It seems like the story of my life: As soon as I find a line of shoes I love, it gets discontinued. Soon after I happily discovered that a nearby restaurant supply store sold gallons of buttery popcorn oil, they decided to stop carrying it. It's the same with mutual funds -- many of the best ones are closed to new investors.
Fortunately, there are some work-around solutions. Permit me to offer a few:
- For starters, remember that the talented managers of a closed fund may well manage other, open, funds. Take John Montgomery, of the Bridgeway family of funds, for example. His Bridgeway Aggressive Investors 1 (BRAGX) fund, closed to new investors, is run by him with the help of a few other Bridgeway advisors. It sports a five-year average annual return of 21.8%. It's enough to make you weep, no? But wait -- there's always the open Bridgeway Aggressive Investors 2 (BRAIX) fund, run by the same folks, with a lower expense ratio, and a five-year average of 22.6%. Its top holdings recently included Mosaic
, Apple (NYSE: MOS) , Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AAPL) , Crocs (Nasdaq: AMZN) , and SunPower (Nasdaq: CROX) . (Nasdaq: SPWR)
- Some closed funds are only closed to certain new investors -- ones who come knocking on the front door. There's often an open back door, though, such as through a retirement account or 401(k) plan. At MSN Money, Timothy Middleton noted, "Funds like Fidelity Magellan allow retirement investors in, while keeping others out, because their contributions are more predictable and much less likely to be pulled during a market flutter." Check your company's plan to see which funds are offered. You might even ask your plan's administrator to see whether a closed fund you want can be added to the mix.
- You might also be able to talk your way into the fund. Try calling the fund company, to ask nicely about it. See if there's a waiting list to which you might be added. As Lewis Braham explained in BusinessWeek a while ago, "You have a good shot at picking up shares if the fund manager wants to avoid selling stock positions to pay off redemptions or if you have a significant amount of money to invest and can convince the manager you will hold the fund for the long term."
- Braham also suggests checking with friends and relatives to see if anyone owns shares of a closed fund you covet. If so, they could sell you a share: "All they would have to do is fill out a form called a Letter of Instruction (LOI) or Letter of Authorization (LOA) and send it to a mutual-fund broker or the fund company. The document authorizes the transfer of the share to your investment account. Once the share is delivered, you should have the same right to make additional investments as do the longtime shareholders."
- Wait, and the fund may eventually reopen. Many fine funds have closed to new investors, only to reopen for awhile down the road. That's how I got into the Dodge & Cox Stock fund a few years back. I recently reported on a number of promising funds reopening. These days, with the market slumping, there are more reopenings than usual, since funds are finding themselves with more opportunities and less money thanks to withdrawals by short-sighted, wrong-thinking, impatient investors.
One last option
There's always this solution you can tap, too: Buy other mutual funds. The closed ones are not the only good ones around. A little digging on sites such as Morningstar.com can introduce you to many solid performers. You can use the fund screener there, for example, to search for funds with low fees, low turnover, no loads, and managers with long tenures. You can also search among certain types of funds, such as large-cap value, small-cap growth, international, etc.
You might not be able to get into a particular small-cap fund you like a lot, but odds are you can probably find a different, open small-cap fund with many similar characteristics.
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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Bridgeway Aggressive Investors 2 and the Dodge & Cox Stock fund. Bridgeway Aggressive Investors 2 is a Motley Fool Champion Funds recommendation. Apple, Amazon.com, and Morningstar are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try our investing services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.