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How Do I Find the Best Mutual Fund?

Mutual funds are an excellent tool to diversify one's investment portfolio, but finding the right one can be a tricky task. This article provides a systematic approach to discover the best mutual funds, focusing on index funds, and offers insights into why past performance may not predict future returns.

An index mutual fund mirrors the performance of a specific index, like the S&P 500 or the Nasdaq 100. These funds have the same stocks and weighting as the index, which is why they often perform better than their actively managed counterparts. Active fund managers may occasionally beat the market, but such feats are hard to replicate consistently.

Moreover, index funds tend to have lower operational costs since they don't frequently buy and sell securities like actively managed funds. This cost-saving advantage can enhance returns over time.

Finding Index Mutual Funds: Best Resources

Two go-to sources for discovering index funds are Fidelity Investments and Vanguard, both known for their comprehensive range of investment products. On either website, you can search "Index Funds" to obtain a detailed list of their offerings.

Once you select a fund, you will find extensive data links revealing each fund's investment features. This transparency ensures that you understand the characteristics of each fund before investing.

For investors with a Morningstar premium membership, you have the advantage of accessing the platform's index fund listing and detailed, objective analyses of each fund's investment qualities.

Past Performance: A Hindsight Bias

Remember, the stock market is not immune to the adage "hindsight is 20/20." While the internet overflows with articles naming the "Best Mutual Fund Families" or "50 Winning Mutual Funds," these lists are products of hindsight, not foresight.

A mutual fund that outperforms one year cannot guarantee the same returns the next year. Historical data suggests that winners in one 3- or 5-year period often underperform in the following equivalent periods.

While some active managers can generate "alpha," or performance over and above their benchmark, many times this is not indicative of future results. These actively managed funds often sacrifice some of their alpha to pay for the management fees.

Striking the Balance: Active and Index Funds

An ideal investment strategy may involve a mix of actively managed funds and index funds. Constantly chasing the "best" funds isn't as beneficial as following an asset allocation methodology. This dynamic allocation among various asset classes, rather than focusing solely on individual fund performance, could be the key to optimized returns.

Experience Is Crucial

The process of finding the best mutual fund requires thorough due diligence and understanding that past performance isn't a clear predictor of future results. Balancing a portfolio with a mix of active and index funds and maintaining a keen eye on asset allocation can pave the way for successful investment experiences. It's an ongoing learning process, so leverage reliable resources to stay informed and make the most of your investments.


It requires a great deal of due diligence, but investors should understand that past performance is not indicative of future performance. Focus on experience.

In the stock market, as with most things in life, hindsight is 20/20. There are countless lists on the internet with titles like “The Best Mutual Fund Families” and “50 Winning Mutual Funds.” It is important to understand that the names on those lists are a function of hindsight and not foresight.

A mutual fund that outperformed in one year does not guarantee the same performance the following year. In fact, according to historical data, most of the winners in a 3 or 5 year period will be the losers in the next 3 or 5 year period.

Theories of market efficiency or inefficiency abound, but in general funds will be pulled toward the line of regression (averages) for a hypothetical portfolio that contains all of the investments in the entire market. There is pretty much no denying that.

There will always be some active managers able to generate “alpha,” which is performance over and above their benchmark, but many times it is not a guarantee of future results, as the popular disclaimer states.

Actively managed funds generally have to sacrifice some of their alpha due to charging fees to pay the fund managers. Other funds may appear in the superlative lists due to lower fees that have given them an edge, but if they’re only following indices, it is likely that some active managers can outdo them in the coming years.

It may be ideal to have a portfolio which uses some actively managed funds and some indexed funds, and our best strategy is not to continually pick the “best” funds from these lists, but to follow an asset allocation methodology. Questions like the one above can never be answered definitively.

It is the ever-changing, dynamic allocation among various asset classes that is key, so we encourage you to learn more about it using the resources here at Tickeron.

What are Some Strategies for Diversifying a Portfolio?
What is the Difference Between Active and Passive Money Management?

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