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The Skinny on Mutual Fund Investing

Mutual fund investing is a lot like Thai cooking. Everyone has heard of it, most know a little something about it, but very few actually know how to do it and do it well. To invest in mutual funds wisely, it is important to have a good grasp on what mutual funds are, how they work, and what the risks involved may be. The fact that mutual fund investments are often considered safer than stocks, options, and other investments often misleads people to think that their investment in mutual funds are risk free. This, as you will see, is not the case.

The Risks of Mutual Fund Investing

First of all, mutual fund investments are not insured by the FDIC or any other federal insurance program or government agency. Even in cases where mutual funds are purchased through a bank (some may even bear the name of the bank), it is possible to lose money when mutual fund investing. Also mutual fund investments come with costs and fees that can affect the amount of return you receive on a mutual fund investment. It is important to know the costs of mutual fund investing before buying the funds. The Securities and Exchange Commission offers an online mutual fund investment cost calculator at its website which allows potential mutual fund investors to investigate the costs associated with the mutual fund they are interested in.

What is a Mutual Fund Anyway?

A mutual fund is actually a company that operates by taking money from a group of investors (all those that buy the fund) and then invests it in stocks or bonds, short term money market instruments, securities, options, or some combination of these investments. If the investments pay off, the investors make money. Because most mutual funds are run by people with a certain amount of financial savvy and stock market experience, mutual fund investing is often considered rather safe, but the potential for loss is real and must be considered.

Mutual fund investing can be advantageous because there are a number of federal regulations in place that are designed to protect investors. The actual investments that the fund makes are watched closely by market analysts and financial managers whose job it is to make appropriate decisions regarding the mutual fund's investments. The downsides include costs, taxes, and fees which must be paid regardless of how the fund performs.

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