How to invest in the stock market through mutual funds, including an explanation of passive versus active management as well as the expected taxes and fees.

What are equities?

Buying shares of stock in a company is the classic method of making an investment. Because having a share in a company gives you an equity stake in that company, shares are sometimes referred to as equities as well.

With the help of an equity fund, it is now feasible to make investments in the stock of thousands of different firms all at once.

When included as a component of a diversified investment portfolio, equities have historically generated higher returns than more secure investments such as bank accounts and bonds, and they have the potential to serve as the primary growth driver.

What exactly are equity funds, though?

Putting your money directly into the stock market might be risky because your success is dependent on the actions of a very limited number of corporations.

As a result, you might wish to think about purchasing shares of stock through an investment fund, such as a unit trust, open-ended investment company (Oeic), investment trust, or tracker fund, all of which invest in a variety of shares issued by a variety of different companies.

As a method of diversification, also known as distributing risk, equity funds frequently direct their investments toward a variety of countries, regions, industries, and investment strategies. There is a wide variety of different types of equity funds, each of which carries a distinct level of risk and possesses a unique set of features.

The following are some of the main classifications that can be used to equity funds:

Developed markets

These are the nations that are generally seen as having the most developed economies and being thus less susceptible to economic instability. Despite this, one should not consider making a financial investment in them to be risk-free.

In addition to this, it is essential to be aware that certain companies that are listed in developed markets may not actually do the majority of their business in that particular nation. It is likely that the majority of their business is conducted in developing countries; nonetheless, they have chosen to list on one of the main stock exchanges in the globe. The following are regarded as having reached a developed state:

UK
America Continentale
Europe
Japan
The countries of Australia and New Zealand

Emerging markets

These are the nations whose economies are less developed, and investments in them are subject to a greater degree of uncertainty. Nevertheless, as their economies continue to expand, they may present the greatest opportunities for expansion. The following is a list of investments that may or may not be made by funds that invest in emerging markets:

BRIC is an acronym that stands for “Brazil, Russia, India, and China,” which are the four most important emerging markets.
Asia Pacific is a category that refers to funds that invest in nations located in East Asia, such as the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia. In most cases, Japan is not included in these funds.
Investing in the MENA region includes activities in both the Middle East and North Africa.

Size of the company

Some investment funds make their investments based on market capitalization, which refers to the size of the companies in which they are interested (calculated from the number of ordinary shares in circulation times the current share price).

Large-cap firms, sometimes known as “blue chips,” typically have a history of consistent dividend payments and provide investors with the opportunity for gradual increases in the value of their stock prices. They often have a value that is greater than $10 billion.
Mid-cap firms are those of a medium size and are considered to be somewhat riskier than large-cap corporations, despite the fact that they may still pay dividends and frequently have a better potential for growth. Typically, their value falls around between $2 billion and $10 billion.
Small-cap companies, often known as small businesses, carry a far higher level of danger because there is a much higher probability that they will fail. Small-cap companies, on the whole, do not distribute dividends; yet, if they are successful, the price of their shares can skyrocket. Typically, their value falls around between $300 million and $2 billion.

Industry

These funds make investments in several sectors, including the technology industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the mining industry, and the energy sector, among others.

Equity funds can either be active or passive.

For the purpose of tracking the performance of an index, certain funds will buy shares from all of the companies included in the index or a proportion that is reflective of the index.

These types of funds are referred to as passive tracker funds. They have reduced yearly management charges and are very easy investments to own, but because of the expense of investing in them, they will always perform very slightly worse than the stock market index. This is due to the fact that investing in them is more expensive.

Active funds, which are managed by professional fund managers, have the overarching objective of producing returns that are superior to those of a stock market index. You are required to pay greater annual fees in exchange for this service; however, in theory, the manager should deliver superior returns to make up for the difference.

However, there is no assurance that actively managed funds will outperform the stock market index. In fact, only a minority of actively managed funds are capable of outperforming the market on a consistent basis.

How can I go about purchasing equity funds?

It is possible to purchase certain funds directly online, or they can be acquired through the assistance of a financial adviser or roboadviser.

However, if you are certain about your capacity for risk and your objectives, the simplest option to purchase funds is through the use of an investment platform.

Platforms give you the ability to buy and keep several equity funds and other investments, including within individual retirement accounts (Iras) if that’s required. In return, you are subject to additional costs on top of those levied by the equity funds themselves.

We examined and ranked the most popular investing platforms based on user input as well as professional analysis; you can see the providers that we suggest here at the Which? website.

How to profit from investing in stock funds

Dividends and appreciation of the underlying asset are the two components that make up the return on equity funds.

Income funds attempt to consistently pay dividends to fund holders, utilising the money obtained through corporate earnings. Accumulation funds use those corporate dividends to invest in more shares, so investors can profit from capital growth.

Against these potential rewards you need to evaluate a variety of potential costs:

Ongoing charge figure (OCF) – a yearly cost you’ll need to pay however the fund performs.
Performance fees – normally paid by actively-managed funds, these typically take 20 percent of everything above a particular level of performance
Trading fees and stamp duty reserve tax – paid when a fund buys or sells a share
Exit fees – imposed by some funds should you decide to sell your interests

You can find out more about fees and how they effect your investment performance here.

What variables affect stock fund prices?

Companies disclose their financial statements at least once a year, as well as posting trading updates and announcements of dividend payouts for the future.

If the company is functioning well and is projected to do so in the future, this should have a favourable effect on the share price – and thus equity funds that hold the company. Conversely, if the prospects aren’t looking good, the share price can plummet.

The overall economy is also important on equity fund prices. If economic conditions are excellent and investors have faith in companies’ capacity to grow, the demand for shares increases. The more that demand outweighs supply, the higher the share price can go.

Naturally, if the current state of the economy is not favourable, investors might not have as much faith in the future possibilities of a company. As a result, the price of a company’s share may decrease even though the business itself is doing well.

Do I have to pay taxes on the equity funds I own?

Since April 2018, you are exempt from paying taxes on dividend income up to the equivalent of £2,000.

After this point, dividends are subject to taxation at a rate of 7.5 percent if you are a taxpayer who is subject to the basic tax rate, 32.5 percent if you are subject to the higher tax rate, and 38.1 percent if you are subject to the additional tax rate.

If you sell equity funds during the tax year 2021–2022, you could be subject to paying capital gains tax on any profits over £12,300 that you make from the sale of such funds.

Take note that beginning in April 2022, the dividend tax will increase to 8.75 percent for taxpayers subject to the basic rate, 33.75 percent for taxpayers subject to the higher rate, and 39.35 percent for taxpayers subject to the additional rate.

If you hold equities funds in an individual retirement account (Ira), whether it be a stocks and shares Isa, a junior Isa, or a lifetime Isa, you will naturally not be required to pay dividend tax or capital gains tax on them.