A mutual fund is a type of investment company that pools money from many investors and invests the money in stocks, bonds, money-market instruments, other securities, or even cash. Here are some characteristics of mutual funds:
Investors purchase shares in the mutual fund from the fund itself, or through a broker for the fund, and cannot purchase the shares from other investors on a secondary market, such as the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq Stock Market. The price that investors pay for mutual fund shares is the fund’s approximate net asset value (NAV) per share plus any fees that the fund may charge at purchase, such as sales charges, also known as sales loads.
Mutual fund shares are "redeemable." This means that when mutual fund investors want to sell their fund shares, they sell them back to the fund, or to a broker acting for the fund, at their current NAV per share, minus any fees the fund may charge, such as deferred sales loads or redemption fees.
Mutual funds generally sell their shares on a continuous basis, although some funds will stop selling when, for example, they reach a certain level of assets under management.
The investment portfolios of mutual funds typically are managed by separate entities known as "investment advisers" that are registered with the SEC. In addition, mutual funds themselves are registered with the SEC and subject to SEC regulation.
There are many varieties of mutual funds, including index funds, stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds. Each may have a different investment objective and strategy and a different investment portfolio. Different mutual funds may also be subject to different risks, volatility, and fees and expenses. Fees reduce returns on fund investments and are an important factor that investors should consider when buying mutual fund shares.