Despite their inherent flaws, mutual funds have successfully accomplished one thing in recent decades: They've brought everyday investors the ability to own wide swaths of the market. It's true that investors today can accomplish the same thing through a passively managed exchange-traded fund, but if you want access to the expertise of an investment professional trained to outthink the market, actively managed funds are your best bet.
However, since most mutual funds typically have an investment minimum of at least $2,500, it can be hard for investors just starting out to build a diversified portfolio with only a few thousand dollars. Fortunately, several solid funds present much lower barriers to entry. Below, I highlight three of the best of these low-minimum mutual funds.
FAM Value (FAMVX)
Although this flexible fund has the leeway to buy stocks across the market capitalization spectrum, it's consistently landed squarely in the mid-cap blend style box. The management duo in charge here looks for companies with strong cash flows, solid balance sheets, and favorable market positioning. Big names like Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway
FAM Value has posted an 8.2% annualized return over the most recent 15-year period, beating out two-thirds of its rivals. Thanks to its focus on higher-quality names, this fund isn't flashy. It may lag in more momentum-driven market environments, as it did most of last year. But this fund is a steady, reliable mid-cap performer that takes considerable efforts to avoid loss of capital. Best of all, it comes with a low $500 minimum investment, so even cash-strapped investors can get in on the action here. A low 7.6% turnover further adds to the fund's many charms, making it a solid choice for folks looking for exposure to the red-hot mid-cap space.
Homestead Small Company Stock (HSCSX)
If you want to bump up your small-cap exposure, but you don't have a lot of money to spare, this fund could be just the ticket. Homestead Small Company Stock requires just $500 to get in the door, making it easily accessible to millions of investors. The fund is run by a trio of managers, two of whom have been with the fund since its March 1998 inception. Since that time, the fund has posted an annualized 6.2% return, compared to 5.5% for the average small-value fund and just 3.3% for the Russell 2000 Index.
Right now, industrial names make up 22.9% of the fund's assets. Companies like capital goods manufacturer Manitowoc Company
Homestead Value (HOVLX)
This large-cap value fund is run by the same management trio that runs the Homestead Small Company Stock fund. Like that fund, Homestead Value requires a mere $500 minimum investment, so almost anyone should be able to afford the admission here. The team follows the same value-oriented investment strategy as its smaller counterpart, with a portfolio containing reasonably priced names such as Bristol-Myers Squibb
Homestead Value has posted an excellent long-term track record, putting up a 7.2% annualized gain over the past 15 years, compared to a 6.7% return for the S&P 500 Index. Turnover is currently a miniscule 3% a year, making this fund suitable for both taxable and non-taxable accounts alike. A low 0.80% expense ratio places it far below the cost of the average large-blend option. This fund would make a solid core value holding for any investor.
Remember, you don't necessarily need oodles of cash to invest in first-rate mutual funds. The less money you have, the more limited your selection will be. But even with a few hundred dollars, you can still access excellent active funds with promising future prospects.
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Amanda Kish is the Fool's resident fund advisor for the Rule Your Retirement investment newsletter. At the time of publication, she did not own any of the funds or companies mentioned herein. Berkshire Hathaway is both a Motley Fool Inside Value pick and Stock Advisor choice, and a Motley Fool holding to boot. The Fool has a disclosure policy.