In order to help make the decision, it is important to understand what stocks and mutual funds are.
Stocks: Most people believe they have a basic understanding of what stocks are, simply because of their exposure to the term in every day usages. Stocks are individual bits of companies that are available to be purchased by the public in open trading on the stock exchange. Stocks are often sold in bundles, and thus to purchase a stock in a specific company often entails some kind of minimum purchase. Stockholders have a vested interest in the companys well-being, as the price of their stocks are directly related to a companys performance. Stocks are divided according to the kind of business they represent, which is known as a sector.
Mutual Funds: Mutual funds are collective investments that pools the money from a lot of investors and puts the money in stocks, bonds, and other investments. Mutual funds are usually managed by a certified professional, as opposed to the individual management of stocks. In essence, mutual funds incorporate many different types of stocks.
The question of whether or not to invest in stocks or mutual funds will primarily come down to the personal expertise and wealth of the individual. Many people will be tempted by the game aspect of buying stock, as well as the chance to invest singularly in a company that is well-known or can be easily researched. The fact is, however, that by the time stocks become available on the market they are generally already highly priced, and investing in individual stocks is a highly risky maneuver as your entire process hangs on the well-being of just one company. Even wealthy investors diversify their portfolios by investing in several different types of stock, and this can simply be unaffordable for the average person.
The better bet for the beginning investor is to purchase mutual funds. Mutual funds will pool the costs of many different stocks, lessening the risk of losing your money and raising the chances of gain. Mutual funds may not provide quite the excitement of investing in a lucky stock, but they are good investments for a long-term financial opportunity. In addition, mutual funds are managed by professionals that are well acquainted with the pitfalls and opportunities of the investment sector, which will cut down on both risk and the time it would take to pick individual stocks through research and appointments. Mutual funds will also distribute the risks among several investors, and it is all managed by someone who likely has contacts within the financial world.
For the individual with some extra money, who does not have the time or the expertise to properly play the stock market, mutual funds will prove the better option.