You can purchase shares in some mutual funds by contacting the fund directly. Other mutual fund shares are sold mainly through brokers, banks, financial planners, or insurance agents. All mutual funds will redeem (buy back) your shares on any business day and must send you the payment within seven days.
The easiest way to determine the value of your shares is to call the fund’s number or visit its website. The financial pages of major newspapers sometimes print the NAVs for various mutual funds. When you buy shares, you pay the current NAV per share plus any fee the fund assesses at the time of purchase, such as a purchase sales load or other type of purchase fee. When you sell your shares, the fund will pay you the NAV minus any fee the fund assesses at the time of redemption, such as a deferred (or back-end) sales load or redemption fee. A fund’s NAV goes up or down daily as its holdings change in value.
|Exchanging Shares A “family of funds” is a group of mutual funds that share administrative and distribution systems. Each fund in a family may have different investment objectives and follow different strategies.
Some funds offer exchange privileges within a family of funds, allowing shareholders to transfer their holdings from one fund to another as their investment goals or tolerance for risk change. While some funds impose fees for exchanges, most funds typically do not. To learn more about a fund’s exchange policies, call the fund’s number, visit its website, or read the “shareholder information” section of the prospectus.
Bear in mind that exchanges have tax consequences. Even if the fund doesn’t charge you for the transfer, you’ll be liable for any capital gain on the sale of your old shares — or, depending on the circumstances, eligible to take a capital loss. We’ll discuss taxes in further detail below.
How Funds Can Earn Money for You
You can earn money from your investment in three ways:
- Dividend Payments — A fund may earn income in the form of dividends and interest on the securities in its portfolio. The fund then pays its shareholders nearly all of the income (minus disclosed expenses) it has earned in the form of dividends.
- Capital Gains Distributions — The price of the securities a fund owns may increase. When a fund sells a security that has increased in price, the fund has a capital gain. At the end of the year, most funds distribute these capital gains (minus any capital losses) to investors.
- Increased NAV — If the market value of a fund’s portfolio increases after deduction of expenses and liabilities, then the value (NAV) of the fund and its shares increases. The higher NAV reflects the higher value of your investment.
With respect to dividend payments and capital gains distributions, funds usually will give you a choice: the fund can send you a check or other form of payment, or you can have your dividends or distributions reinvested in the fund to buy more shares (often without paying an additional sales load).
Factors to Consider
Thinking about your long-term investment strategies and tolerance for risk can help you decide what type of fund is best suited for you. But you should also consider the effect that fees and taxes will have on your returns over time.
Degrees of Risk
All funds carry some level of risk. You may lose some or all of the money you invest — your principal — because the securities held by a fund go up and down in value. Dividend or interest payments may also fluctuate as market conditions change.
Before you invest, be sure to read a fund’s prospectus and shareholder reports to learn about its investment strategy and the potential risks. Funds with higher rates of return may take risks that are beyond your comfort level and are inconsistent with your financial goals.
|A Word About Derivatives Derivatives are financial instruments whose performance is derived, at least in part, from the performance of an underlying asset, security, or index. Even small market movements can dramatically affect their value, sometimes in unpredictable ways.
There are many types of derivatives with many different uses. A fund’s prospectus will disclose whether and how it may use derivatives. You may also want to call a fund and ask how it uses these instruments.
Fees and Expenses
As with any business, running a mutual fund involves costs — including shareholder transaction costs, investment advisory fees, and marketing and distribution expenses. Funds pass along these costs to investors by imposing fees and expenses. It is important that you understand these charges because they lower your returns.
Some funds impose “shareholder fees” directly on investors whenever they buy or sell shares. In addition, every fund has regular, recurring, fund-wide “operating expenses.” Funds typically pay their operating expenses out of fund assets — which means that investors indirectly pay these costs.
SEC rules require funds to disclose both shareholder fees and operating expenses in a “fee table” near the front of a fund’s prospectus. The lists below will help you decode the fee table and understand the various fees a fund may impose:
- Sales Charge (Load) on Purchases — the amount you pay when you buy shares in a mutual fund. Also known as a “front-end load,” this fee typically goes to the brokers that sell the fund’s shares. Front-end loads reduce the amount of your investment. For example, let’s say you have N100,000 and want to invest it in a mutual fund with a 5% front-end load. The N5,000 sales load you must pay comes off the top, and the remaining N95,000 will be invested in the fund. According to the rules, a front-end load cannot be higher than 8.5% of your investment.
- Purchase Fee — another type of fee that some funds charge their shareholders when they buy shares. Unlike a front-end sales load, a purchase fee is paid to the fund (not to a broker) and is typically imposed to defray some of the fund’s costs associated with the purchase.
- Deferred Sales Charge (Load) — a fee you pay when you sell your shares. Also known as a “back-end load,” this fee typically goes to the brokers that sell the fund’s shares. The most common type of back-end sales load is the “contingent deferred sales load” (also known as a “CDSC” or “CDSL”). The amount of this type of load will depend on how long the investor holds his or her shares and typically decreases to zero if the investor holds his or her shares long enough.
- Redemption Fee — another type of fee that some funds charge their shareholders when they sell or redeem shares. Unlike a deferred sales load, a redemption fee is paid to the fund (not to a broker) and is typically used to defray fund costs associated with a shareholder’s redemption.
- Exchange Fee — a fee that some funds impose on shareholders if they exchange (transfer) to another fund within the same fund group or “family of funds.”
- Account fee — a fee that some funds separately impose on investors in connection with the maintenance of their accounts. For example, some funds impose an account maintenance fee on accounts whose value is less than a certain dollar amount.
Annual Fund Operating Expenses
- Management Fees — fees that are paid out of fund assets to the fund’s investment adviser for investment portfolio management, any other management fees payable to the fund’s investment adviser or its affiliates, and administrative fees payable to the investment adviser that are not included in the “Other Expenses” category (discussed below).
- Distribution [and/or Service] Fees (“12b-1″ Fees) — fees paid by the fund out of fund assets to cover the costs of marketing and selling fund shares and sometimes to cover the costs of providing shareholder services. “Distribution fees” include fees to compensate brokers and others who sell fund shares and to pay for advertising, the printing and mailing of prospectuses to new investors, and the printing and mailing of sales literature. “Shareholder Service Fees” are fees paid to persons to respond to investor inquiries and provide investors with information about their investments.
- Other Expenses — expenses not included under “Management Fees” or “Distribution or Service (12b-1) Fees,” such as any shareholder service expenses that are not already included in the 12b-1 fees, custodial expenses, legal and accounting expenses, transfer agent expenses, and other administrative expenses.
- Total Annual Fund Operating Expenses (“Expense Ratio”) — the line of the fee table that represents the total of all of a fund’s annual fund operating expenses, expressed as a percentage of the fund’s average net assets. Looking at the expense ratio can help you make comparisons among funds.
|A Word About “No-Load” Funds Some funds call themselves “no-load.” As the name implies, this means that the fund does not charge any type of sales load. But, as discussed above, not every type of shareholder fee is a “sales load.” A no-load fund may charge fees that are not sales loads, such as purchase fees, redemption fees, exchange fees, and account fees. No-load funds will also have operating expenses.|
Be sure to review carefully the fee tables of any funds you’re considering, including no-load funds. Even small differences in fees can translate into large differences in returns over time. For example, if you invested N10,000 in a fund that produced a 10% annual return before expenses and had annual operating expenses of 1.5%, then after 20 years you would have roughly N49,725. But if the fund had expenses of only 0.5%, then you would end up with N60,858 — an 18% difference.