Active Management. Good or Bad?

“Advisors and investors are increasingly focused more on lower fee products amid expectations that finding consistently strong performing active funds is hard.”

Passive investing (index funds and exchange traded funds) has been a trend on Wall Street for years.  So, what’s different?  The answer:  The trend is increasing at an alarming rate and investors are now retreating from actively managed funds that are beating their benchmark index.  According to data from Morningstar, investors pulled $99 billion from the actively managed funds that beat their benchmarks over a 12-month period ending January 31, 2017.  This is a remarkable trend given that most investors typically chase funds with high performance and high returns.

The reasons are many, and certainly lower fees is part of the reason, but not the only factor for this dramatic trend.  Another very important factor is that the number of managed funds that consistently beat the index over a long period of time is small.  According to data from Charles Schwab, the number of funds that score in the top 25% for at least two years is 1,098.  The number of funds drops to 702 at the end of three years, and to 33 funds at six years.  Only 4 funds score in the top 25% for at least seven years, and none stay in the top 25% for eight years.

The article goes on to say that this trend may encourage more actively managed funds to focus on bringing down the fees for their investment products in order to compete with the expense ratios for index funds and exchange traded funds.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Discuss the difference between index funds, ETFs, and managed funds.
  • Reinforce how important fees and performance are when choosing a mutual fund.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the difference between a managed fund, an index fund, and an exchange traded fund?
  2. Which type of fund do you think could help you obtain your investment goals? Why?

Basics of Investing in Mutual Funds

“. . . Learn how to invest in mutual funds with these informative tips.”

This Money/CNN article provides the following 10 statements along with a brief explanation of each statement to help beginning investors learn about fund investing.

  1. What exactly is a mutual fund?
  2. Mutual funds make it easy to diversify.
  3. There are many kinds of stock funds.
  4. Bond funds come in many different flavors too.
  5. Returns aren’t everything – also consider the risk taken to achieve those returns.
  6. Low expenses are crucial.
  7. Taxes take a big bite out of performance.
  8. Don’t chase winners.
  9. Index funds should be a core component of your portfolio.
  10. Don’t be too quick to dump a fund.

For more information, click here. 

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Provide an introduction to the “basics” of mutual fund investing.
  • Point out that this is just one article in the Money/CNN series. By clicking on the next button at the bottom of this article, students can access more articles and obtain more in-depth information about fund investing.

Discussion Questions

  1. Based on the information in this article, why do you think investors choose mutual funds?
  2. The article mentions that there are both stock and bond funds. What is the difference between these two types of funds?  Which type of funds do you think could help you achieve your financial goals?
  3. Why are taxes and expenses important when you choose a mutual fund?

The Kiplinger Mutual Fund Screener

A mutual fund screener that is free and easy to use!

To use the mutual fund screener:

  1. Students begin by using a pull-down menu to select the type of fund they want (any fund, U.S. stock funds, international stock funds, taxable bond funds, or municipal bond funds).
  2. They refine their choice by choosing a fund style (large cap, emerging markets, high yield bond, etc.)
  3. Next, students select performance and fee and management criteria, (total return for different time periods, risk, load charges, if any, expense ratio, etc).
  4. The last step is to click the “Find Fund” button at the bottom of the screen.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post to:

  • Help students realize that a fund screener can be a logical first step in finding the right fund for their investment portfolio.
  • Demonstrate how the Kiplinger Mutual Fund Screener works or create a homework assignment where students use the Kiplinger Mutual Fund Screener.
  • Remind students that while a fund screener can identify funds that meet the investment criteria they have provided, there is a very real need to complete a more in-depth evaluation before investing their money.

Discussion Questions

1. What are the benefits of using the Kiplinger Mutual Fund Screener?

2. In addition to the information provided by the Kiplinger Mutual Fund Screener, what other types of information would you want before investing your money? Where would you obtain this information?

The Mutual Fund Education Alliance

Since 1971, the Mutual Fund Education Alliance (MFEA) has been dedicated to informing and educating the investing public about how they can use mutual funds to achieve important lifetime goals.

The website for the MFEA provides both beginning and experienced investors with a wealth of information that can be used to become a more informed mutual fund investor.  For example, the MFEA website provides information about

  • The power of investing
  • Understanding risk
  • Why mutual funds?
  • The importance of performance,
  • Fund costs, fees, and expenses
  • Taxation

For more information go to

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and information on this website to

  • Supplement the material you present in your classroom lecture or online course.
  • Create an assignment designed to strengthen a student’s basic understanding of mutual fund investments.
  • Create an assignment where students use the MFEA fund screener to evaluate one or more mutual funds.

Discussion Questions

  1. Often beginning mutual fund investors, just invest their money without really learning about mutual fund investments or specific funds?  Why is this a flawed approach?
  2. There are many investment websites that will help you learn about mutual funds and also evaluate different funds.  What factors make one website better than another website?