If you're not quite sure that investing in individual stocks is right for you, then mutual funds is a simple way to get your feet wet in the equities market.  There are many advantages to starting off with mutual funds.  For example, they offer the investor the ability to create an instant portfolio, with a minimum of financial commitment and expense.

This article, so insensitively named Mutual Funds for Dummies, completes our "dummies" series in this section of the website.  We have already covered topics such as stocks and investing, and are rounding out this section with this article on mutual funds.

A no-load mutual fund is an investment whose shares are sold without commissions or sales charges.  Since there are no costs of entry, the entire investment is immediately put to work.  But how do the returns of no-load funds stack up against those that charge fees?

There are a variety of choices in the mutual fund marketplace.  When evaluating funds, it's important to carefully consider the load each one charges.  There are no-load funds, front and back-loads, and even expiring back-loads.

A closed-end fund, also known as a closed-end company, is one of three basic types of investment companies. A closed-end fund works like an individual stock because shares are traded on an open exchange.  Unlike open-end mutual funds, money is raised only once during an Initial Public Offering (IPO).

This is the first article in a four-part series dedicated to buying mutual funds.  In this first installment, we're going to discuss the popularity of mutual funds, their risks, and some of the terminology an investor will encounter.

In part two of this four-part series, we're going to explain how to start the process of researching a mutual fund.  In this step, the investor will be looking to align their financial objectives with that of the mutual fund.

In part three of this four-part series, the topic will be evaluating mutual funds.  In this article, we're going to help investors to better understand the information they're likely to encounter when reviewing performance reports.  This includes Morningstar as well as other publishers of mutual fund ratings data.

In this final article in a four-part series dedicated to buying mutual funds, we'll be discussing both management fees and fund loads.  We'll also discuss information about the fund's manager, which appears in the prospectus literature.

In this article, we're going to cover the topic of mutual fund ratings.  This discussion will include an explanation of the premier fund rating system as published by Morningstar.  We're also going to discuss some of the problems investors need to be aware of when using a rating system, as well as the available alternatives.

The approach to researching mutual funds is similar to that used when selecting stocks.  But since a mutual fund is a pre-packaged portfolio of securities; the process is a little simpler.  The universe of mutual funds is also much smaller than that of common stocks, so there are fewer options to evaluate.

In this article, we're going to provide an overview of the variables that can impact the performance of a mutual fund.  Then we're going to finish up with return on investment information for the top performing mutual fund categories, which allows for a benchmark comparison between fund types.

In this article, we're going to discuss AIM Mutual Funds.  As we've done in previous articles in this series, we're going to first provide some information on the overall family of funds from AIM Investments.  Next, we're going to discuss their mutual fund fee structure.  Finally, we'll finish up with a listing of the top three performing mutual funds available from AIM.

The next family of funds that we are going to discuss, as part of this ongoing series, is American Mutual Funds.  In this article, we're going to first provide some background information on American Funds.  Next, we'll briefly discuss American's fee structure and investment returns.  Then we'll finish up with a list of the top-rated American mutual funds in 2016.

In this article, we're going to take a closer look at Federated Mutual Funds, also known as Federated Funds.  The Federated family is known for producing top performing mutual funds, which are aimed at the institutional as well as the individual investor.  Let's see if that holds true in this review.

Fidelity Mutual Funds is the next family of funds we're going to discuss in this series.  We'll start that discussion with a brief history of Fidelity.  Next, we'll talk about their fee structure.  Finally, we'll identify some of their top performing mutual funds.

Franklin Mutual funds bears the name and image of one of America's greatest citizens.  In this article, we're going to provide a review of this company to see if it lives up to the legacy he's left behind.  We're also going to take some liberties with the name of this mutual fund, since the company's formal name is Franklin Templeton Investments.

In this article, we'll be reviewing Hartford Mutual Funds, which is a very well-known name in the insurance industry too.  The insurance and investment services industry is skilled at managing money, which means there is a good fit for these same companies to offer investors the opportunity to purchase mutual funds too.

As we continue our series on mutual fund families, we're going to discuss Janus Mutual Funds.  As we've done before, we'll first comment on the overall family of funds offered.  Next, we will talk about the fee structure of Janus, including loads as well as fund expenses.  Finally, we'll finish up with a listing of their top rated funds.

We've already talked about the mutual funds that are available from Van Kampen and their relationship to Morgan Stanley.  In this article, the focus is going to be on the Morgan Stanley family of mutual funds.  This includes a brief background of their fees and loads as well as the performance of the funds offered to investors.

Oakmark's stated philosophy is to invest in value, which is also the strategy of this publication.  In terms of size, Oakmark is perhaps the smallest family of mutual funds reviewed to date, with an offering of only seven funds.

In this article, we're going to be discussing Oppenheimer Funds mutual funds.  The correct spelling of the fund is actually one word:  OppenheimerFunds.  As part of this discussion, we'll start with a brief history of the company.  Next, we'll talk about their fee structures and investment returns.  Finally, we'll provide a short list of the top performing mutual funds at Oppenheimer.

Unlike some of the other families of funds reviewed, PIMCO Mutual Funds focuses on serving the institutional money manager.  This difference will become apparent later on, when we discuss minimum investments.  That does not mean individuals should ignore PIMCO funds.  In fact, they should be very interested.

We're going to continue with our reviews of fund families with Pioneer Mutual Funds.  In this article, we're first going to provide a brief background of the company, including the services Pioneer offers to investors.  Next, we'll talk about Pioneer's fees and overall returns.  Finally, we'll provide information on some of their top performing mutual funds.

Putnam Investments has a heritage that dates back to the 1830's.  That's quite a history, even when compared to the other mutual fund giants reviewed.  Putnam mutual funds also reflect the balance you'd expect with such a long investment history.  They produce an excellent mix of both stock and bond funds.

In this article, we're going to be providing a review of Rydex Mutual Funds.  At one time, Rydex was geared more towards the elite investor, since their minimum investment for any fund was $25,000 (it is now $100).  It's also a relatively small player in the mutual fund space, with only a little over $25 billion in assets under management.

In this article, we'll be discussing Van Kampen mutual funds.  This review will include a brief background of the company, and the services Van Kampen provides to its clients.   Next, we'll talk about fee structures and investment returns.  Finally, we'll review some of the top performing funds found at Van Kampen.

Vanguard Mutual Funds was the first review in our series of articles covering families of mutual funds.  We'll start this discussion by talking briefly about the history of Vanguard.  Next, we'll provide an overview of their fee structures and investment returns.  Finally, we'll review a list of the top rated mutual funds from Vanguard.

Commodity mutual funds offer an interesting, and potentially rewarding, way to diversify an investment portfolio beyond stocks and bonds.  Since the prices of commodities tend to rise in step with inflation, they can be used as a hedge against inflation.  This movement also runs counter to stock prices, which is a feature that also makes them attractive to investors.

In an earlier article, we discussed eight different ways investors could participate in the gold market.  Here we're going to talk about one of the easiest ways for investors to enter the market: gold mutual funds.

Real estate mutual funds provide investors with one of the easiest ways to get started in this market.   These specialized funds oftentimes allow investors to participate with as little as $1,000.  Real estate funds also offer the investor the advantages of a mutual fund, which includes a portfolio with lower overall risk, as well as professional management of the investments.

An index fund is, by its very nature, a well diversified portfolio of stocks.  Buying an index fund provides investors with an opportunity to diversify away the risk associated with individual stocks; thereby lowering the overall risk of their investment portfolio.

An exchange traded fund, or ETF, might best be described as a hybrid between a share of common stock and a mutual fund.  In fact, because of the way ETFs are structured, they present some interesting options to both the novice and seasoned investor.

Anyone interested in the oil and natural gas industry should be familiar with two very interesting exchange-traded funds:  DIG and DUG.  Given the historical volatility in the prices of crude oil and natural gas, investing in these two industries is a speculative play.  But that's the intriguing part of DIG and DUG.

As of August 2016, money market mutual funds account for nearly 1,000 of the more than 8,000 mutual funds available to investors.  Even more impressive is the fact that money market assets account for around 20% of all mutual fund assets. That's nearly $2.69 trillion invested in money market funds alone.

The stock market is a simply amazing organization when it comes to creativity.  Take hedge funds for example, they're not exactly mutual funds, and they're not exchange traded funds either.