Posts Tagged ‘mutual funds’

Costs Associated with Investing in Mutual Funds

June 2nd, 2011

If you’ve invested in mutual funds, you should know that taxes can affect your investment, sometimes significantly reducing your net returns. To completely avoid federal taxes, consider investments such as tax free municipal bonds. Also be aware that some mutual fund investments are more tax efficient than others. Below is some basic information regarding mutual fund fees, expenses and income taxation, check with your professional tax preparer regarding your specific tax situation.

What other costs are associated with mutual funds?

In addition to taxes, mutual fund fees and ongoing fund expenses related to holding mutual funds affect your net returns. For instance, when you sell, buy, and exchange shares, you will likely pay sales loads and transaction fees. Additionally, as a mutual fund holder you must pay ongoing expenses, i.e. management fees and 12b-1 fees.

When you’re considering purchasing a mutual fund, be sure to consult the fee table located at the front of its prospectus. This table compares the costs of different funds. And be aware that just because high fees are associated with a fund doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a high-performing investment product.

Nontaxable capital returns
You can receive a return on a mutual fund without having to pay taxes on it. Usually, this happens when the return recovers some or all of your cost basis in the fund. Because they’re not strictly earnings, these returns are tax-free. You must, however, report them on your tax return.

Taxable dividend income
Many mutual funds pay dividends on a yearly, monthly, or quarterly basis to shareholders on a pro-rata basis. These dividends must be reported on your tax return for the year they were distributed.

Mutual fund dividends earned by individual shareholders often, but not always, qualify for taxation at capital gains rates. For instance, corporate stock dividends that a mutual fund receives and passes to shareholders usually qualifies for taxation at capital gains rates. If, however, mutual fund dividends are the result of other some other type of earning, such as interest, they’re taxed like ordinary income. Furthermore, special holding period requirements often must be met in order for dividends to qualify for long-term capital gain tax treatment.

Short-term capital gains
For tax purposes, short-term capital gain distributions are usually treated like dividends.

Long-term capital gains
Fund shareholders receive long-term capital gain distributions on a pro-rata basis. They must report these earning on their tax returns as long-term capital gains no matter how long they have held them.

Selling shares
When you sell shares in a mutual fund, usually you must pay tax on any capital gains earned. The taxable amount is ordinarily equal to the difference between the sale price and the original share purchase price. The tax owed on a gain depends on the rate at which the gain is taxed, which depends on how long you held the shares before selling them. In general, if you hold shares over a year before you sell them, any gain realized is considered long-term capital gain. On the other hand, if you sell after less than a year, any gains you earn will be considered short-term gain and taxed accordingly.

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FINRA Fines Wells Fargo for Slow Delivery of Prospectuses

May 17th, 2011

According to a May 5, 2011 Investment News article, Wells Fargo took as many as 153 days to deliver prospectuses to more than 900,000 clients who purchased mutual funds in 2009. (Securities law requires that prospectuses be delivered to purchasers within three days of the buy.) For dragging their feet, the company has been fined $1M by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Wells Fargo also allegedly failed to take action to remedy the situation after learning that up to 9 percent of its customers had not received prospectuses within the requisite three days.

FINRA enforcement chief Brad Bennett stressed the importance of prospectuses to customers, as they contain important data regarding a fund’s costs, plans, performance history and risks. By failing to deliver prospectuses in a timely manner, said Bennett, Well Fargo deprived its customers of key information.

According to the article, Wells Fargo further broke FINRA rules by failing to report client complaints. Neither did the company disclose all arbitration claims that involved its representatives within the required 30 days.

Were you one of Wells Fargo’s more than 900,000 unlucky customers? If you suffered financial loss as a result of the company’s misconduct, contact an investment recovery attorney at Carlson Law.

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Is Your Broker Guilty of “Switching” Mutual Funds to Generate Fees?

May 13th, 2011
Mutual fund

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Ordinarily, mutual funds are long-term investments. And ordinarily, brokers who switch shares among funds with comparable investment goals have committed a violation if the switch serves little or no legitimate financial purpose other than earning him or her a fee. Such switching not only increases the fees investors pay, but it also puts them at risk of increased tax liability.

Often, investors are unaware that their broker has increased their investment costs and risks by “switching” their mutual funds. Mutual funds are intended to be held for a substantial length of time, not traded like individual stocks. To do so results in considerable charges that don’t apply to common stocks. Furthermore, the majority of mutual funds, by their very nature, may already be diversified and do not need to be traded unless there’s been a major change in the allocation of their assets or the fund manager’s market focus is narrow to the extent that it increases investor risk.

Mutual fund switch transactions are a violation of FINRA acceptable sales practices. If you believe you may have experienced financial loss due broker switching, contact an investment recovery lawyer at Carlson Law. Your broker’s misconduct may constitute a viable claim on your part for damages.

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FAQs About Mutual Funds

May 13th, 2011

How do you buy mutual funds?
To purchases shares (portions) in a mutual fund, investors may go through stockbrokers, banks, insurance agents and other investment professionals. They can even buy portions from the fund directly.
When you buy shares, you pay the current net asset value (NAV) for each share. You also pay any sales charge (sales load).

Are mutual funds easy to sell?
Yes, any mutual fund will buy back your shares during regular business hours. Within seven days, you’ll receive the NAV for each share sold minus any sales load.

Are mutual funds a risk-free investment?
No. Just as individual stocks fluctuate in value, so does the portion price of mutual funds. Therefore, the value of your investment will sometimes be more, sometimes less than its original price.

How do you choose the mutual fund that’s right for you?
To determine if you should invest in a mutual fund, acquaint yourself with the major types that are available.

Mutual funds may be categorized by their asset types. Most are either bond funds, stock (equity) funds or money market funds. However, numerous variations exist within these three categories. In fact, some mutual funds combine several types of investments. An asset allocation fund, for instance, is a type of mutual fund that combines all three asset classes—funds, stocks and money markets. Some mutual funds, funds of funds, invest in other mutual funds rather than in individual securities.

Mutual funds may also be categorized according to the investment strategy that they follow. Funds that attempt to reduce tax liability, for example, are called tax-efficient funds. Some mutual funds are managed actively while others try to imitate an index.

Every mutual fund has its own rewards and risks. In general, the greater the potential return, the greater the risk of loss.

When you’re looking for a mutual fund, be sure to shop around, comparing mutual funds of the same type with each other. If you find a mutual fund that interests you, carefully examine its prospectus. Think about the goals, risks, and expenses involved in investing. Is the mutual fund’s aim in keeping with your own? Are the risks acceptable to you?

If you feel overwhelmed by your investment options, do what many other investors do: consult a financial expert. If you were advised to invest in funds that were higher risk than was explained to you by your financial advisor, you may have a claim to recover your losses. Contact Carlson Law for a free consultation.

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Before you Invest in a Mutual Fund, Learn the Basics. Fees, Costs and Undisclosed Risk Can Make Mutual Funds Unsuitable for Investors.

May 13th, 2011

Mutual Funds 101
Mutual funds are sold by companies that pool money (capital) from many investors. This capital is then invested in bonds, stocks and/or other securities. Investors in the fund all have shares, and these shares represent a part of the fund’s holdings.

If you’re interested in making an investment, a mutual fund may or may not be the right choice for you. Like all investments, they come with many different levels of risk. They aren’t insured or guaranteed by financial institutions or government agencies, even those sold by banks. However, because mutual funds are often a mix of various bonds and/or stocks, the risk is some mutual funds is “spread out” or diversified. That said, some mutual funds are not diversified, and it is important to understand that a mutual fund investment can be very high risk, or very low risk, depending upon the holdings and the goals of the fund. Each fund must be looked at individually to determine if it is appropriate for the investor, in the same manner as any individual stock or other investment.

Mutual funds are managed by professional fund managers. These managers invest the money investors contribute into individual stocks, bonds and other securities. And because mutual funds buy and sell securities in large amounts at one time, they usually incur fewer fees, thus operating in a cost-efficient manner. However, it is very important to carefully examine prior to purchase all of the fees and costs associated with the fund you are purchasing as they can vary greatly and take a significant bite out of your return.

If you feel your financial advisor placed you in inappropriate mutual fund investments and/or failed to disclose the fees and costs associated with investment or that the underlying holdings of the fund were beyond your tolerance for risk, you may have a case. Call Carlson Law at 858-544-9300 for a free consultation.

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Should Financially Challenged Cities File for Bankruptcy?

May 4th, 2011
Meredith Whitney, CIBC Sr. Financial Instituti...

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In 2008 amid numerous bank failures, the small burg of Vallejo, California, declared bankruptcy. Few noticed.
Today although banks have recovered, little Vallejo is still in bankruptcy. And cities across the nation face dire economic straits. Unsurprisingly, a growing number of people are beginning to wonder, “Will other cities follow Vallejo off the economic cliff?”

Financial advisor Meredith Whitney thinks so. According to an article in The New York Times by Roger Lowenstein, Whitney, who heads Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC, believes that conditions are ripe in 2011 for “hundreds of billions” of defaults by cities and other municipalities. In response to her ominous predictions, investors have jettisoned approximately $25 billion shares of mutual funds invested in municipal bonds.

But the outlooks of some financial analysts aren’t as grim. BusinessWeek.com reports that New York-based Roubini Global Economics LLC expect that only “about $100 billion of U.S. municipal bonds will default” –and that’s within five years, not one. Likewise, Moody’s and other credit agencies don’t envision an epidemic of defaults. According to them, compared to economically troubled countries like Spain and Greece, cities carry much less debt relative to their economic size. And as for their bankruptcies causing panic throughout the economy? No.

Nevertheless, whether many or a few municipalities default on municipal bonds, the losers will be everyday citizens first and investors second. As services such as education take massive budget cuts, the first to feel the sting will be public employees like teachers.

So is bankruptcy really a good way out for cities facing economic crises? Probably not. Even in a state of default, cities have to function, and their responsibilities to their citizens don’t stop when bankruptcy starts. Perhaps the best solution would be for taxpayers to agree upon the services they’re willing and able to fund.

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