HOW TO PICK A MUTUAL FUND

By Al Thomas

Mutual funds by definition are a mixed bag of stocks, bonds and a little cash. Their price per share is the NAV, Net Asset Value of the total amount of money in the mutual fund divided by the number of shares. They seek to be fully invested at all times.

The fund manager determines which stocks and bonds to buy and sell in order to give the greatest return to his shareholders. He is considered to be an expert in choosing stocks for appreciation of value and should be expected to give a better than average return. That's why he draws down a six-figure income.

You are encouraged to pick a fund that has your goal in mind. Is it considered conservative, speculative, income oriented, growth or some other category? Wouldn't you say one of the principle reasons was to have the greatest return on your money? Do you want an average return or do you want an above average return?

What is average? There is an index which you hear about on the news every day called the S&P500. Because it is composed of 500 different stocks it is broadly representative of the market as a whole and therefore called a market average or index. You certainly would want a fund that is doing better than average.

You are encouraged to read the prospectus. Did you realize that the day it is printed much of the information in it is over a year old? It is written for the regulators in Washington, not for investors. It is worthless. Throw it away.

There are load funds that charge a commission and no-load funds that do not charge commission. There is no proof that paying a commission will provide you with a better return. Buy your no-load funds direct from the fund or through a discount broker.

You are told to find a good fund manager. Various money magazines list them. Investor's Business Daily does a feature story on different fund managers several times each week. Check to see if his fund is outperforming the S&P during the last 12 months. There are very few fund managers who have a consistent record and even the best of them gets cold once in a while and has a losing streak. You want your money returning at maximum at all times so you can't stay with one manager when he is running cold. Change funds.

One of the Wall Street myths is that you should put your money into a "good" fund and let it stay there for years. This is promoted because mutual fund managers are compensated by the amount of money they have in the fund and not for performance of the fund.

So how do you pick a fund? Very simple. It must outperform the S&P500 Index. Any mutual fund manager who cannot beat a market average should not be holding your money. Check out your funds today.

Excerpted from forthcoming book, "IF IT DOESN'T GO UP, DON'T BUY IT!"

Copyright 1999 Albert W. Thomas All rights reserved.

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