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To maximize your mutual fund returns, or any investment returns, know the effect that taxes can have on what actually ends up in your pocket. Mutual funds that trade quickly in and out of stocks will have what is known as “high turnover.” While selling a stock that has moved up in price does lock in a profit for the fund, this is a profit for which taxes have to be paid. Turnover in a fund creates taxable capital gains, which are paid by the mutual fund shareholders. 

The SEC requires all mutual funds to show both their before- and after-tax returns. The differences between what a fund is reportedly earning, and what a fund is earning after taxes are paid on the dividends and capital gains, can be quite striking. If you plan to hold mutual funds in a taxable account, be sure to check out these historical returns in the mutual fund prospectus to see what kind of taxes you might be likely to incur. 

Selecting a Financial Professional 

Are you the type of person who will read as much as possible about potential investments and ask questions about them? If so, maybe you don’t need investment advice. But if you’re busy with your job, your children, or other responsibilities, or feel you don’t know enough about investing on your own, then you may need professional investment advice.  You should consider consulting with a Board Certified Wealth Manager, Certified Portfolio Manager or Master Financial Professional Planner. 

Investment professionals offer a variety of services at a variety of prices. It pays to comparison shop. 

You can get investment advice from most financial institutions that sell investments, including brokerages, banks, mutual funds, and insurance companies. You can also hire a broker, an investment adviser, an accountant, a financial planner, or other professional to help you make investment decisions. 

 

Choosing someone to help you with your investments is one of the most important investment decisions you will ever make. While most investment professionals are honest and hardworking, you must watch out for those few unscrupulous individuals. They can make your life’s savings disappear in an instant. 

Securities regulators and law enforcement officials can and do catch these criminals. But putting them in jail doesn’t always get your money back. Too often, the money is gone. The good news is you can avoid potential problems by protecting yourself. 

Let’s say you’ve already met with several investment professionals based on recommendations from friends and others you trust, and you’ve found someone who clearly understands your investment objectives. Before you hire this person, you still have more homework. 

Make sure the investment professional and her firm are registered with the SEC and licensed to do business in your state. And find out from your state’s securities regulator whether the investment professional or her firm have ever been disciplined, or whether they have any complaints against them. You should also find out as much as you can about any investments that your investment professional recommends. First, make sure the investments are registered. Keep in mind, however, the mere fact that a company has registered and files reports with the SEC doesn’t guarantee that the company will be a good investment. Likewise, the fact that a company hasn’t registered and doesn’t file reports with the SEC doesn’t mean the company is a fraud. Still, you may be asking for serious losses if, for instance, you invest in a small, thinly traded company that isn’t widely known solely on the basis of what you may have read online.  Be wary of promises of quick profits, offers to share “inside information,” and pressure to invest before you have an opportunity to investigate.  

Ask your investment professional for written materials and prospectuses, and read them before you invest. If you have questions, now is the time to ask. 

  • How will the investment make money?  
  • How is this investment consistent with my investment goals?  
  • What must happen for the investment to increase in value?  
  • What are the risks?  
  • Where can I get more information?  

  

 

What If I Have a Problem? 

Finally, it’s always a good idea to write down everything your investment professional tells you. Accurate notes will come in handy if ever there’s a problem.  

Some investments make money. Others lose money. That’s natural, and that’s why you need a diversified portfolio to minimize your risk. But if you lose money because you’ve been cheated, that’s not natural, that’s a problem.  

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