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How to Choose Mutual Funds for Your Portfolio


Selecting the right mutual funds is an important part of building a solid investment portfolio. There are many mutual fund options available, each designed to meet different financial goals and risk levels, so finding the right fund requires careful consideration. By understanding your investment goals, risk tolerance and evaluating key factors such as fund performance, fees and the expertise of fund managers, you can make informed decisions that align with your financial objectives. And if you need help choosing mutual funds, consider reaching out to a financial advisor.

What Are Mutual Funds?

Mutual funds are investment vehicles that pool money from numerous investors to purchase a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other securities. These funds are managed by professional fund managers, and offer investors access to a diversified portfolio without the need to select individual securities. This approach aims to achieve specific financial goals, such as income generation, capital appreciation, or a combination of both.

Benefits of Mutual Funds

Investing in mutual funds provides several advantages that can make them an attractive option for many investors:

  • Diversification: Mutual funds invest in a wide range of securities, which helps spread risk and reduce the impact of the potential poor performance of any single investment.
  • Professional management: Experienced mutual fund managers make investment decisions, leveraging their expertise to optimize the portfolio’s performance.
  • Accessibility: Mutual funds are easy to buy and sell, giving investors liquidity and flexibility.
  • Variety: There are various types of mutual funds available, catering to different investment objectives, risk tolerances and time horizons.
  • Economies of scale: Pooling resources allows mutual funds to achieve lower transaction costs and access to a broader range of investment opportunities than individual investors might achieve on their own.

How to Pick Mutual Funds for Your Portfolio

A couple determining how to choose mutual funds.

Choosing mutual fund investments involves careful consideration so that they align with your financial circumstances and goals. These four general steps can help you select mutual funds for your portfolio:

  1. Decide whether to go active or passive: One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is whether you prefer an actively managed fund, where a manager makes decisions about how to invest the fund’s money, or a passive fund, which tracks a market index. Active funds aim to outperform the market, but often come with higher fees. Meanwhile, passive funds typically have lower fees and aim to match market performance.
  2. Calculate your budget: Then you’ll want to assess how much money you are willing to invest. Consider both the initial investment and ongoing contributions. Understanding your budget will help you narrow down your options to funds that match your financial capacity.
  3. Determine your risk tolerance: You’ll also want to evaluate how much investment risk you’re comfortable with. Your risk tolerance will influence the type of funds you choose. For example, equity funds are suitable for those with a high risk tolerance, while bond funds might be better for more conservative investors.
  4. Think about asset allocation: The last part of choosing mutual funds is deciding on the mix of asset classes (such as stocks, bonds, and cash) that fits your investment strategy. Diversifying your portfolio across different asset classes can help manage risk and improve the potential for returns.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing Mutual Funds

Selecting mutual funds can be challenging, and it’s easy to make mistakes that can hinder your investment potential. Being aware of some of these common pitfalls and knowing what to avoid can help you make more informed investment decisions.

  1. Avoid chasing hot-performing funds: Investors are often tempted to buy funds that have recently performed well. However, past performance does not guarantee future results, and chasing hot-performing funds can lead to buying high and selling low.
  2. Don’t blindly follow suggestions from family or friends: While advice from family or friends may be well-intentioned, it may not align with your financial goals and risk tolerance. Investment choices should be based on your individual circumstances and thorough research.
  3. Avoid picking funds based on star ratings: Star ratings can be a useful tool, but they shouldn’t be the sole factor in your decision-making process. These ratings often reflect past performance and may not account for future market conditions or the fund’s strategy changes.
  4. Don’t ignore fees: Fees and expenses can significantly erode your investment returns over time. It’s essential to understand all the costs associated with a mutual fund, including expense ratios, load fees, and other charges, to ensure you’re getting value for your investment.

Bottom Line

An advisor and client discussing how to choose mutual funds.

When you select mutual funds for your portfolio, you will need to consider your financial goals, risk tolerance and the specific characteristics of each fund. Comparing different types of mutual funds, evaluating their performance and fees, and planning for diversification can help you align those funds with your long-term objectives.

Tips for Selecting Mutual Funds

  • A financial advisor can help you pick mutual funds for your portfolio. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have free introductory calls with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • As you put together a portfolio, don’t forget the importance of diversification. Having different assets in different market sectors can help reduce the potential risk of a poorly performing investment pulling your whole portfolio down with it.

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