On their own, they are attractive, constant wealth-building machines, but with a complimentary portfolio supporting them, mutual funds become a powerful tool. With the best mutual funds, investors can rest assured their money is in the right hands.

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