Dear Retirement Adviser, 

At 70 years of age, I'm thinking of putting my money in a mutual fund to try to earn more money. I have a 401(k), a Roth individual retirement account and had a CD until recently. Since I'm fed up with my bank, I'd like to invest the $15,000 just withdrawn from a CD that matured. I wish to invest in a stock mutual fund with lower management and administrative costs, if possible. And what does no-load mean?

Is there a website rating mutual funds? Thank you for any advice and thanks also for providing free information to the public this way.

Sincerely, 

-Ruth Rankings

Dear Ruth, 

I don't think it is the bank's fault that you are getting low returns on a CD. Some blame goes to the Federal Reserve for monetary policy keeping interest rates low. Conservative investors in CDs just aren't earning any income on their investments. Even so, I'm not sure that it's the right move for you to take your $15,000 and put it in stock mutual funds as a do-it-yourself investor.

Let's take a look at the big picture before chasing proverbial greener pastures. How much of your wealth does this $15,000 represent? How's the rest of your money or wealth invested? What's your attitude toward risk when investing? What's your need for retirement income, and how is this investment going to help you meet that need?

Using a mutual fund is just an approach to investing. You might already be invested in mutual funds in a 401(k) plan or a Roth IRA, if you have them. If the $15,000 from the matured CD wasn't held in a tax-advantaged account, then the difference is that you will be investing the money in taxable mutual funds. You can invest in mutual funds through a brokerage account or by opening an account with a mutual fund family.

There are many firms ranking mutual funds, including by fees and expenses. Morningstar and Lipper are two providing this kind of information. I'm most familiar with Morningstar's online mutual fund screener. Exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, are an alternative to mutual funds providing professional money management. Morningstar has an exchange-traded fund screener, too.

A no-load mutual fund doesn't charge a sales "load" or commission, although it may charge 12b-1 distribution or marketing fees. You still pay the investment manager's annual expense ratio in a no-load fund. The mutual fund's prospectus will describe annual expenses and sales loads.

At age 70, you're close to the age where you'll be taking required minimum distributions out of your 401(k) and traditional IRA. These are minimum amounts that a retirement plan account owner must withdraw annually starting with the year when reaching 70 one half years of age or, if later, your retirement year. If you don't need the distributions for retirement income, you can invest it in a taxable account.

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