It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone with children that today's youth tend to eschew the things that defined their parents' generation. That can be a good thing, as younger Americans today seem to be much more concerned with work-life balance and making a difference in the world with their chosen profession than with just earning money. But there are some cases in which rejecting the example set by their parents can work against the Millennial generation.
Mutual fund aversion
Recent studies released in the post-recession years are indicating that younger folks are breaking with older generations in their level of comfort with investing. Specifically, Generation Y has a healthy distrust of mutual fund investing. A survey by the Investment Company Institute shows that while 74% of mutual fund shareholders ages 65 and older have favorable impressions of mutual fund companies, only 44% of investors under the age of 35 share those favorable views. That's consistent with other reports in recent years that show that younger investors remain hesitant about stock market investing.
It's easy to understand the skepticism among the younger set. After all, it is their cohort that has been most strongly affected by joblessness following the recent financial crisis. They've witnessed the stock market lose half of its value, and without the long-term perspective and experience of actual portfolio growth afforded by age, this age group hasn't reaped much of the benefits of investing. And given that actively managed funds in particular did so poorly in the last downturn and in the years immediately following, we've got a huge swath of a younger generation that doesn't see the value in using mutual funds to achieve their long-term financial goals.
But if younger investors want any chance to have a comfortable retirement, they are going to need to overcome their aversion to stock market investing in general and mutual funds more specifically. For folks just starting out in their working, saving, and investing careers, mutual funds are the best way to get diversified exposure to many different segments of the market with minimal levels of cash.
If you're a young investor who is among the 56% with a distrust of mutual fund companies, a good first step is to try out a broad-market exchange-traded fund. Since these funds simply track a common market index, you don't have to worry about excessive fees or unscrupulous fund companies trying to pull a fast one on you. Consider a fund such as Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSEMKT: VTI ) or SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEMKT: SPY ) , which will only set you back 0.06% and 0.09%, respectively. And while many actively managed funds will fail to deliver, there are a number of solid options for investors in this age group, who should be able to handle a fair amount of risk.
A few good funds
One great aggressive growth mutual fund for younger types is Fidelity Capital Appreciation (FDCAX). Manager Fergus Shiel takes a rapid-fire trading approach to finding attractive growth-oriented names. In the portfolio, you'll find popular growth stocks like Apple, which has boosted portfolio performance as the stock has benefited from new product cycles for its iPhone and iPad devices. Shiel also likes retailer TJX Companies because of the company's excellent management and solid business plan, which is well-suited to today's retail environment in which customers demand more value for their money. Fidelity Capital Appreciation ranks in the top quartile of its peer group over the past five-year period, a clear indication that Shiel is on the right track with his eclectic investment approach.
Another option for aggressive investors who want to focus on the smaller end of the market capitalization spectrum is T. Rowe Price New Horizons (PRNHX). While the fund's manager has only been on board for about three years, he does have a more extensive track record managing other assets at T. Rowe Price. This fund seeks out fast-growing companies in the small-cap space and has landed in the top 1% of all small-growth funds in the past three years with a 19% annualized return. That's pretty impressive for manager Henry Ellenbogen, who includes stock picks like pharmacy technology provider Catamaran, favored for its attractive business model, ability to benefit from economies of scale, and overall product line efficiency. This fund can be volatile, but over the long run, returns have been excellent, making it a fine choice for young investors.
You don't have to profess your undying love for mutual funds, but if you want to be a successful long-term investor, you need to overcome your discomfort and involve funds in your portfolio -- especially if you're a young adult.
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