When Are Mutual Funds Considered a Bad Investment? (2024)

Mutual funds are considered relatively safe investments. However, mutual funds are considered a bad investment when investors consider certain negative factors to be important, such as high expense ratios charged by the fund, various hidden front-end, and back-end load charges, lack of control over investment decisions, and diluted returns.

Key Takeaways

  • Mutual funds are largely a safe investment, seen as being a good way for investors to diversify with minimal risk.
  • But there are circ*mstances in which a mutual fund is not a good choice for a market participant, especially when it comes to fees.
  • Fees include a high annual expense ratio or the amount the fund charges its investors annually to cover the costs ofoperations, and load charges, or a fee paid when an investor buys or sells shares of a fund.
  • Mutual funds are managed and therefore not ideal for investors who would rather have total control over their holdings.
  • Due to rules and regulations, many funds may generate diluted returns, which could limit potential profits.

High Annual Expense Ratios

Mutual funds are required to disclose how much they charge their investors annually in percentage terms to compensate for the costs of running investment businesses. A mutual fund's gross return is reduced by the expense ratio percentage, which could be as high as 3%. However, according to fund manager Vanguard, industrywide expense ratios averaged 0.54% in 2020.

Historically, the majority of mutual funds generate market returns if they follow a relatively stable fund such as the S&P 500 benchmark. However, excessive annual fees can make mutual funds an unattractive investment, as investors can generate better returns by simply investing in broad market securities or exchange-traded funds.

Load Charges

Many mutual funds have different classes of shares that come along with front- or back-end loads, which represent charges imposed on investors at the time of buying or selling shares of a fund. Certain back-end loads represent contingent deferred sales charges that can decline over several years. Also, many classes of shares of funds charge 12b-1 fees at the time of sale or purchase. Load fees can range from 2% to 4%, and they can also eat into returns generated by mutual funds, making them unattractive for investors who wish to trade their shares often.

Lack of Control

Because mutual funds do all the picking and investing work, they may be inappropriate for investors who want to have complete control over their portfolios and be able to rebalance their holdings on a regular basis. Because many mutual funds' prospectuses contain caveats that allow them to deviate from their stated investment objectives, mutual funds can be unsuitable for investors who wish to have consistent portfolios. When picking a mutual fund, it's important to research the fund's investment strategy and see which index fund it may be tracking to see if it's safe.

Returns Dilution

Not all mutual funds are bad, but they can be heavily regulated and are not allowed to have concentrated holdings exceeding 25% of their overall portfolio. Because of this, mutual funds may tend to generate diluted returns, as they cannot concentrate their portfolios on one best-performing holding as an individual stock would. That being said, it can obviously be hard to predict which stock will do well, meaning most investors who want to diversify their portfolios are partial to mutual funds.

Advisor Insight

Patrick Strubbe, ChFC, CLU, RFC
Preservation Specialists, LLC, Columbia, SC

Generally speaking, most mutual funds are invested in securities such as stocks and bonds where, no matter how conservative the investment style, there will be some risk of losing your principal. In many instances, this is not a risk you should be taking on, especially if you have been saving up for a specific purchase or life goal. Mutual funds may also not be the best option for more sophisticated investors with solid financial knowledge and a substantial amount of capital to invest. In such cases, the portfolio may benefit from greater diversification, such as alternative investments or more active management. Broadening your horizon beyond mutual funds may yield lower fees, greater control, and/or more comprehensive diversification.

When Are Mutual Funds Considered a Bad Investment? (2024)


When Are Mutual Funds Considered a Bad Investment? ›

High fees can make mutual funds unattractive as investors can get better returns from broad-market securities or ETFs. Lack of Control: Mutual funds may not be suitable for investors who want complete control over their portfolios, as they do all the picking and investing work.

When should you not invest in mutual funds? ›

Lack of Control. Because mutual funds do all the picking and investing work, they may be inappropriate for investors who want to have complete control over their portfolios and be able to rebalance their holdings on a regular basis.

Are mutual funds a bad investment? ›

All investments carry some degree of risk and can lose value if the overall market declines or, in the case of individual stocks, the company folds. Still, mutual funds are generally considered safer than stocks because they are inherently diversified, which helps mitigate the risk and volatility in your portfolio.

What is the dark side of mutual funds? ›

Disadvantages include high fees, tax inefficiency, poor trade execution, and the potential for management abuses.

Why do people not invest in mutual funds? ›

As the funds are invested in market instruments, they carry certain stock market risks like volatility, fall in share prices etc., which deters us from investing in mutual funds. As we don't want to lose money, we often let it stagnate in our savings accounts.

Which mutual funds to avoid? ›

Sector mutual funds

A higher concentration of investment in one sector makes these funds vulnerable to economic performance. Since these are less diversified, the risk factor is also high. Returns from these funds depend on the sector's performance in different economic conditions.

Is my money safe in mutual funds? ›

Mutual fund investments when used right can lead to good returns, keeping risk at a minimum, especially when compared with individual stocks or bonds. These are especially great for people who are not experts in stock market dynamics as these are run by experienced fund managers.

Should I put all my money in mutual funds? ›

Given how high the risk is with these mutual funds, it is best to limit yourself to a limited number of small cap mutual funds. Also, avoid putting in a great percentage of your total mutual fund investment in small cap mutual funds. Debt Funds: Ideally 1, but 2 is also good.

Why mutual funds are not giving good returns? ›

He said that it is normal for any fund to underperform in the first few years due to equity markets in general not doing well or due to the fund's investment style not playing out. He added if the underperformance is due to these reasons, it is important to stick to the fund and continue with your investments.

Has anyone lost money in mutual funds? ›

One of the prominent reasons for mutual fund loss is a need for more knowledge about the investment options and market. Individuals who invest in mutual funds without proper research often end up in a situation where they have to face a loss of money.

What is the biggest risk for mutual funds? ›

Inflation is the biggest risk which eats up the returns generated by your investments in mutual funds. If your investments are not generating higher returns than the prevailing inflation rate, then you are just losing money from your investment.

Why are mutual funds very high risk? ›

In India, mutual funds investing in small and mid-cap stocks are generally considered high risk. These funds invest in high potential small and mid-cap stocks, which can be volatile but may generate high returns. They are suitable for aggressive investors with investment horizons of 5-10 years or more.

What is side pocketing in mutual funds? ›

Side-pocketing basically carves out the bad assets from the main scheme and is held separately in a close-ended fashion till losses are salvaged (separates units to be issued to investors of the main scheme) while the main scheme is adjusted and continues to operate with good assets.

How do I know if my mutual fund portfolio is good or bad? ›

Well, the first thing is to analyze the performance of the benchmark. I am sure that you are aware that every fund has a benchmark that is used to track and measure its performance. A good mutual fund is one that constantly beats its benchmark in the long term.

Are mutual funds safer than money market? ›

Money market funds are generally considered to be a very safe haven for your cash. They are much less risky than mutual funds that invest in stocks. However, they are not federally insured and investors can lose money.

What is the main disadvantage of a mutual fund for an investor? ›

Potential Cons

Mutual funds have expenses, typically ranging between 0.50% to 1%, which pay for management and other costs to operate the fund. Some mutual funds have sales charges, or "loads," that investors pay when either buying or selling a mutual fund. Market risk.

How long should you keep money in a mutual fund? ›

Typically, the ideal holding period for an equity mutual fund is considered anywhere between a minimum of 3-5 years. But data shows that only investments in 3% of the units continued for more than 5 years.

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