More Types of Investment Funds: Index Funds, Fixed Income funds & Asset Manager Funds

Index funds aim to construct investments that mimic the movements of an index of a particular financial market. The fund manager can accomplished this by setting up a mutual fund composed of stocks in the S&P 500, and by keeping the stocks in amounts equal to the proportions they represent as members of the index. The idea here is not to beat the S&P 500 but to match its performance with a mutual fund. Not a bad goal considering the S&P 500 averaged returns of 17.3% in the 1990s while mutual funds could only manage 13.9% during that same time period. Another advantage with these funds is the low expense ratios, which are the costs charged to shareholders. The Vanguard S&P 500 expense ratio, 0.18% in 2006, is less than one fifth the expense ratios of the average mutual fund.

Fixed income funds are mutual funds that seek to preserve a set income stream by investing in very secure investments like highly rated corporate bonds and government bonds. They can provide monthly income, diversify a portfolio, or a higher level of liquidity for the investor. These are generally lower risk investments with a lower return, but a return that can be counted on to remain, thus the term “fixed income fund.” Many of these funds also have expense ratios below 1%.

Asset manager funds seek to match investment with the lifestyle or risk-tolerance of the investor. For example, the more risk-tolerant the investor, the longer the investor has until retirement so that fund would be composed more of equity (stocks) and less of bonds that have a slower rate of return. As the investor becomes less risk-tolerant, that fund will become more composed of bonds and less of equity. These types of funds are usually more actively managed than, say, the index funds and can have higher expense ratios. This is true with Fidelity’s Asset Manager 85% (85% equity) at 0.87% in 2006 and Asset Manager 20% (20% equity) at 0.58% in 2006, respectively. Still, these ratios are lower than other types of mutual funds.

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