Selecting a Mutual Fund When you first get into investing, you have to have a clear idea of what it is you want to accomplish. Most people have long term financial goals like saving for retirement or saving for a second home or maybe to put the kids through college. You also have a time frame. You have 20 years to make this money, or if you get into investing at a younger age, you could have 40 or 50 years to spend investing before your goal comes due. These are all vitally important questions that you need to have answered before you start investing. They will tell you what sort of fund to select for your portfolio. Here are a few general tips for selecting a fund that's right for you. If your goal is to have the most growth to your capital that you can get, than an aggressive growth mutual fund or an international growth mutual fund is for you. These kind of mutual funds invest in stocks that are hot and have a great potential for hitting it big. The chance for your capital to increase is very high, but the risk involved in these stocks is also extremely high. They are only recommended for long-term investors who can afford to take a hit if need be. If you're looking for a high amount of capital growth, but you aren't ready for that degree of risk, try growth mutual funds, specialty or sector mutual funds or international mutual funds. They tend to look more towards long-term success in common stock, not a quick hit. The risk is still considered high with these mutual funds, but it's not as high as the previous option. If your goals are a bit different and creating current income is a big part of what you want to do, than growth and income mutual funds are right for you. The risk level with these mutual funds are ranked high to moderate and they invest in common stocks with a good possibility for dividends and appreciation of your capital. If your main goal is to create a high amount of current income and capital appreciation isn't a concern, then fixed income mutual funds and equity income mutual funds would be the right choice. The risk is considered moderate to low, but the potential for current income is very high. Selecting the right mutual fund for you is a very important decision. You must have a clear idea of your goals to make the right choice. Once you know your position, you can be well on your way to enjoying success in mutual fund investing. Types of mutual funds So, you've decided to jump into the mutual fund investment game. While mutual funds have shown themselves over time to be a safer bet than regular stock trading, there is always the chance you could lose your shirt. But the type of fund you choose will have a lot to do with the amount of risk you take on and the kind of return you're looking for. For starters, mutual funds are usually broken down into six main categories: - Equity Mutual Funds allow you to invest in typical shares of common, everyday stock. - Fixed Income Mutual Funds allow you to invest in corporate or government securities that usually offer a set rate of return on your investment. - Balanced Mutual Funds allow the investor to take on a fund that includes both stock and bond options. - Money Market Mutual Funds are perhaps the safest form of mutual funds. They offer a high degree of stability for your principal, as well as high liquidity if you need to back out. - Bond Mutual Funds are popular since they invest in tax free as well as taxable ones. - And finally, Sector/Speciality Funds are used to help diversify your holdings within a particular industry. Each of these types of funds can be both aggressive and risky with a high level of reward possible, or they can be safer and lower risk. It all depends on which fund you choose. To break things down further, equity funds are usually divided up into four different categories: Growth and Income mutual funds, International mutual funds, growth mutual funds and aggressive growth mutual funds. Each different type of fund has a particular goal in mind. For some, it's to aggressively pursue income, even in risky situations, while others seek to preserve the initial investment and only take smaller chances. As you can see, the mutual fund landscape is filled with so many options, it can make a newbie's head spin. But fear not, there is almost limitless information available on which mutual fund is right for your particular investment strategy. Not only do most mutual funds and those that run them have their own website, there is endless advice as to which fund is right for you on the Internet, as well. Don't forget to utilize publications like the Wall Street Journal, as well as friends and family who might have had particular luck with a specific fund. Welcome to mutual fund investing! Mutual Funds Benefits Every kind of investing has its ups and downs. Those that deal in stocks enjoy the way that stock ownership works and that it meets their investing goals. The same can be said for those that invest in mutual funds. There are both positives and negatives to investing in mutual funds, and we'll take a look at some of those positives right now. Maybe the most reassuring aspect of investing in mutual funds is the knowledge that your fund is being managed and taken care of by a professional. With stock and bond trading, your best weapon is your gut instinct and a dog-eared copy of the Wall Street Journal. With mutual funds, you're trusting your investment to someone who probably has the Journal memorized and also has an entire corporation's brain trust at his disposal. For those that are working on a tight budget and may not have much wiggle room, mutual funds are a great choice because they have maximum liquidity. Liquidity is the ability to get your cash back on your investment if you need to. With some investments, your money is tied up for extended periods of time with no way for you to access it without huge penalties. Mutual funds allow you to sell back what you've bought at the end of every trading day so you can have instant access to your money. A common buzzword associated with investing is diversification. It's based on the premise that you don't want all of your investments on the same thing. Since mutual funds invest in stocks, commodities, bonds and other things, you can help to diversity your investment portfolio instantly with mutual fund investing. A big plus for those that are new to investing is how easy mutual fund investing is. Most investors don't even have to worry about paying the proper tax and keeping the right records because mutual fund companies provide these services as part of managing your money. They are a fantastic way for first time investors to experiment in the market. Finally, mutual funds provide a huge amount of choice when it comes to investing. No matter how much you want to invest, how much risk you want to take or what your short and long term goals are, there is a mutual fund that is right for you. While no form of investing is risk-free, mutual funds provide a broad set of choices that are perfect for first time investors and seasoned vets, alike. For a growing number of people, mutual funds are the best investment deal out there. Mutual Funds and Fees While mutual funds have become one of the most popular and accessible forms of investing, they do come with a few strings attached. It doesn't matter what sort of investing you are trying, stocks, bonds, securities and even mutual funds come with fees. But how can you tell what kind of fund has what kind of fee and what are the different kinds of fees out there? A common fee connected to mutual funds that are bought through a broker or a third party is a sales charge. One of the major advantages of buying your mutual funds directly through the company that sells them is that you can usually avoid the sales charge fee. One of the most important lessons you can learn about mutual fund investing is to always look for no-load mutual funds. A no-load fund has no fees attached. But what if you see a load fund that you really want to try? Load funds are broken down into thee classes: A, B and C. Each letter carries a different set of fee rules. For A load funds, you can expect to have a 4-6% chunk of your investment taken once you buy the fund. There is an additional annual fee of about .25% that is also taken out. For B funds, there is no fee taken out at the beginning, but there is a fee once you want to take your money out of the mutual funds. This fee does go away after six years of having the fund, but you will get dinged if you try to take your money out any sooner. For C funds, they are free of both the beginning and ending fee, but they do have an annual fee that can fluctuate depending on the fund contract you signed. All mutual funds, regardless if they are load or no load, do come with a management fee. This is like a commission that is paid to the folks that manage your fund and help it make money. This fee is usually fairly small and almost never crosses 1 percent. While it always stinks to have to pay fees, at least with this one you're rewarding the people that are helping you make money. While fees are a fact of life when dealing with mutual funds, the best thing you can do as an investor is to stay away from load funds at all costs. Keep your money working for you and not in the pocket of a broker. Where can you buy mutual funds? For those that are new to investing and have decided that mutual funds are the way to go, the next logical question is how do you go about purchasing them? There are many different ways to go about investing in mutual funds, and you have several different options to choose from. One of the most popular ways to buy mutual funds is directly from the companies. The type of fund you want to look for is a no-load mutual fund. No-load funds are free from fees and additional costs that load funds tend to have. Since you're going directly through to the fund company, you will save a transaction fee that you would normally have to pay through a broker, and since you aren't paying any fees, all of your money goes towards investing. Going about investing directly is easy. Once you've chosen the company you want to deal with, you simply fill out an application, enclose a check for the amount you want to invest and mail it in. It couldn't be easier. Another popular way to buy mutual funds is online through a broker or through a mutual fund superstore. Most of these online superstores like T. Rowe Price or Wells Fargo (there are many others, as well) don't charge any transaction fees for their services because the fund you end up buying will reimburse them. Be careful though, these online superstores often sell funds that do carry transaction fees or they carry load mutual funds that can come with some steep fees of their own. Make sure you read all the fine print and know what you're investing in before you buy it. Maybe the most common way of buying mutual funds is through your work's retirement program. Your 401(k) account is most likely tied to mutual funds so you may already be a seasoned mutual fund investor and not even know it. To find out more about the funds your retirement plan invests in, you can visit the website of the fund that your 401(k) invests in. If you have signed up for a 529 College Saving Plan, than you've bought into mutual funds. These brand new plans are made for families who are trying to help their kids through college. Their main benefit is the tax laws that are used for withdrawals from the plan. In most cases, if money is taken out for education expenses, it's tax free. This is an ideal plan for most families who are worrying about paying for college. A final way that you can invest in mutual funds is with a financial advisor. While this way would be a bit more costly since you would have to pay the advisor, you are bound to make the best mutual fund investment choice for you. Buying mutual funds in this day and age of the Internet is easier than it has ever been. But be careful, make sure you crunch the numbers and make an educated choice and you can be well on your way to financial freedom with mutual funds! What is a prospectus and how do I read it? When you first buy into a mutual fund, most people have a thousand questions. How has the fund performed in the past year? How do the fees work and which ones do I have to pay? Are there any penalties for withdrawing my money early? What happens if the fund goes out of business? All the answers to these questions are listed in what is known as a prospectus. A prospectus is simply a book or pamphlet that lists all the information about a fund. Every mutual fund company gives out a prospectus, and sometimes, if the performance for a particular fund hasn't done well recently, it will even come with bad news about that fund. A prospectus must be accurate. The United States Securities & Exchange Commission checks on the validity of the statements in all financial documents released by investment firms to make sure they are honestly showing people what the fund has done and what they think it will do. When you open the front cover to a prospectus, they usually hit on three different topics right off the bat: the fees that this fund charges, the objectives of the fund and the performance of the fund. While there are other concerns when you look at a prospectus, these three things are the most important. Most companies will present the fee schedule in an easy to read graph. Remember, the fund must disclose all fees, there can't be any surprises. A mutual fund prospectus is also required by the SEC to list their performance. They must list this information, even if it's not up to the expectations of the fund. It can usually be found within the first few pages of the prospectus. Most of this data is presented in the form of a table so that reading it and understating it is simple. Also, there is no shame whatsoever in asking questions. Every investor had to start somewhere and if you don't ask questions about a particular mutual fund before investing in it, you might just be throwing your money away. There will likely be more information in your prospectus as well, including profiles of the managers that handle the fund, as well as the founders of the investment company and so on. A prospectus is like a bible for whatever mutual fund you choose to invest in. With oversight provided by the SEC, a prospectus must be a honest document that shows you exactly what you're getting yourself into with every mutual fund. What is a Roth IRA? The choice of mutual funds and investment opportunities available that you can out your money in is mind boggling. There are literally hundreds of funds, all with different goals and different amounts of risk. One of the most well known and popular investment choices is known as the Roth IRA. But what is it and how do you invest in it? The Roth IRA is a retirement account that uses stocks, mutual funds and securities to help people earn money for their retirement. They are open to invest in, but there are guidelines that you would have to meet that are set by the Internal Revenue Service. One of the major plusses to having a Roth IRA is the way the taxes involved with the account work. When people deposit money into their Roth IRA, it is from money that has already been taxed, usually from income earned, and when you need to take money out, anything up to the amount that was contributed, is tax free. If you need to take out more money than you put in (money that was earned in the IRA), it is tax free in most situations. If you chose to use a regular IRA, there is no guarantee that the money you deposit into the account will be tax deductible (some of it is, some of it isn't, it depends), and when you choose to take money out, it will be taxed. An additional bonus to a Roth IRA over a normal one is that there are fewer barriers stopping you from taking the money out of the account once you've put it in. The biggest negative to using a Roth IRA to help with retirement is that the money you contribute into your account is not tax deductible. Another downside to the Roth IRA is that there can be major penalties associated with withdrawing your earnings too early. There are, however, many, many exceptions to these penalties, like buying a home for the first time, or withdrawing money to pay for college or even your children's college expenses. Overall, a Roth IRA is a fantastic choice for those looking to retire and shield a vast majority of their retirement savings from taxes. While there are fees for early withdrawal, the benefits of the Roth IRA far outweigh the potential costs as seen by the soaring popularity of this investment choice. What is automatic investing? For many, the idea of investing in mutual funds, stocks and bonds is appealing, but it all seems too complicated. Too much jargon, too much danger, too much hassle. Thankfully, the companies that run mutual funds know this and have come up with a way for new investors who may not have a big wad of cash to invest right off the bat. It's called automatic investing and it is highly recommended for those new to mutual funds and for those that want to invest but don't have a lot of up-front funds. Automatic investing is done through a mutual fund company, and what happens is, you sign up to purchase a set amount of funds either every month or every few months (usually quarterly). You buy a bit at a time, whatever you feel you can afford, and your shares are managed by the mutual fund company. It is a great way to watch a nest egg form from money you didn't even know you had. A great part about automatic investing is that most mutual fund companies are so excited to get new investors in, they will waive most if not all transaction and investment fees for those that are signing up for automatic investing. They understand you may not have a lot of extra cash to throw away on fees and they want you to get your feet wet with mutual funds. Maybe the best part about automatic investing is that it is a very disciplined form of investing. Instead of opening up an E-Trade account and investing from your home computer, an investment expert at the mutual fund company that you invest in will handle your shares and in this case, it is probably best to let the experts handle it. It's extremely tempting to chase mutual funds when investing yourself. You hear the latest news about funds that may be surging and its tempting to take your money and jump on the hottest fund, but disciplined, long-term investing is a much more beneficial way to go. Whichever company you choose to use for automatic investing will supply you with a prospectus that will outline all of the fees that may or may not be associated with your account. This is key since you'll need to know what any possible cost might be for things like early withdrawals. For many, automatic investing takes the guesswork and the fear out of mutual fund investing by allowing a large amount of money to build up over time. Contact a mutual fund company to see if automatic investing is right for you! What is your risk tolerance? One of the biggest parts of investing is determining your own risk tolerance. When most people think of risk tolerance, they think, "How much can I stand to lose before I start to struggle." Risk is a huge part of investing because it dictates what sort of mutual funds you can put your money into, how much money you can invest and for how long. Knowing your risk tolerance is one of the biggest keys to successful investing. Risk is usually defined as short term volatility in prices or variability in prices. But there is a whole other kind of risk at the other end of the spectrum. The risk of not meeting your goals by investing. The main reason why anyone begins to invest is to meet goals that they have set for themselves. The most common goal in investing is saving money for retirement or for that second home. Risk goes both ways, there is the chance you could lose your shirt with an investment, and the chance that if you don't take enough risks, you won't meet the goals you've set for yourself. The first thing you need to do is to take a personal assessment of your own risk and develop what is known as an investment personality. Everyone's personality will be different, they are unique like fingerprints. Some investors can stand to take some big chances now with the lure of a potential payoff down the road, while others who may not have much time between the time they start investing and the point where their financial goals need to be realized and can't take big risks. A good barometer to judge what your risk will be is how will you feel in your capital goes up, down or stays the same? Are you willing to be patient and accept small increases, or do you want to see the most possible movement? If you're sitting at your computer right now ringing your hands in fear that you might lose money on your investment, you should already be able to tell exactly what sort of investor you are. Assessing both ends of your risk tolerance is quite possibly the most important single financial decision you can make. Knowing how much money you can invest, how long you need to invest it for and what kind of mutual funds you want to buy into is very important. Once you determine your own risk tolerance, you will be ready to take the next step and start investing. List of mistakes investors make In the rush to be a part of the exciting and profitable world of mutual fund investing, many investors make mistakes. It's human nature and nothing to be ashamed of, but they can and should be avoided. Here are a few helpful tips in avoiding the common mistakes that many other new investors make. First off, a cardinal sin that many new investors make is that they only look at a mutual funds previous performance and not at the possible future. Sure, a stock or mutual funds performance in the past is a good sign of how its been managed and it always is a good sign to surround yourself with people who know what their doing, but you have to take the current state of the market into account. For example, funds that may have been heavy on dot.com's did great in 1998 and 1999, but if you had a fund that was heavy in tech stocks in 2000, you probably lost your shirt. Past performance doesn't mean as much as people think it does, and you would be wise to not put as much emphasis on it when you go to invest. While the percentages listed in the prospectus might seem low, operating expenses for mutual funds really do matter. If you're looking at a fund that might have a higher than average percent fee for running the fund, you might want to look at other funds, instead. Most market experts think that the percentage of returns over the next few years will be down, and so that fee for running the fund takes a bigger and bigger bite out of your profit. It may not seem like much, but it can really add up over time, especially if profits are down. A small but important part of investing is checking out what your fund manager has on his plate. This can be done by checking the prospectus the fund company sent you. Remember, if your fund is doing bang up business, it's likely that the fund manager who is overseeing it is going to get more funds to manage or a promotion to look over an entire group of funds. This could likely take away from the time he has to look over YOUR fund, and while we wish fund managers all the luck in the world in their career, you want someone who is going to be focused on making money for you. As long as there are people investing in mutual funds, there will be mistakes made. While they can't be avoided completely, a few common sense tips can help you avoid the biggies and keep your money working for you.
Determining Reward vs. Risk The concept of risk versus reward is the basis for not only mutual fund investing, but investing altogether. The same system of risk versus reward can be translated to almost every part of life. When you analyze a situation, you can determine the possible risks of doing something and then the possible rewards of doing something and decide what the best course of action is for you. Determining your risk versus reward strategy for mutual fund investing is key. The first thing investors of all stripes need to learn is that while mutual funds are a fun, exciting and easy way to invest, there is always a chance, no matter how slim, that you could lose every single penny you invest. That is one kind of risk. The other kind is the risk of not meeting your investing goals that you have set for yourself. This is a tightrope that every investor must walk, determining your risk while trying to earn the reward. The risk associated with investing can be caused by many different factors. Things like general economic conditions, the rising or falling of interest rates and inflation are just a few factors that can cause a stock or a mutual fund to rise or fall. One of the best parts about mutual funds is that the risk involved in each fund is clearly stated BEFORE you invest. If you're just looking to make a few dollars for holiday shopping, you can do that and keep your risk very low. If you are 25 and have a whole lifetime to invest for your retirement, there are mutual funds that can help you take big chances with even bigger rewards. If you lose your money, it's not as big of a deal since you have your whole life to make it back. Maybe the best advice you can take when analyzing risk versus reward is the fact that every stock, every bond and, yes, every mutual fund will fluctuate. This is an inarguable truism in the world of investing. There may be a few times when you sit down with your morning paper and you need two antacids with your morning coffee because your fund lost a few points. But with smart investing and good advice, you'll have far more mornings where you leave for work with a smile on your face because your fund is doing well. Analyzing risk versus reward is a huge part of investing and if you are having trouble figuring out how much risk to take, ask for help. You don't want to enter into investing with a blurry picture of your risk vs. reward. The more you know about your personal situation, the better off you'll be. Tax and distributions Most investors would agree that mutual funds are a great way to help create a nest egg, save for retirement or for your kids' college education. There are, however, an entire series of taxes that are levied against investments of all kinds, including mutual fund investments. While they may not always seem fair, they are a fact of life and the more you know about all the various forms of taxes, the better prepared you'll be to deal with them. While there are fees associated with some mutual funds when you open the account, and taxes for capital gains as the money appreciates within the mutual fund, there are also a series of taxes associated with the distribution of earnings from the mutual fund back to you. These distributions can take on several different forms, such as capital gains, income dividends and interest. A mutual fund is legally obligated to give out all of the investors income and the money that the fund made. But what exactly is an income dividend? Income dividends usually include dividends, capital gains and interest that is earned by the mutual fund company minus the expenses and fees are taken out. The distribution associated with capital gains is usually made once per year to the shareholders. These capital gains come from a year of good performance by the mutual fund. When a mutual fund company pays out dividends to their shareholders, the NAV or net asset value of your mutual fund will go down, but you can also take that dividend pay out and buy more shares if you're happy with the performance. There are ways to help avoid the tax liability of reinvesting your dividends back into your mutual fund. Most distributions done by mutual fund companies is done near the end of the year. If you don't want to spend the payout on Christmas presents, you can reinvest the money, but you should do it after the record date. This will help you avoid extra tax liability on your dividends. Paying taxes on your distribution is a pain. But if your mutual fund is performing well, a small tax on your earning won't hurt so bad. This is another reason why intelligent, well managed investing is so important. Not only do you have to worry about your fund going up and down in price, but also tax liability. That's why it pays to invest wisely and use a disciplined approach. Understanding mutual funds in the newspaper We've all seen the financial pages in the newspaper. Usually we flip past it on the way to the comics, the horoscope, of if you're like me, to the sports section. But what do all those squiggles and arrows mean anyway, and now that you're thinking about investing in mutual funds, can you see how your fund is doing every day in the morning paper? The answer is, of course, yes. And not only that but mutual fund listing are a bit easier to read with less complicated jargon that reading the stock prices next to it. Most major daily newspapers have the mutual fund section separate form the rest of the stock and bond information. There is usually a large, bold headline showing where the fund are listed. Now that you've found where the mutual funds are listed, let's try to decode all this information. Your fund will be listed alphabetically in the column under the name of the company that manages it. You'll see three column next to each fund name. In the first column, you'll see "NAV". This is short for "Net Asses Value." Don't panic, this is just a simple mathematical formula that shows what each share in that mutual fund is worth. To determine how much your shares in that mutual fund are worth, just multiply the amount of shares in that fund that you own by the NAV. The second column says Offer Price. This is what you would pay right now if you wanted to buy more shares. Often, you'll see a NL in this column instead of a price. I bet you can figure out what that means. Yep! It means it's a no-load fund and you would pay what the NAV is if you wanted to buy more shares. Not so scary anymore, is it? The final column is the change column. This information is the same essential thing that you would see if you were reading the stock page: a + in this column shows that the value of your fund has gone up since the last day's close, and a - shows that it's gone down. And that's it! While the mutual fund page in your newspaper may look bizarre, once you break it all down you can see that it's all pretty basic. So start checking your funds today and you can watch your money grow! College vs. Retirement For most people, investing in mutual funds is pretty straight forward. You have specific goals that need to be met. You and your partner are approaching mutual fund investing with your eyes open and you're both on the same page. Granted, she may want that pretty cottage down by the lake and you want that new speedboat, but both your goals involve water, and that's close enough for you. But what if you're in a completely different boat? What if you know you need to invest, but you have two equally important goals pulling you two different ways? This is the case with thousands of parents who see the need to save for retirement but also want to save for the kids' college education. How can you do both at the same time? Here are a few tips. One of the biggest factors in the college vs. retirement battle is the fact that people are putting off having kids until later in life these days. Fifty years ago, this wasn't the case, and saving for both college and retirement usually happened during two distinctly different phases in one's life. These days, now that we realize that saving for retirement is something that should be started when you're 18, not 48, the two overlap more than ever. The gut instinct of most parents is to put the kids' future ahead of their own and cut back on retirement savings in favour of college. While this is a popular choice, it really only should be a last resort. A technique that is becoming more and more popular with parents who face saving for both at once is offering your prospective college student the chance to get matching funds from you. This is simply the idea that for every dollar they pay for, you'll match it. If your not sure how junior will pay for half, remember, there are many ways for teenagers to save for college themselves. Almost everyone qualifies for student loans, there are scholarships for good grades as well as an after school and summertime job. Most college students work while they are attending classes, as well. While walking the tightrope of saving for two goals at once can be stressful, a logical and determined approach to the situation is really the only way to go. Choosing retirement over your kids' education isn't a "wrong" choice, and neither is choosing college over retirement. Everyone's situation is different and you need to make the right choice for your situation. Tips to invest for retirement People choose mutual funds for investing for many different reasons. Some people start very early (the smart ones) with dreams of a second house in the German Alps or a thatched roof pub in the English countryside. For some, mutual funds are a practical and easy way to save for the college education of their kids, or even grandkids. But without a doubt, the most popular reason for mutual fund investing is saving for retirement. With social security looking less and less helpful, many realize that investing to save for retirement isn't a choice anymore, but a must. Here are some tips for those that are looking ahead to their golden years with mutual fund investing. First off, the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. Convincing a 25 year old recent college graduate that they need to put some of their income away to save for college can be almost impossible, but trust us, the sooner you start, the better off you'll be. Take a financial inventory of your life. If you have several retirement accounts from jobs you've had since you were 30, you can easily combine them now into one savings account. You can also figure in the value of your home, your possessions and your savings to get an idea of how much net worth you have and how that can relate to your ability to save for retirement. While this may sound like a basic idea, setting goals in a big part of saving for retirement. Get together with a financial expert and decide what age you want to retire at and how much money you'll need per year and how long you expect to be retired for. Knowing all this will help you plan long term for your retirement. Try to open an emergency account. This account, which should be all cash, can be for emergencies that you may face while you're trying to save for your retirement. The main purpose is that in case something goes wrong, you won't take the money you've been saving for your retirement out and use it. That money needs to be kept where it is so you can keep marching towards your retirement goals. While saving for retirement can be difficult, using various investment tools including mutual funds can really help. Combine that with solid advice from your broker and you will be well on your way to celebrating your retirement years in style. Retirement budget For many, retirement seems like a far-away stage of their lives, filled with carefree days with nothing to do but travel, sip wine and watch the sun set. While this may be the reality for some, for most people who don't budget properly for retirement, their golden years are filled with work and penny pinching, not relaxing. Planning a budget for retiring is extremely important and a vital tool to properly saving. A commonly used mathematical approach is to say that you need, on average 70 or 80 percent of what you make now per year to live on once you retire. A big part of what you need to figure in is how you plan on spending your retirement years. If you're looking to travel the world and stay at 5-star hotels, you might want to budget on the high side. If you're happy staying at home and relaxing, you can budget on the lower end. To figure out your retirement budget, there a few things you need to do. First, figure out where your retirement income is going to come from and how much of it there will be. Most people get retirement income from a variety of sources like the 401(k) plan they had at various jobs they worked over the years, social security payments, retirement investments and savings as well as any possible income from a job that you would work after retirement. To figure how much you would be getting from social security, check the statements they send you in the mail and the amount you would be getting is broken down there. The next logical step is to try to estimate your list of expenses. While this can be extremely difficult for those that are looking decades ahead, it's best to try to put together some kind of plan. The best way to approach it is to itemize your expenses and break them down by category, such as living expenses, utilities, health care and so on. A few final tips that can help you in the long run is to try to take care of all of your debt before you retire. Paying off the credit cards or your mortgage in one lump sum will help you out in the long run. Don't forget any possible dependants. If you are responsible for the expenses of others, you must figure them in, too. Retirement can either be a wonderful time filled with happiness or it can be a scary time filled with uncertainty. The road you walk down is up to you. The choices you make now will influence how you spend the best years of your life. Retirement investing for women The idea that investing for retirement would be different for women than it would be for men may seem silly and even slightly insulting at first glance. The idea isn't meant to be sexist in any way, but there are a number of factors that tend to be different in lives of women that make this topic vitally important. The first is the fact that women are paid less for the same job in the modern workforce. While this margin has been getting smaller and smaller over time, it's still significant. In a recent study by the United States Department of Labour, women were shown to earn 24 percent less than men for doing the exact same job. This can have serious implications when it comes to investing for retirement. The same study by the Department of Labour also showed that women, on average, spend less time working than men. A gap of seven years was present in the study due to time that some women take off to have children, raise a family or care for elderly or sick parents. While the obvious impact to the amount of money earned in a lifetime is obvious, there is also the impact on any sort of savings plan through work, as well as less social security. As if that wasn't bad enough, the last United States Census showed that women are living an average of seven years longer than men. So, not only are women earning less and in fewer years in the workforce, they also live longer which means they need to save more for retirement. What does all this mean? It means that women might need to take a slightly more aggressive path toward investing for their retirement. It also means that women need to start even earlier than men to start saving and investing. Other good tips are to set different goals than your husband, since your set of circumstances are different. You might also want to have even more diversification in your portfolio than most so that if some of your investments go sour, you won't be left with nothing. It's also a good idea to stay on top of your investments. Reviewing them on a regular basis lets you know where your doing well and where you might need to make changes. While it's unfortunate that a woman may need a completely different investing plan for retirement than her husband, the fact remains that there are forces conspiring against women in the workplace. But with the right strategy and the proper goals, everyone can enjoy a healthy and prosperous retirement. Criticism of mutual funds While mutual fund investing has exploded over the past 50 years to become one of the most popular forms of investing anywhere, there are still possible pitfalls that you can fall into if you're not careful. Investing is still a risky business, even if everyone is doing it. Here are some tips to help you through any problems you might have. One common criticism of mutual fund investing is that they don't have a high enough return on their investment and that index funds, which aren't as popular have historically returned a higher investment than the much more popular actively managed mutual funds. A second common problem that some have with mutual fund investing is the use of load funds. You have probably seen the phrase "no-load mutual fund" in the newspaper or on television. The reason the no-load type of fund is preferred is because load funds come loaded with fees. These fees can run anywhere between half a percent, all the way up to 8.5 percent of however much you chose to invest. It's thought that these fees are a clear conflict of interest as they clearly benefit the people making the sale and hurt the person making the investment. Load mutual funds are also thought to make your broker recommend funds that will maximize his fee, and not your investment portfolio. Some investors also point to a perceived conflict of interest in regards to the size of the mutual fund. Most companies that manage the mutual fund charge a fee of between half a percent up to two and a half percent of the total amount of the funds assets. It's thought that this fee could cause a fund to spend more on advertising than is actually needed so that they can get more people to invest in the fund and maximize their fee as much as possible. The mutual fund market isn't immune to scandals, either. In 2003, a scandal involving the practice of unethical and dishonest trading practices. Many funds were found to have participated in late trading and market trimming, both of which are illegal practices. You obviously don't want to invest in a mutual fund that is engaged in illegal activities. Mutual fund investing is gaining in popularity on an almost weekly basis, and a few bad eggs in the business won't ruin it for everyone. However, it is always good advice to enter into any kind of investing with your eyes open, and if you feel your mutual fund is behaving improperly, there are authorities you can report them to. History of mutual funds For many investors, the choice of possible investments can be overwhelming. There are stocks, bonds, commodities, securities and lots of other choices. One of the most popular choices is mutual funds. These diverse and complex investments have become one of the most popular ways to invest and Americans have been taking part in mutual fund investing for many, many years. The first ever mutual fund, known as the Massachusetts Investors Trust was born in 1924, but the idea of a group of investors pooling their money together for one big investment goes back even farther. Evidence of this style of investing can be traced back to Europe in the mid-1800s. The staff and faculty at Harvard University were the first group to do it in the United States in 1893. It was this group investment that went on to become the very first mutual fund in US history. To say that this first mutual fund was successful would be an understatement. The fund, which started out with 200 investors and a starting point of $50,000 dollars, grew to a value of almost $400,000 in the matter of a single year. If only every investor could get that kind of return! To compare those numbers to today, there are approximately 10,000 different mutual funds available right now, representing 83 million investors inside the United States, making mutual fund investing one of the most popular and wide-spread forms of investing in the US. The rules of investing in mutual funds changed dramatically after the great stock market crash of 1929. The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) was born, and with the help of two key pieces of legislation, the Securities Act of 1933 as well as The Securities Exchange Act of 1934,the government would take a pivotal role in trying to protect potential investors from getting ripped off. The SEC requires that companies file their financial information with them, so that investors can see which companies are healthy and are ready to grow, and which companies to stay away from. The creation of the SEC did wonders for consumer confidence in mutual funds, and by the 1960's the mutual fund market had exploded. There were an estimated 270 different mutual funds that anyone could invest in with a value of about $48 million dollars. As you can see, mutual fund investing has had its ups and downs, and while a well run mutual fund is likely to make money, remember, there are no sure things in the investment world and you should always be careful when trusting someone with your hard earned money.
InfoBank Intro | Main Page | Usenet Forums | Search The RockSite/The Web