Before you invest, you should do your homework. Will you choose to use mutual funds, closed-end funds, ETFs, and/or individual stocks and bonds? Inevitably, your homework assignment will lead you to articles outlining the disadvantages of mutual funds. But are all of these so-called disadvantages of mutual funds really disadvantages of mutual funds? Let’s take a look at several so-called disadvantages of mutual funds, and how you can avoid them.
So-Called Disadvantages of Mutual Funds?
- Disadvantage 1: Mutual Funds Have Hidden Fees
If fees were hidden, those hidden fees would certainly be on the list of disadvantages of mutual funds. The hidden fees that are lamented are properly referred to as 12b-1 fees. While these 12b-1 fees are no fun to pay, they are not hidden. The fee is disclosed in the mutual fund prospectus and can be found on the mutual funds’ web sites. Many mutual funds do not charge a 12b-1 fee. If you find the 12b-1 fee onerous, invest in a mutual fund that does not charge the fee. Hidden fees cannot make the list of disadvantages of mutual funds because they are not hidden and there are thousands of mutual funds that do not charge 12b-1 fees.
- Disadvantage 2: Mutual Funds Lack Liquidity
How fast can you get your money if you sell a mutual fund as compared to ETFs, stocks and closed-end funds? If you sell a mutual fund, you have access to your cash the day after the sale. ETFs, stocks and closed-end funds require you to wait three days after you sell the investment. I would call the “lack of liquidity” disadvantage of mutual funds a myth. You can only find more liquidity if you invest in your mattress.
- Disadvantage 3: Mutual Funds Have High Sales Charges
Should a sales charge be included in the disadvantages of mutual funds list? It’s difficult to justify paying a sales charge when you have a plethora of no-load mutual funds. But, then again, it’s difficult to say that a sales charge is a disadvantage of mutual funds when you have thousands of mutual fund options that do not have sales charges. Sales charges are too broad to be included on my list of disadvantages of mutual funds.
- Disadvantage 4: Mutual Funds and Poor Trade Execution
If you buy or sell a mutual fund, the transaction will take place at the close of the market regardless of the time you entered the order to buy or sell the mutual fund. I find the trading of mutual funds to be a simple, stress-free feature of the investment structure. However, many advocates and purveyors of ETFs will point out that you can trade throughout the day with ETFs. If you decide to invest in ETFs over mutual funds because your order can be filled at 3:50 pm EST with ETFs rather than receive prices as of 4:00 pm EST with mutual funds, I recommend that you sign up for the Stress Management Weekly Newsletter at About.com.
- Disadvantage 5: All Mutual Funds Have High Capital Gains Distributions
If all mutual funds sell holdings and pass the capital gains on to investors as a taxable event, then we have a found a winner for the list of disadvantages of mutual funds list. Oh well, not all mutual funds make annual capital gains distributions. Index mutual funds and tax-efficient mutual funds do not make these distributions every year. Yes, if they have the gains, they must distribute the gains to shareholders. However, many mutual funds (including index mutual funds and tax-efficient mutual funds) are low-turnover funds and do not make capital gains distributions on an annual basis.
In addition, retirement plans (IRAs, 401ks, etc.) are not impacted by capital gains distributions. There are also strategies to avoid the capital gains distributions including tax-loss harvesting and selling a mutual fund prior to the distribution.