Browse Analysis of Managed and Structured Products

17.3.2 Disadvantages Of Mutual Funds

Explore the key disadvantages of mutual funds including associated costs, short-term unsuitability, systematic risk, and tax complications. Gain detailed insights to better inform clients.

Disadvantages of Mutual Funds

Mutual funds, despite their popularity, have several disadvantages. As a sales representative, it’s important to explain these drawbacks to your clients effectively. Below are the key disadvantages of investing in mutual funds.


Investing in mutual funds often comes with various charges. Historically, most mutual funds charged sales commissions up front, known as initial sales charges or front-end loads, alongside management fees that were typically higher than the cost of purchasing individual securities from a broker. If you pay this sales commission upon selling the fund, it’s referred to as a deferred sales charge or back-end load.

Recently, the rise of no-load funds has become commonplace, driven by competition from lower-cost index mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). This competition has subsequently reduced both front-end loads and management fees.

Short-Term Unsuitability

Most mutual funds emphasize a long-term investment horizon, making them generally unsuitable for investors seeking short-term gains or an emergency reserve. Sales charges usually deducted from contributions make purchasing funds for the short-term inadvisable, as the investor must at least recoup these charges.

To discourage short-term trading, mutual fund companies charge an early redemption fee. The prospectus and the cost section of the Fund Facts document identify these fees, which can range up to 2% of the purchase cost of the securities redeemed.


Murray considered using the Defy Global Equity Fund for short-term trading. However, he changed his mind after reading the following statement in the fund’s cost section of the Fund Facts document:

Defy Mutual Funds monitors for short-term trading activity. You are charged a short-term trading fee of 2% of the value of the securities if you redeem or switch securities within 30 days of buying securities in the Global Equity Fund.

These disadvantages generally don’t apply to money market funds, which are designed with liquidity in mind as they primarily invest in short-term fixed-income securities.

Systematic Risk

Like equities, mutual fund units can lose value in falling markets, meaning they are subject to systematic risk. Market volatility is extremely difficult to predict and is beyond the control of the fund manager.

Tax Complications

Unless the investor holds the funds in a registered account, purchases and sales made by the fund manager create a series of taxable events that may not align with the unitholder’s time horizon. For example, the manager might deem it beneficial to sell a security to realize a profit, while the individual unitholder might prefer deferring the capital gains liability.

Key Takeaways

  • Cost Consideration: Understand various charges like front-end loads, back-end loads, and management fees.
  • Short-Term Risks: Mutual funds are generally not suitable for short-term trading due to sales charges and potential early redemption fees.
  • Systematic Risk: Mutual funds are subject to market risks and can lose value in downturns.
  • Tax Issues: Transactions by the fund manager can create taxable events that might not be favorable to all investors.


  • Front-End Load: A sales charge paid when purchasing mutual fund units.
  • Deferred Sales Charge (Back-End Load): A fee paid when selling mutual fund units.
  • Systematic Risk: The risk of loss due to overarching market forces affecting the entire market.
  • Early Redemption Fee: A fee charged for redeeming mutual fund units within a short period, typically to discourage frequent trading.
  • Registered Account: Investment accounts like RRSPs and TFSAs in Canada that offer tax advantages.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What are the potential costs associated with mutual funds?

Most mutual funds have front-end loads, back-end loads, and management fees. Recent trends show a decrease in these costs due to competition from no-load funds and low-cost ETFs.

Q2. Why are mutual funds generally unsuitable for short-term investments?

Because sales charges are deducted from contributions, it would take time to recoup these charges. Short-term trading also may incur early redemption fees.

Q3. What kind of risk is associated with mutual funds?

Mutual funds are subject to systematic risk, losing value in downturns since market volatility affects them.

Q4. How do mutual funds affect taxes?

Unless held in a registered account, the fund’s transactions can create taxable events that might not coincide with the investor’s time horizon.

📚✨ Quiz Time! ✨📚

🧐 Assess and Solidify Your Understanding

Welcome to the Knowledge Checkpoint! You’ll find 10 carefully curated quizzes designed to reinforce the key concepts covered. These questions will help you gauge your grasp of the material, identify areas that need further review, and ensure you’re on the right track towards mastering the content for the Canadian Securities certification exams. Take your time, think critically, and use these quizzes as a tool to enhance your learning journey. 📘✨

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## Which of the following is a key disadvantage of mutual funds? - [x] Costs associated with sales commissions and management fees - [ ] High liquidity - [ ] Tax-free profits - [ ] Guaranteed returns > **Explanation:** Costs such as sales commissions, management fees, and other charges make mutual funds relatively expensive compared to other investment options. ## Why might mutual funds be unsuitable for short-term investors? - [ ] They only invest in high-risk stocks - [ ] They offer guaranteed returns only for long-term investments - [ ] They are typically tax-free for short-term investments - [x] Sales charges and redemption fees discourage short-term trading > **Explanation:** Short-term trading is usually discouraged through sales charges and redemption fees, making mutual funds unsuitable for short-term objectives. ## What measure do mutual funds take to discourage short-term trading? - [ ] Provide tax benefits - [ ] Offer bonuses for long-term holding - [x] Charge an early redemption fee - [ ] Invest primarily in high-growth stocks > **Explanation:** Mutual fund companies charge early redemption fees to discourage short-term trading. This fee can be found in the Fund Facts document. ## How does systematic risk apply to mutual funds? - [ ] They are immune to market volatility - [x] They can lose value in falling markets, similar to equities - [ ] They always outperform the market during downturns - [ ] They provide guaranteed capital protection > **Explanation:** Systematic risk refers to the market risk that affects all investments. Mutual fund units can lose value in falling markets due to this risk. ## In what scenario might a mutual fund create a taxable event for an investor? - [x] When the fund manager sells a security - [ ] When the fund manager rejects a buy order - [ ] When the investor withdraws from a registered account - [ ] When the fund buys more securities > **Explanation:** Purchases and sales made by the fund manager can create taxable events that may result in capital gains or losses for the unitholder. ## Which funds are typically exempt from the disadvantages highlighted in the text? - [ ] Equity funds - [ ] Balanced funds - [ ] Bond funds - [x] Money market funds > **Explanation:** Money market funds, which mainly invest in short-term fixed-income securities, are typically designed with liquidity in mind and may not have the same disadvantages as other mutual funds. ## What is the impact of competition on mutual fund costs? - [ ] It has increased management fees - [ ] It has eliminated sales commissions - [x] It has reduced both front-end loads and management fees - [ ] It has made no significant impact > **Explanation:** Competition in the market has led to reduced front-end loads and management fees as funds strive to attract investors. ## What kind of fee might Murray have to pay if he trades within 30 days of buying securities from Defy Global Equity Fund? - [ ] Front-end load - [ ] Back-end load - [x] Short-term trading fee of 2% of the value of the securities - [ ] Annual maintenance fee > **Explanation:** If Murray exits within 30 days of buying securities from the fund, he would incur a short-term trading fee of 2% as per the fund’s policies. ## How do mutual funds compare to buying individual securities in terms of cost? - [x] Mutual funds typically have higher management fees - [ ] Mutual funds are generally cheaper - [ ] Mutual funds have no associated costs - [ ] Mutual funds always yield higher returns > **Explanation:** Mutual funds typically have higher management fees compared to the costs associated with purchasing individual securities directly. ## What advice should be given to a client looking for an emergency reserve investment? - [x] Consider options other than mutual funds due to their unsuitability for short-term gains - [ ] Invest in high-risk mutual funds for quick returns - [ ] Choose funds with high front-end loads - [ ] Focus only on equity mutual funds > **Explanation:** Since mutual funds are generally unsuitable for short-term gains and may involve sales charges, alternative investment options should be considered for an emergency reserve.

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Saturday, July 13, 2024