What is a Mutual Fund (and Should You Start One)?


Today from our corner of the internet, we at Finance Opinion discuss the mutual fund. From stocks and  bonds, to real estate and 401ks, when it comes to investing your money, you have options – a lot of them. And, if you’re looking to add some diversification to your portfolio, or just getting started with investing, opening up a mutual fund may be a good opportunity for your financial strategy.

But what exactly is a mutual fund, and how do you know if one makes sense for you? Read on as we break it down for you.

First Things First – What is a Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund is a company that pools money from many investors, and then invests that money for you via stocks, bonds, and short-term debt. All of those combined holdings within the mutual fund become known as the portfolio. Public investors buy shares in mutual funds, and each share represents said investor’s part ownership in the fund and the profit it generates, or loses, over time. 

Investors earn a return and benefit from a mutual fund in a few ways:

  1. By earning income via dividends on stocks and interest on bonds
  2. If the fund experiences capital gain, it is passed on to investors 
  3. Through selling mutual fund shares for profit  

Mutual Funds Offer Instant Diversification…

One of the most appealing benefits of mutual funds is the instant diversification they can offer. By diversifying your investment strategy and portfolio (ie: including a mix of many types of investments from varying industries), you can lower the risk of a single investment performing poorly – and mutual funds were designed to do just that!

Because every dollar you invest in a mutual fund is pooled with the money of all the other investors in that fund, the fund can acquire upwards of several hundred different investments at once; a seamless design for diversification. 

… But Can Come with Fees

While some funds come with relatively low to no fees, one of the biggest drawbacks to mutual funds are the occasional fees that come along with it. Ranging from expense ratios to broker fees from buying and selling funds, investors can lose tens of thousands of dollars in mutual fund fees throughout their lifetime. 

So When Does It Make Sense to Open a Mutual Fund? 

One of the most common situations when it makes sense to open up a mutual fund is if you have an employer-sponsored 401k retirement plan that offers one. That’s because, along with getting a tax break, you can take advantage of the benefits of a mutual fund without having to endure trading fees or other potential risks associated with having an individual mutual fund in your portfolio.

Outside of employer-sponsored plans, beginner investors can benefit from opening a mutual fund since they’re generally tax-efficient, lower in fees than other investment assets, and, because they’re professionally managed, can help you maximize your investment dollars without risking losing cash due to rookie mistakes. 

If a mutual fund sounds like a good investment strategy for you and your personal financial goals, you can start investing in one by either buying directly from the company that created the fund (like Vanguard or BlackRock), or through an online brokerage. While they do come at an additional cost, brokerages can assist you in determining the mutual fund type that makes the most sense for you. 


The opinions expressed in this post are for informational purposes only. To determine the best financing for your personal circumstances and goals, we advise you to consult with a licensed advisor

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