Mutual Funds 101: What they are and how to use them
A mutual fund is an investment vehicle in which multiple investors pool their money into one account to be managed by a professional investor. From a money making standpoint, the benefits of using a mutual fund are pretty clear. For one, if you've got extra cash lying around but don't know how to invest it, it pays to hand your money to someone who knows what they're doing. Secondly, mutual funds are heavily regulated by the government, so it's definitely a more secure way to invest. Finally, the primary benefit of investing a mutual fund is the diversification. Mutual funds typically hold many different securities and this diversification is a great way to mitigate risk. It isn't all sunshine and rainbows, however. Investors in a mutual fund have to pay various fees and expenses, and since they're part of group, each investor must sacrifice his/her ability to invest individually.
How do they work?
From a functional standpoint, mutual funds are simultaneously an investment portfolio and, because of their size, a full fledged company. A mutual fund, day-to-day, works much like any other company. A fund manager is elected by the board of directors and is legally obligated to make decisions that benefit the fund's shareholders. Most mutual funds exist as part of a larger investment corporation, with some companies containing hundreds of funds.
Mutual funds invest in multiple securities at once in order to hedge their bets.
What's the difference between a mutual fund and a hedge fund?
Mutual funds are not to be confused with their risk-taking, coke-addled cousin, the hedge fund. The fundamental difference between the two is that a hedge fund's leverages (bets made with borrowed cash or prospective earnings) aren't regulated. While both mutual funds and hedge funds lack a certain level of transparency, investors in a mutual fund can rest a little easier, knowing that the company they're invested is relatively safe (in theory). While the SEC doesn't have the jurisdiction to supervise a mutual fund's investments, it does require these funds to publicly report their earnings. The biggest safety net in the world of hedge funds is its barriers to entry. You must have a net worth of at least $1 million to ride that ride. That said, if you're trying to bet the minimum, you might be better off at a casino.
Are there different types of mutual funds?
Since there are different types of securities (bonds, stocks, derivatives etc.), naturally there are different types of mutual funds. One of the more prominent types is based on fixed income and the collecting of government and corporate bonds. Fixed income funds generate their income via interest. Another type of fund is based around market indexes. These funds are predicated on the belief that the stock market is too hard to judge. Instead of trying to beat the market, investors buy into specific indexes (i.e. Dow Jones, S&P, NASDAQ). The advantage of these funds is twofold. Investing this way is extremely risk averse and feels significantly safer than the other mutual funds out there. On top of this, betting on an index isn't rocket science, so there are way less fees involved with this type of fund. Another relatively secure option is a money market fund, in which the objective is to keep the fund's share price at $1 and to turn a profit on short term investments. These funds move quickly but are a comparatively safe way to invest one's money. There's also no fee associated with entering and exiting a money market fund. There are also sector funds (funds based on specific industries), balanced funds (funds that hold both stocks and bonds), and too many other variants and combinations to mention here. This is the 101 course for God's sake. If you've read this and thought "gee, I didn't know what mutual funds were, but now I'm itching to get involved," I recommend talking to a financial advisor.
Index Funds are the safest way to play
Aren't all funds just scams?
Yes. Invest in real estate you idiot. Sorry, I got ahead of myself there. What I meant to say was:Yes and no. Where mutual funds come up short, is in the idea that picking a company with a star investor or manager is going to to yield better results. An investor's success rate is not predictive of future success. According Henry Blodget and David Swensen the only thing that's predictive of a mutual fund's success is the cost it takes to run it. This is why index funds, with their lower operating costs, always seem to beat out other funds in revenue. So yes, funds that claim to have "inside knowledge" about the stock market and investing, are lying to you. Investing at that level tends to be little more than educated guessing. That said, these funds exist and have been legitimized in the American financial space. The amount of money tied up in US-based mutual funds is about the same as our GDP. So, if you have the money, and are looking to bet it, a mutual fund is closer to blackjack than roulette. Still, unless you're counting cards (or insider trading) it's pretty much all luck.
Every time payday rolls around, I’m on top of the world. Jeff Bezos-level rich - even though I’m anything but. And then somehow the very next day, rent is due.
The cycle continues. The next payday, bills for my apartment. I find myself without a surplus of savings since I just moved and newly-furnished my apartment completely.
Even more terrifying is the looming presence of the holiday season. Halloween’s officially over and before we know it, hello Thanksgiving…and then there’s Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s insane.
I’ve been feeling very British lately. Not in a Union-Jack-obsessed, “Keep Calm and Carry-On” way. I went through that phase in 2012 with everyone else… no thank you. And it’s not even a surge of patriotism catalyzed by the Queen dying — I’m firmly team Diana and team Meghan.
Now that fall is officially here, the holidays will sweep in and I’ll have to contend with the fact that I won’t be spending them with my family in the UK. I went home to London earlier this year, so there’s not much left in my travel budget for another trip across the pond. A few domestic jaunts might be in my future, but the closest I’ll get to England this winter is watching Love Island and Love, Actually.
So in that spirit, I’ve been filling my days with content from my favorite Brits. I’m listening to all the old British rock bands I grew up listening to, patiently awaiting the new Arctic Monkeys album, and rewatching anything with Michaela Coel in it. I even shipped myself an order of British Baked Beans, so you know it’s dire.
I’ve also been watching British YouTubers like Grace Beverley — my favorite. Generally, I only go on YouTube to watch Vogue Beauty Secrets and AD Open Door videos. But I’m so glad I stumbled on Grace. Her content is a mix of London lifestyle (what lured me in), relatable entrepreneurship, and mindful productivity. I’m not a hustle-and-grind-girlboss, but as a creative person in a 9-to-5, I need all the help I can get to stay plugged in. So, the video “how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmed” changed my approach to WFH.
Grace outlines her own productivity method: the to-do table. Instead of making a simple to-do list, she divides her tasks into a table that anyone can follow. As someone who’s survived with to-do lists for years, I recently implemented Grace’s method, and it’s revolutionized my workdays.
how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmedwww.youtube.com
I follow her routine to a tee. Here’s how it works:
Essentially, she divides her daily responsibilities into four categories: quick ticks, tasks, projects, and non-negotiables.
- Quick Ticks: Actions that take less than 5-minutes
- Tasks: To-do’s that take up to 30-minutes. Probably don’t take too much brain energy.
- Projects: Long-term list items. These help guide your priorities, even if you’re not crossing them off in one day.
- Non-negotiables: Pick 3 things each day that you must get done. This is how you’ll truly measure success.
With everything written down and sorted, next address your schedule. Meetings, deadlines, and time blocks — whatever works best for you. Write it down. Then make a pact with yourself to stick to them.
This way of categorization provides a roadmap for prioritizing your day — making you far more productive. Have you ever spent the entire day on small tasks and then suddenly realized you hadn’t moved the needle on any task? Or do you spend way too much time on tasks that aren’t a priority? No more. With your non-negotiables laid out, you know what to laser-focus on and what to dedicate energy towards.
Also, it pays to know your working style. I’m not a morning person. Yet, I have to be up and at ‘em super early. So, first thing in the morning, I march through my Quick Ticks to warm me up. I set a time limit, so I can knock out some easy wins which is totally inspiring. Then I move on to bigger things without lingering on emails or admin. For others, it might be more helpful to tackle the big things with all that early-in-the-day brain power earlier.
Grace has great tips on avoiding overwhelm and burnout. My favorite is taking more intentional breaks rather than scrolling through social media. I call this scrolling “productive” because I’m “coming up with pitches.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. It’s more productive in the long run to giving my brain a break with non-screen related stimuli.
Grace’s solution? Set a timer to read a real, an actual book. I’ve never thought of this. It’s a genius way to check off some books on my TBR and kickstart my creativity. After reading a good book, I’m completely inspired to write. So having books near my desk helps me step away from the computer during my lunch break for an actual reset. (And yes, the current books I’m reading are by British authors: Assembly by Natasha Brown, and Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalolu.)
In my pursuit of switching out my WFH set-up and getting my life together, I’ve engineered my workstation for success. With my new WFH essentials and Grace’s productivity technique, I’m revitalized for work — despite the fall blues and my melancholy about the pending holidays.
Here are the things getting me hyped for work and helping me crush my Grace Beverley-inspired to-do tables — no lists in sight:
Pack your bags — Southwest Airlines is having a major sale! Fares are as low as $59 one-way if you book by October 3rd.
This end-of-summer super sale is a game-changer for your travel plans through the end of the year. Summertime travel gets all the glory. But why not take advantage of your long weekends, holidays, and PTO this fall. You’ll be surprised at how much travel you can fit in. Keep the fall/winter season exciting with domestic trips that give you all the excitement without breaking the bank. All thanks to Southwest.
Here’s the breakdown:
Where can you go?
You’ll find discounted tickets to and from most airports. Sale fares apply to cross country travel, and even Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean! Whether you’re visiting a new city or revisiting your last beach vacation, this sale has fares to make your travel dreams come true.
What do the fares cover?
Southwest Airlines has multiple fare tiers, each with various benefits. Wanna Get Away fares start at $59, while Wanna Get Away Plus fares start at $89. You can also find great deals on Anytime fares, which offer priority boarding and express lanes. Then there’s Business Select tickets for a luxe experience at an affordable price point.
Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member?
You may think these sale fares are too good to be true. Is there a catch? Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member to access them? You’re in luck — anyone can attain these fares for a limited time.
But, insider tip, you should consider signing up for Southwest Rapid Rewards. With a free sign up, you earn points and miles with each trip you take. And with this sale, each dollar you spend on these discounted tix can stretch super far until you eventually earn free travel. The only thing better than a sale is free stuff.
I’ve been browsing the Southwest Airlines site, checking out flights and dreaming.