Tilting Spinning TopTilting, when done intentionally, is generally understood to be the act of pursuing an otherwise seemingly passive or lazy investment approach and then loading up on some specific additional investment so that your portfolio is more heavily weighted or biased toward that investment. This is done for the purposes of trying to earn greater return than the purely passive approach might afford you, i.e. you are attempting to outperform the market. For instance, you may buy an S&P index fund as part of your portfolio and then purchase additional shares of Apple separately. You are then tilted toward Apple in particular and technology more generally because your S&P index fund already contains shares of Apple, giving you exposure to the company and its sector. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with purposely tilting as a practice so long as you understand the risks – it’s your business – you must be wary that you not end up inadvertently doing it in your pursuit of passive portfolio diversification. If you never meant to tilt and your real objective was simply passive diversification all along, then you have done yourself a disservice without realizing it by exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. By paying careful attention to a fund’s holdings during fund selection, you can avoid this. Continue reading

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History & Overview

In one form or another, mutual fund companies have existed in the United States since 1924 with the advent of the Massachusetts Investors Trust managed by Massachusetts Financial Services and later the formation of State Street Investment Corporation (mutual funds as investment vehicles predate these companies). In many ways, the general idea has remained the same ever since – offer small investors, or savers, access to diversified portfolios as a low-risk means of growing financial wealth. Like other financial services vendors, these investment intermediaries match savers with borrowers and provide both parties with risk sharing, liquidity, and reduced information costs. By an Investment Company Institute estimate, mutual funds worldwide accounted for close to $27 trillion USD in investment dollars as of the end of 2012. The industry is significant, needless to say, and these investment vehicles are a lazy strategy favorite. Here we offer a primer on mutual fund companies and funds, complete with a summary of some key judgement metrics. Continue reading