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Monday, February 2, 2015

Let's Chat About Mutual Funds

In Robert Kiyosaki's book entitled "Unfair Advantage--The Power of Financial Education", the author and some of his advisors discuss the pros and cons of buying/selling mutual funds versus other paper assets.

To be frank, Robert is pretty brutal in his analysis of the weaknesses inherent in owning mutual funds.

The common local Canadian-ish thinking in favor of mutual funds is, in essence somewhat patronizing because many folks invest in mutual funds simply because they don't trust themselves to pick their own stocks, bonds or other paper assets.
The idea behind giving your hard earned money into a mutual fund manager's control is because the investor "hopes"  that the fund manager understands the stock market better than the average Jane/Joe ........thus minimizing risk and hopefully steering your money into a nice blend of "safety and growth."

One alarming paragraph that I am going to quote directly from his book "Unfair Advantage--The Power of Financial Education" is from page 134, third paragraph from the bottom of the page:
"Today, there are more mutual-fund companies than there are publicly traded companies. This is how insane diversification has become."

That sentence above speaks volumes as to the state of affairs in the mutual fund industry. Perhaps it is EASIER to set up a mutual fund company than to set up an actual "profitable" publicly traded business. Or is it that mutual funds are just so much easier to SELL to the fearful and "ignorant" public than REAL products and services???

And yes, Robert, I do get the point. I do appreciate Robert's honesty. There is perhaps more potential in gains for those who control the mutual fund companies, than for those who actually invest in the mutual fund companies by purchasing mutual funds units. The fund managers are paid well through fees collected internally from within the fund and these fees are known as the "Management Expense Ratio" or "MER" for short. So even if the mutual fund, as a whole, loses money, the managers may still walk away with millions of dollars gleaned in fees.

Another frightening aspect which Robert's advisor Tom Wheelwright mentions in the same book at the top of page 130 , is that mutual funds are taxed twice. I am hoping this refers just to American investors, but I will have to do some more research as it applies to us Canadians. Robert says that mutual fund investors are taxed when they sell their mutual fund unit due to capital gains tax, BUT he also said that mutual fund investors are ALSO taxed whenever the fund managers generate capital gains within the fund even if it doesn't reflect in a price increase in the value of your mutual fund units. So, theoretically, Robert exclaims, it's possible to pay capital gains tax based on what your mutual fund manager decides to sell from within the fund, even if your actual mutual fund units have LOST value after the date you purchased them. I might also add, that we would also be taxed for any distributions that the mutual fund pays out to the owners.....so that would potentially be a third form of taxation. I wonder if there are any safeguards in that taxation dilemma?And again, just how does this apply to Canadian mutual funds??? 

It seems to me that fear and a lack of confidence play a big part in the investments many folks decide to ultimately choose. Robert is certainly right on this one point....namely that"ignorance is NOT bliss" when it comes to financial knowledge, and that the time and effort it takes to educate ourselves financially is time WELL SPENT.

If you are a financial guru, accountant, financial planner, or just like to pretend you're a financial/investment expert, I welcome your comments to my blog. Let's have a lively discussion on the good, bad and the ugly/pretty side of mutual funds....and Yes, you mutual fund managers are permitted to have your say too ")

Peaceful productivity.

Carla