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MarketWatch and Learn: How to buy mutual funds

When choosing mutual funds, few aspects are within investors’ control. Future performance isn’t one of them. But expenses, risk, manager tenure and tax-efficiency are qualities that can be judged before you buy.

Experts say you need to look beyond just performance. You need to understand what will make a fund do well in the future and why it belongs in your portfolio.

What to watch FOR:

Index funds, which track a basket of stocks, are generally low-cost options intended to provide market-like returns. Active management, in contrast, relies on a professional’s stock-picking in an effort to beat a market benchmark.

Yet an actively run stock fund is much more than an expert’s collection of chosen stocks.

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