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Mutual Funds: Different Types and How They Are Priced

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What Is a Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund is an investment option where money from many people is pooled together to buy a variety of stocks, bonds, or other securities. This mix of investments is managed by a professional money manager, providing individuals with a portfolio that is structured to match the investment objectives stated in the fund's prospectus.

By investing in a mutual fund, individuals gain access to a broad range of investments, which can help reduce risk compared to investing in a single stock or bond. Investors earn returns based on the fund's performance minus any fees or expenses charged. In this way, mutual funds can give small or individual investors access to professionally managed portfolios of equities, bonds, and other asset classes.1

Key Takeaways

  • A mutual fund is a type of investment vehicle consisting of a portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other securities. 
  • Mutual funds give small or individual investors access to diversified, professionally managed portfolios.
  • Mutual funds are divided into several kinds of categories, representing the kinds of securities they invest in, their investment objectives, and the type of returns they seek.
  • Mutual funds charge annual fees, expense ratios, or commissions, which may affect their overall returns.
  • Employer-sponsored retirement plans commonly invest in mutual funds.

Understanding Mutual Funds

A mutual fund is a type of investment that pools money from many people to invest in a variety of assets like stocks, bonds, or other securities. This pooling allows individuals to diversify their investments and access a broader range of strategies or assets than they might be able to on their own.

A mutual fund effectively owns a portfolio of investments that is funded by all the investors who have purchased shares in the fund. So when an individual buys into a mutual fund, they gain part-ownership of all the underlying assets that fund owns. This gives the individual investor exposure to a much wider swath of the market through a single mutual fund investment compared to what they might be able to buy individually.

The performance of the mutual fund depends on the underlying assets that it holds. If these assets increase in value on net, so does the value of the fund's shares. Conversely, if the assets decrease in value, so does the value of the shares.

The fund manager oversees the portfolio, making decisions about how to allocate money across sectors, industries, companies, etc. based on the stated strategy of the fund. By pooling money into a large fund, investors can participate in a professionally managed, diversified group of securities that they wouldn't usually have access to as individuals. This diversification and access are a key benefit of mutual funds for individual investors.

How Are Returns Calculated for Mutual Funds?

Investors typically earn a return from a mutual fund in three ways:

  1. Income is earned from dividends on stocks and interest on bonds held in the fund's portfolio, and it pays out nearly all of the income it receives over the year to fund owners in the form of a distribution. Funds often give investors a choice either to receive a check for distributions or to reinvest the earnings to purchase additional shares of the mutual fund.
  2. Portfolio Distributions: If the fund sells securities that have increased in price, the fund realizes a capital gain, which most funds also pass on to investors in a distribution.
  3. Capital Gains: When the fund's shares increase in price, you can sell your mutual fund shares for a profit in the market.

When researching the returns of a mutual fund, an investor will typically see "total return," or the net change in value, either up or down, of an investment over a specific period. This includes any interest, dividends, or capital gains the fund generated as well as the change in its market value over some time. In most cases, total returns are calculated for one, five, and 10-year periods as well as since the day the fund opened, or the inception date.

Types of Mutual Funds

There are several types of mutual funds available for investment, though most mutual funds fall into one of four main categories which include stock funds, money market funds, bond funds, and target-date funds.

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Stock Funds

As the name implies, this fund invests principally in equity or stocks. Within this group are various subcategories. Some equity funds are named for the size of the companies they invest in: small-, mid-, or large-cap. Others are named by their investment approach: aggressive growth, income-oriented, value, and others. Equity funds are also categorized by whether they invest in domestic (U.S.) stocks or foreign equities. To understand the universe of equity funds, use a style box, an example of which is below.

Equit style box

Funds can be classified based on both the size of the companies, their market caps, and the growth prospects of the invested stocks. The term value fund refers to a style of investing that looks for high-quality, low-growth companies that are out of favor with the market. These companies are characterized by low price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios, low price-to-book (P/B) ratios, and dividend yields.5 Conversely, growth funds look to companies with strong earnings, sales, and cash flow growth. These companies typically have high P/E ratios and do not pay dividends.6A compromise between strict value and growth investment is a "blend," which refers to companies that are neither value nor growth stocks and are classified as somewhere in the middle.

Large-cap companies have high market capitalizations, with values over $10 billion. Market cap is derived by multiplying the share price by the number of shares outstanding. Large-cap stocks are typically blue-chip firms that are often recognizable by name. Small-cap stocks refer to those with a market cap ranging from $250 million to $2 billion. These smaller companies tend to be newer, riskier investments. Mid-cap stocks fill in the gap between small- and large-cap.7

A mutual fund may blend its strategy between investment style and company size. For example, a large-cap value fund would look to large-cap companies that are in strong financial shape but have recently seen their share prices fall and would be placed in the upper left quadrant of the style box (large and value). The opposite of this would be a fund that invests in startup technology companies with excellent growth prospects: small-cap growth. Such a mutual fund would reside in the bottom right quadrant (small and growth).

What are large-cap stocks?

Large-cap companies are well-established businesses with a significant market share, like market caps of ₹20,000 crore or more. These companies dominate the industry and are very stable. They hold themselves well in times of recession or during any other adverse event. Besides, they usually have been functioning for decades and have a good reputation. Large-cap stocks are a good option if you want to invest in a company’s stocks by taking less risk. These stocks are less volatile than mid-cap and small-cap stocks, and lower volatility makes them less risky. However, since they come with low risk, the returns here can be relatively lower than mid and small-cap stocks.

What are mid-cap stocks?

Mid-cap companies have market caps above ₹5,000 crore but less than ₹20,000 crore. Investing in these companies can be riskier than investing in large-cap market companies, because mid-caps tend to be more volatile. On the other hand, mid-cap companies also can turn into large-cap companies in the long run. These companies can offer a higher growth potential than large-cap stocks; hence, more investors are attracted to investing here.

What are small-cap stocks?

Small-cap companies have a market capitalisation of less than ₹5,000 crores. These companies are relatively smaller in size and have a significant growth potential. What makes them risky is the low probability that they will be successful over time. This makes the stocks of such companies volatile in nature. Small-cap companies have a long history of underperformance but when an economy emerges from a recession, small-cap stocks often prove to be outperformers.

Bond Funds

A mutual fund that generates a minimum return is part of the fixed income category. A fixed-income mutual fund focuses on investments that pay a set rate of return, such as government bonds, corporate bonds, or other debt instruments. The fund portfolio generates interest income that is passed on to the shareholders.

Sometimes referred to as bond funds, these funds are often actively managed and seek to buy relatively undervalued bonds to sell them at a profit. These mutual funds will likely pay higher returns but aren't without risk. For example, a fund specializing in high-yield junk bonds is much riskier than a fund that invests in government securities.8

Because there are many different types of bonds, bond funds can vary dramatically depending on where they invest, and all bond funds are subject to interest rate risk.

Index Funds

Index funds invest in stocks that correspond with a major market index such as the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). This strategy requires less research from analysts and advisors, so fewer expenses are passed on to shareholders, and these funds are often designed with cost-sensitive investors in mind.

Balanced Funds

Balanced funds invest in a hybrid of asset classes, whether stocks, bonds, money market instruments, or alternative investments. The objective of this fund, known as an asset allocation fund, is to reduce the risk of exposure across asset classes.

Some funds are defined with a specific allocation strategy that is fixed, so the investor can have a predictable exposure to various asset classes. Other funds follow a strategy for dynamic allocation percentages to meet various investor objectives. This may include responding to market conditions, business cycle changes, or the changing phases of the investor's own life.

The portfolio manager is commonly given the freedom to switch the ratio of asset classes as needed to maintain the integrity of the fund's stated strategy.

Money Market Funds

The money market consists of safe, risk-free, short-term debt instruments, mostly government Treasury bills. An investor will not earn substantial returns, but the principal is guaranteed. A typical return is a little more than the amount earned in a regular checking or savings account and a little less than the average certificate of deposit (CD).9

Income Funds

Income funds are named for their purpose: to provide current income on a steady basis. These funds invest primarily in government and high-quality corporate debt, holding these bonds until maturity to provide interest streams. While fund holdings may appreciate, the primary objective of these funds is to provide steady cash flow​ to investors. As such, the audience for these funds consists of conservative investors and retirees.

International/Global Funds

An international fund, or foreign fund, invests only in assets located outside an investor's home country. Global funds, however, can invest anywhere around the world. Their volatility often depends on the unique country's economy and political risks. However, these funds can be part of a well-balanced portfolio by increasing diversification, since the returns in foreign countries may be uncorrelated with returns at home.

Specialty Funds

Sector funds are targeted strategy funds aimed at specific sectors of the economy, such as financial, technology, or health care. Sector funds can be extremely volatile since the stocks in a given sector tend to be highly correlated with each other.

Regional funds make it easier to focus on a specific geographic area of the world. This can mean focusing on a broader region or an individual country.

Socially responsible funds, or ethical funds, invest only in companies that meet the criteria of certain guidelines or beliefs. For example, some socially responsible funds do not invest in "sin" industries such as tobacco, alcoholic beverages, weapons, or nuclear power. Other funds invest primarily in green technology, such as solar and wind power or recycling.10

Mutual Fund Fees

A mutual fund has annual operating fees or shareholder fees. Annual fund operating fees are an annual percentage of the funds under management, usually under 1%, known as the expense ratio. A fund's expense ratio is the summation of the advisory or management fee and its administrative costs.11

Shareholder fees are sales charges, commissions, and redemption fees paid directly by investors when purchasing or selling the funds. Sales charges or commissions are "the load" of a mutual fund. When a mutual fund has a front-end load, fees are assessed when shares are purchased. For a back-end load, mutual fund fees are assessed when investors sell their shares.

Sometimes, however, an investment company offers a no-load mutual fund, which doesn't carry any commission or sales charge. These funds are distributed directly by an investment company, rather than through a secondary party. Some funds also charge fees and penalties for early withdrawals or selling the holding before a specific time has elapsed.12

Classes of Mutual Fund Shares

Traditionally, individual investors purchase mutual funds with A-shares through a broker. This purchase includes a front-end load of up to 5% or more, plus management fees and ongoing fees for distributions, also known as 12b-1 fees. Financial advisors selling these products may encourage clients to buy higher-load offerings to generate commissions. With front-end funds, the investor pays these expenses as they buy into the fund.

To remedy these problems and meet fiduciary-rule standards, investment companies have designated new share classes, including "level load" C shares, which generally don't have a front-end load but carry a 12b-1 annual distribution fee of up to 1%.

Funds that charge management and other fees when an investor sells their holdings are classified as Class B shares.14

How To Invest in Mutual Funds

Investing in mutual funds is a fairly straightforward process that involves the following steps:

  1. Make sure you have a brokerage account with enough cash on hand, and with access to mutual fund shares.
  2. Identify specific mutual funds that match your investing goals in terms of risk, returns, fees, and minimum investments. Many platforms offer fund screening and research tools.
  3. Determine how much you want to invest initially and submit your trade. If you choose, you can often set up automatic recurring investments as desired.
  4. Monitor and review performances periodically, making adjustments as needed.
  5. When it is time to close your position, enter a sell order on your platform.

How Mutual Fund Shares Are Priced

The value of the mutual fund depends on the performance of the securities it invests in. When buying a unit or share of a mutual fund, an investor buys the performance of its portfolio or, more precisely, a part of its value. Investing in a share of a mutual fund differs from investing in stock shares. Unlike stock, mutual fund shares do not give their holders voting rights. A mutual fund share represents investments in many different stocks or other securities.

The price of a mutual fund share is referred to as the net asset value (NAV) per share, sometimes expressed as NAVPS. A fund's NAV is derived by dividing the total value of the securities in the portfolio by the total amount of shares outstanding. Outstanding shares are those held by all shareholders, institutional investors, and company officers or insiders.

Mutual fund shares can typically be purchased or redeemed at the fund's current NAV, which doesn't fluctuate during market hours but is settled at the end of each trading day. The price of a mutual fund is also updated when the NAVPS is settled.16

The average mutual fund holds different securities, which means mutual fund shareholders gain diversification. Consider an investor who buys only Google stock and relies on the success of the company's earnings. Because all of their dollars are tied to one company, gains and losses depend on its success. However, a mutual fund may hold Google in its portfolio where gains and losses of other companies within the fund offset the gains and losses of just one stock.

Pros and Cons of Mutual Fund Investing

There are a variety of reasons that mutual funds have been the retail investor's vehicle of choice, with an overwhelming majority of money in employer-sponsored retirement plans invested in mutual funds.

  • Liquidity
  • Diversification
  • Minimal investment requirements
  • Professional management
  • Variety of offerings
  • High fees, commissions, and other expenses
  • Large cash presence in portfolios
  • No FDIC coverage
  • Difficulty in comparing funds
  • Lack of transparency in holdings

Pros of Mutual Fund Investing

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Pros of Mutual Fund Investing

Diversification, or the mixing of investments and assets within a portfolio to reduce risk, is one of the advantages of investing in mutual funds. A diversified portfolio has securities with different capitalizations and industries and bonds with varying maturities and issuers. A mutual fund can achieve diversification faster and more cheaply than buying individual securities.

Easy Access

Trading on the major stock exchanges, mutual funds can be bought and sold with relative ease, making them highly liquid investments. Also, when it comes to certain types of assets, like foreign equities or exotic commodities, mutual funds are often the most feasible way, sometimes the only way, for individual investors to participate.

Economies of Scale

Mutual funds also provide economies of scale by forgoing numerous commission charges to create a diversified portfolio. Buying only one security at a time leads to large transaction fees. The smaller denominations of mutual funds allow investors to take advantage of dollar-cost averaging.

Because a mutual fund buys and sells large amounts of securities at a time, its transaction costs are lower than what an individual would pay for securities transactions. A mutual fund can invest in certain assets or take larger positions than a smaller investor could.

Professional Management

A professional investment manager uses research and skillful trading. A mutual fund is a relatively inexpensive way for a small investor to get a full-time manager to make and monitor investments. Mutual funds require much lower investment minimums, providing a low-cost way for individual investors to experience and benefit from professional money management.

Professional Management

Investors have the freedom to research and select from managers with a variety of styles and management goals. A fund manager may focus on value investing, growth investing, developed markets, emerging markets, income, or macroeconomic investing, among many other styles. This variety allows investors to gain exposure to not only stocks and bonds but also commodities, foreign assets, and real estate through specialized mutual funds. Mutual funds provide opportunities for foreign and domestic investment that may not otherwise be directly accessible to ordinary investors.

Mutual funds are subject to industry regulation that ensures accountability and fairness to investors.

Cons of Mutual Fund Investing

Liquidity, diversification, and professional management all make mutual funds attractive options; however, mutual funds have drawbacks too.

No Guarantees

Like many other investments without a guaranteed return, there is always the possibility that the value of your mutual fund will depreciate. Equity mutual funds experience price fluctuations, along with the stocks in the fund's portfolio. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) does not guarantee mutual fund investments.17

Cash Drag

Mutual funds require a significant amount of their portfolios to be held in cash to satisfy share redemptions each day. To maintain liquidity and the capacity to accommodate withdrawals, funds typically have to keep a larger portion of their portfolio as cash than a typical investor might. Because cash earns no return, it is often referred to as a "cash drag."

High Costs

Mutual funds provide investors with professional management, but fees that reduce the fund's overall payout are assessed to mutual fund investors regardless of the performance of the fund. Since fees vary widely from fund to fund, failing to pay attention to the fees can have negative long-term consequences as actively managed funds incur transaction costs that accumulate over each year.

Diworsification" and Dilution

"Diworsification"—a play on words—is an investment or portfolio strategy that implies too much complexity can lead to worse results. Many mutual fund investors tend to overcomplicate matters. That is, they acquire too many funds that are highly related and, as a result, lose the benefits of diversification.

Dilution is also the result of a successful fund growing too big. When new money pours into funds that have had strong track records, the manager often has trouble finding suitable investments for all the new capital to be put to good use.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that funds have at least 80% of assets in the particular type of investment implied in their names.18How the remaining assets are invested is up to the fund manager. However, the different categories that qualify for 80% of the assets may be vague and wide-ranging. A fund can, therefore, manipulate prospective investors via its title. For example, a fund that focuses narrowly on Argentinian stocks could be sold with a far-ranging title like "International High-Tech Fund."

End-of-Day Trading Only

A mutual fund allows you to request that your shares be converted into cash at any time, however, unlike stock that trades throughout the day, many mutual fund redemptions​ take place only at the end of each trading day.19


When a fund manager sells a security, a capital-gains tax is triggered. Taxes can be mitigated by investing in tax-sensitive funds or by holding non-tax-sensitive mutual funds in a tax-deferred account, such as a 401(k) or IRA.20

Evaluating Funds

Researching and comparing funds can be difficult. Unlike stocks, mutual funds do not offer investors the opportunity to juxtapose the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, sales growth, earnings per share (EPS), or other important data. A mutual fund's net asset value can offer some basis for comparison, but given the diversity of portfolios, comparing the proverbial apples to apples can be difficult, even among funds with similar names or stated objectives. Only index funds tracking the same markets tend to be genuinely comparable.

Example of a Mutual Fund

One of the most notable mutual funds is Fidelity Investments' Magellan Fund (FMAGX). Established in 1963, the fund had an investment objective of capital appreciation via investment in common stocks. The fund's height of success was between 1977 and 1990 when Peter Lynch served as its portfolio manager. Under Lynch's tenure, Magellan's assets under management increased from $18 million to $14 billion.21

Fidelity's performance continued strong, and assets under management (AUM) grew to nearly $110 billion in 2000. By 1997, the fund had become so large that Fidelity closed it to new investors and would not reopen it until 2008.22

As of February 2023, Fidelity Magellan has approximately $30 billion in assets and has been managed by Sammy Simnegar since February 2019. The S&P 500 is the fund's primary benchmark.23

Mutual Funds vs. Index Funds

Index funds are a type of mutual fund that aims to replicate the performance of a market benchmark, or index. For example, an S&P 500 index fund tracks that index by holding the 500 companies in the same proportions. A key goal of index funds is minimizing costs to closely mirror their index.

By contrast, actively managed mutual funds try to beat the market by stock picking and shifting allocations. The fund manager makes choices to achieve returns greater than a benchmark through their investing strategy and research.

Index vs. Active Mutual Funds
Attribute Index Funds Active Funds
Goal Match a market index Outperform the market
Management Style Passive, automated Active by fund managers
Fees Low expense ratios Higher expense ratios
Performance Average market returns Attempt to beat averages

Index funds offer market returns at lower costs, while active mutual funds aim for higher returns through skilled management that often comes at a higher price. Investors should consider costs, time horizons, and risk appetite when deciding between index or managed mutual fund investing.


What are mutual funds?
Mutual fund is an investment option which consists of pooled money from various investors that are later invested in stocks, securities, money market, bonds, etc. These investments are managed by well-qualified professionals. The funds may be collected through a Lumpsum or SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) mode of investment, as per the strategy and investment objective of the fund.
How are mutual funds categorized?
Mutual funds are generally classified according to the asset class. Most mutual funds are divided into Equity, Debt, and Hybrid.
  • Equity: These Mutual Funds invest mostly in equity stocks (up to 100%). ELSS/Tax saver subcategory within equity allows tax benefits under section 80C of the Income Tax Act and has a lock-in period of 3 years.
  • Debt: These mutual funds invest in debt instruments like bonds, treasury bills, etc. (except equity).
  • Hybrid: Hybrid mutual funds invest in a combination of Equity and Debt investments.
What is Lumpsum & SIP investment?
There are two ways of investing in mutual funds – Lumpsum and SIP
Lumpsum is a method of investing a corpus in one go. It is usually used when an investor tries to time the market.
SIP is a method of investing a fixed amount at regular intervals, similar to a recurring deposit. The most important benefit of SIP is averaging the cost of buying and investors don’t have to constantly time the market.
What is SWP?
SWP or Systematic Withdrawal Plan is a type of mutual fund plan wherein the investor has the option to withdraw fixed amounts at a periodic frequency, like monthly or quarterly. The investor may choose to withdraw only the gains or sell a few units and get the money. It is perfect for people who need a source of regular income.
How can I invest in mutual fund?

You can invest in mutual funds with Bajaj Finserv’s end-to-end online process. in a paperless and hassle-free manner with BajajFinserv. Follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Download the Bajaj Finserv app from the play store or visit the Bajaj Finserv website.
Step 2: Login using your mobile number
Step 3: From the ‘Investment’ widget, click on the ‘Mutual Funds’ tab
Step 4: Enter your basic details like PAN number, bank account details etc. and your account will be activated in 5 mins.
Step 5: Start investing with Bajaj Finserv by selecting funds where you want to invest and make payment via net banking / UPI / NEFT/ RTGS

What happens if you miss a SIP payment?
In case there is insufficient amount in the account, a SIP instalment is missed. Missing a SIP instalment is not penalised by mutual funds. The bank will nevertheless assess a fee for your failure to make the auto-debit payment and inadequate cash. A mutual fund will only terminate the SIP after three consecutive missed payments. The current investments will continue to generate income.
What is NAV?
NAV or Net Asset Value, is the market value of the funds. These values change every day and is the price at which an investor will buy or sell funds.
What are growth and dividend options?
In the case of Growth option, profits gained on the funds remain invested in the market, which grows together with the principal amount invested. Whereas, in case of Dividend option, profits are paid back to the investor periodically instead of investing it in the market.

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