A mutual fund is a efficiently managed type of collective investment plan that pools money from many investors and invests typically in investment securities (stocks, bonds, short-term money market instruments, other mutual funds, other securities, and/or commodities such as precious metals).
Mutual funds are divided into shares and can be bought much like stocks, allowing mutual funds to have a high liquidity. Mutual funds are suitable, mainly for small investors, because they diversify an individual’s monies among a number of investments. Investors share in the profits of a mutual fund, and mutual fund shares can be sold back to the company on any business day at the net asset value price. Mutual funds may or may not have a load, or fee; however, funds with a load will offer advice from a specialist, which may aid the investor in choosing a mutual fund.
Types of Mutual Funds
Open End Mutual Fund - A mutual fund with shares bought and sold by the fund itself. An investor invests by sending the mutual fund company a check which then calculates the Net Asset Value at the close of business that day and credits the investor with the suitable number of shares. When the investors sells their shares, the mutual fund company redeems the shares and calculates the amount owed based on the Net Asset Value.
Closed End Mutual Fund - An investment mutual fund that trades like other stocks. The price is determined by the marketplace. If the price is exceeding net asset value the mutual fund is said to trade at a premium. If the price is lower than the net asset value the fund is said to trade at a discount (normally funds trade at a small [5-10%] discount to net asset value).
Index Fund - fund that seeks to mirror the results of an index such as the S&P 500 Index, the Wilshire 5000 Index or the FTSEurofirst. Since the fund merely tries to mirror the makeup of the index the costs of analysts etc. are avoided and index funds benefit from a lower expense ratio.
Net Asset Value (NAV) - Total assets minus total liabilities then divided by the total number of outstanding shares. The NAV is calculated daily by the funds.
Front End Load - an open end mutual fund with a sales fee (usually to pay salespeople, stock brokers, etc.). The "load" is a percentage of total purchase price and often declines with bigger invested amounts.
Back End Load - an open end mutual fund with a sales fee (typically to pay salespeople, stock brokers, etc.). The "load" is charged to the investor when they sell rather than they buy. It is calculated as percentage of total sales price.
12b-1 fees - an open end mutual fund with a sales fee (customarily to pay salespeople, stock brokers, etc.). This fee is a percentage of total value. Often it is charged on mutual funds without front end loads (to provide payment to salespeople and stock brokers without having to make the sales charge as visible to the customer).
Money Market Fund - Money market funds hold 26% of mutual fund assets in the United States.  Money market funds entail the least risk, as well as lower rates of return. Unlike certificates of deposit (CDs), money market shares are liquid and redeemable at any time.
Exchange Traded Fund - An exchange-traded fund (or ETF) (also known as Exchange-Traded Product (ETP)) are securities that closely resemble index funds, but can be bought and sold during the day just like common stocks. These investment vehicles allow investors a well-situated way to purchase a broad basket of securities in a single transaction. Essentially, ETFs offer the convenience of a stock along with the diversification of a mutual fund.
Inverse Funds - ETFs that aim to act as short positions would. For example if the index they target declines 1% the inverse fund would increase 1%.
Hedge Fund – Hedge Funds are private investment partnerships (exempt from SEC rules for mutual funds). Typically hedge funds take aggressive, often speculative and leveraged investment strategies but that is not required to be a hedge fund. Often the fund managers are paid performance fees, taking a significant percentage of gains. They are only open for investments from wealthy investors (over $200,000 in income and net worth of over $1 million).
Equity Funds - consist mainly of stock investments, are the most common type of mutual fund. Equity funds hold 50 percent of all amounts invested in mutual funds in the United States. Often equity funds focus investments on particular strategies and certain types of issuers.
Capitalization (Mid-Cap and Large Cap) – SMALL CAP FUND, fund comprised of relatively small publicly traded corporations, with a total market value, or capitalization, of less than $500 million. MID-CAP FUND, a fund that invests principally in the stocks of companies with a medium market capitalization (mid caps). LARGE CAP FUND, the stocks of companies with market capitalizations of $5 billion.
Growth Fund - A growth fund is a type of mutual fund that mostly focuses on the purchase of equities likely to have excellent growth potential. These mutual funds take higher investment risks and invest in more volatile stocks to achieve above average growth. Stock values may appreciate or depreciate depending on the success of the companies invested in and other market factors.
Funds of Funds - A "fund of funds" (FoF) is an investment strategy of holding a portfolio of other investment funds rather than investing directly in shares, bonds or other securities. This type of investing is often referred to as multi-manager investment. There are different types of 'fund of funds', each investing in a different type of collective investment scheme (typically one type per FoF), eg. 'mutual fund' FoF, hedge fund FoF, private equity FoF or investment trust FoF.
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