Tag Archives: mutual fund performance

Understanding How Fund Performance Comparisons Overstate Returns

May 13, 2014

Every investor has, I hope, read the standard disclaimer on mutual fund and ETF performance documents that ‘past performance does not predict future performance,’ or other text to that effect. Still, when you read a fund company’s statement that ‘x% of our funds have out-performed their category average’ or that ‘x% of our funds are rated 4- and 5-star by Morningstar,’ this seems meaningful. Similarly, if you read that the average small value fund has returns ‘y’% per year over the last 10 years, this also seems significant. There is a major factor that is missing in many of these types of comparisons of fund performance, however, that tend to make active funds look better than they really are (as compared to low-cost index funds) as well as making a mutual fund family’s managers look more skillful than they might actually be.

Continue reading

Review of Pound Foolish by Helaine Olen

I have been hearing a lot about Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry, by Helaine Olen.  Without having read the book, it sounded like a muckraking survey of the ways that the financial services industry fleeces individuals. Commentators in the financial services industry have been broadly critical of the book.  Larry Swedroe, a well-known advisor and journalist concludes that “problems are well exposed, but investors are left in the dark about how to deal with those issues. This book has many positive aspects, but in the end, it comes up short of helpful.”  Morningstar’s John Rekenthaler comes to a similar conclusion in his review, suggesting that the book is entertaining and worth reading, but is somewhat biased in terms of telling Olen’s audience what they want to hear.  The reviews and controversy inspired me to read the book myself, and it is a fairly quick and enjoyable read for those interested in the issue.  Continue reading

Mutual Funds With High Minimum’s Don’t Perform Better

The first cost any mutual investor faces is a fund’s minimum. Some funds have no or low minimum investments, but many have sizable ones. In an article for Financial Planning published August 1, Brigham Young University professor Craig L. Israelsen finds that a higher minimum does not at all imply a better performance. Continue reading