Stocks vs Mutual Funds
While some may find that idea of comparing stocks to mutual funds a little bit odd, since mutual funds are often made up of stocks, bonds, or some combination of the two, it is quite necessary to compare the two when it comes to deciding what is best for your financial outlook. Some of the more notable differences will be discussed below in order to help you decide which investment type is more suitable for your financial situation.
When it comes to investing for the everyday man or woman you really can't beat mutual funds. Stocks may have high fees for buying, selling, and transferring that significantly hinder any profits that would otherwise be made from the transaction. In fact, these fees often serve to deter the trading of stocks rather than encouraging it. Some big trading companies offer nice discounts for their big spenders making stock market trading seem even more exclusive by making it easier for those who already have a great deal invested than they make it for the new guy trying to make his way on the market. Mutual funds are much more accessible to those who don't have massive fortunes available to invest and need to make small steps (such as $100 a month) towards their financial and investment goals.
Mutual funds typically carry less risk than the average stock purchase as well. This happens for many reasons. First of all mutual funds are not generally invested in one sector, industry, or company. For this reason if one of the stocks fails, the proceeds from the other stocks and bonds purchased will help mitigate the loss, making it less noticeable. At the same time, the loss is shared by a large group of people so that even if a slight overall loss is experienced as the result it will be much less noticeable than if the stock purchased was yours and your alone. Finally, the fact that the funds are already diversified to a large degree helps insulate from huge fluctuations in the market such as those seen recently when the sub prime mortgage industry bubble popped leaving many investors ducking for cover.
Share the wealth. Share the risk. Mutual funds offer a sense of community, commonality, and shared risk among those who buy into a specific mutual fund. This is a good thing most of the time as it enables a large group of people to share a much smaller portion of risk than if they were buying stocks of their own volition. The existence of a fund manager means that there is someone "in the know" who is looking after the profit of the fund and that has the success of the fund at heart. This is something that you won't find when investing in stocks. In fact, when it comes to the stock market the only people that really care about how your stocks are performing are those that you pay to care for these things such as your financial advisor, accountant or stock-broker.
Another thing to consider about mutual funds is that they are much easier to use and/or trade vs stocks. They are much less expensive to trade as well. You can purchase mutual funds from your local bank, online, and through many online trading companies as well as through many company 401k plans. In other words mutual funds go out of their way to make themselves accessible. The most important thing, really, when it comes to buying mutual funds is that you devote some time to studying the history and performance of the fund you are considering to purchase as well as the fund manager for peace of mind.
As you can see there are a lot of differences between stocks and mutual funds. For small investors mutual funds are often the best route to take. They pose less risk, impose fewer fees, and place owners in a position to accrue steady, if slow, returns on their investments.