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Beginners’ Guide to Mutual Funds

April 21, 2009

Beginners' Guide to Mutual Funds: Online Publications at the SEC

Office of Investor Education and Advocacy

Investors-Educate Yourself

Invest Wisely: An Introduction to Mutual Funds. This publication explains the basics of mutual fund investing, how mutual funds work, what factors to consider before investing, and how to avoid common pitfalls.

Smart 401(k) Investing. FINRA's Smart 401(k) Investing takes you through the process of enrolling and managing your 401(k) account, and answers questions about everything from eligibility to rollovers, from investing to hardship withdrawals.

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Know Your Costs and Fees

Mutual Fund Fees and Expenses. Learn about the fees associated with mutual fund investing.

Breakpoints. Some mutual funds that charge front-end sales loads will charge lower sales loads for larger investments.

Mutual Fund Cost Calculators. Mutual fund cost calculators enable investors to easily estimate and compare costs of owning mutual funds.

Research Before You Invest

Information Available to Investment Company Shareholders. Before you invest in any traditional investment company-such as a mutual fund-you should read the fund's prospectus and any other available information.

Mutual Fund Prospectus, Tips on Reading One. The prospectus is the fund's primary selling document and contains valuable information, such as the fund's investment objectives or goals, principal strategies for achieving those goals, principal risks of investing in the fund, fees and expenses, and past performance.

Mutual Fund Investing: Look at More Than a Fund's Past Performance. This publication looks at other factors involved over the long-term success (or failure) of your investment in a fund.

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Check Out Your Broker or Adviser

Invest Wisely: Advice From Your Securities Industry Regulators. Before making a securities investment, you must decide which brokerage firm-also referred to as a broker/dealer-and sales representative-also referred to as a stockbroker, account executive, or registered representative-to use.

Protect Your Money: Check Out Brokers and Advisers. Before you invest, make sure your brokers, investment advisers, and investment advisers' representatives are licensed to sell securities.

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Help and How to File a Complaint at the SEC

SEC Center for Complaints and Enforcement Tips. Report suspicious activity, file a complaint about a financial professional or and investment product, or ask questions. The division of Enforcement and The Office of Investor Education and Advocacy created the SEC complaint center to address your concerns.

The SEC's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. Our office acts as your gateway to the SEC. We cannot tell you what investments to make, but we can tell you how to invest wisely and protect your hard earned investment dollars from securities fraud and abuse. If you have suffered wrongdoing at the hands of a bad broker or investment adviser, we want to hear from you.

The Investor's Advocate: How the SEC Protects Investors and Maintains Market Integrity. The laws and rules that govern the securities industry in the United States derive from a simple and straightforward concept: all investors, whether large institutions or private individuals, should have access to certain basic facts about an investment prior to buying it.

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We have provided this information as a service to investors.  It is neither a legal interpretation nor a statement of SEC policy.  If you have questions concerning the meaning or application of a particular law or rule, please consult with an attorney who specializes in securities law.

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