If you are an average investor you should invest money in mutual funds, but knowing where to invest will be a real challenge in 2014. So, let’s first eliminate places you don’t want to go and then focus on where to invest money to make the best of it.
This game I call ELIMINATION, and it’s really an application of the scientific method you may have learned in general science class, tailored to determine where to invest. Once you know your alternatives, you eliminate the real losers. Then you pick your best alternatives or choices from those that are left.
First, eliminate mutual funds based on the costs involved when you invest. Avoid those with sales charges (loads). There is no good reason to pay money just to invest money in mutual funds. Go with NO-LOAD choices. Then eliminate those with yearly expenses of 1% or more. These costs and other information can easily be found in a fund’s description. When you invest $10,000, it can cost over $500 for sales charges (loads) and $200 or more for yearly expenses.
Now that we’ve eliminated the high cost alternatives, the question is where to invest money in 2014 and beyond to cut costs and (by doing so) increase our investment returns. Answer: no-load, index funds. Total cost to invest can be less than 1% per year, period. All costs simply reduce the value of your account, and in a real sense is money that comes out of your pocket.
Next, let’s look at the categories or choices available based on where a fund will invest money for its investors: stocks, bonds and the money market. We’ll start with the stock alternatives, keeping in mind that for 2014 and beyond… low, but rising interest rates are in the forecast. Eliminate growth and volatile small-company-stock choices. They are riskier and generally pay little if anything in dividends. Where to invest money: look for funds that have terms like high quality, dividends, and growth AND income on their description page. Look for a dividend yield of 2% or more.
In the low-interest rate environment of 2014, a 2% or higher stock dividend yield looks attractive compared to earning considerably less than 1% at the bank; and this dividend helps to support stock prices should the stock market decline. Alternatives paying little in dividends offer no such cushion in a declining market. For further diversification there’s another option as to where to invest: sector funds that specialize in areas like gold, natural resources, and real estate stocks.
In the bond arena eliminate choices described as highest quality or long-term in nature. Where to invest money: medium quality, intermediate-term bond funds. Medium quality alternatives invest mostly in corporate bonds that are graded as medium to high quality. They pay considerably higher dividends than the highest quality choices that often load up on U.S. treasury bonds, resulting in considerably lower dividends for investors. The somewhat higher risk of medium quality vs. highest quality is not substantial.
On the other hand, long-term bond funds pay higher dividends than intermediate-term alternatives, but with this higher dividend comes a substantial increase in investor risk. If interest rates heat up and climb in 2014, all bond investments will lose money – but the long term variety will get crushed. Rising interest rates send bond values down. In your search for where to invest money in the bond department for 2014 and beyond, definitely avoid long-term choices. Long term spells “high risk” for investors when interest rates threaten to go up.
Now let’s talk about where to invest money for safety. For the money you invest that must be safe, eliminate both the stock and bond categories from consideration. Go with money market funds. These investments do not fluctuate in price, they pay dividends based on current interest rates, and there are no sales charges (loads) to worry about. In the super low interest rate environment of 2014, expect about as much in dividends as your bank pays in savings and checking accounts: about zero. If rates do go up as forecast, you can expect their dividends to rise as well. In 2007, before the financial crisis, money market funds were paying about 5%. In 1981 when interest rates peaked they paid 20%!
In summary, here’s where to invest money in mutual funds for 2014 and beyond. In the stock arena invest in no-load stock index funds that invest in high quality dividend-paying stocks. In the bond fund department go with no-load bond index funds that invest in intermediate-term, medium to high quality corporate bonds. Where to invest money for safety: money market funds.
Don’t work against yourself in deciding where to invest money in mutual funds. In both the stock and bond categories you can avoid costly sales charges (loads). You can also cut yearly expenses (and all of your choices will have them) when you invest money in index funds. These do not pass high management costs on to investors. They keep costs low by simply investing in line with a stock or bond index to duplicate its results.
In other words, index funds do not pay money managers big bucks to TRY to out perform an index (like the Dow Jones Industrial Average). In deciding where to invest money in mutual funds in 2014 and beyond keep the following thought in mind. Few, if any, money managers have a proven track record of out performing the indexes on a consistent basis. You rarely get what you pay for when you invest money in mutual funds with high investor costs.