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Author: AliFool Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 75335  
Subject: Tracking Mutual Funds Online Date: 9/23/1998 4:23 PM
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Hi there. Can anyone tell me where and how to track my Merrill Lynch (and other) 401K mutual funds online? Thanks.

Also, I have one fund in my 401K which seems pretty attractive -- it is called the "Merrill Lynch Equity Index Trust," which they say is an S&P 500 Index Fund, but is "private." They told me that means it is only a ML thing, but how can I track it specifically, then? (I guess just right against the S&P 500?)

It's really too bad I can't see my ML 401K account balance online! What is the "ML Online" section of their website for, then? Everyone else who doesn't do 401K with them?

You know the "portfolio organizers" that a lot of sites have online? TMF has a beta, right? Well, I'd like to get all my investment information into one of those.

And Quicken -- how does it handle this sort of thing?

Thanks for any insight. --AliFool
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Author: TMFPixy Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 5596 of 75335
Subject: Re: Tracking Mutual Funds Online Date: 9/24/1998 8:51 AM
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AliFool asks:

Hi there. Can anyone tell me where and how to track my Merrill Lynch (and other) 401K mutual funds online? Thanks.

Also, I have one fund in my 401K which seems pretty attractive -- it is called the "Merrill Lynch Equity Index Trust," which they say is an S&P 500 Index Fund, but is "private." They told me that means it is only a ML thing, but how can I track it specifically, then? (I guess just right against the S&P 500?)

It's really too bad I can't see my ML 401K account balance online! What is the "ML Online" section of their website for, then? Everyone else who doesn't do 401K with them?

You know the "portfolio organizers" that a lot of sites have online? TMF has a beta, right? Well, I'd like to get all my investment information into one of those.

And Quicken -- how does it handle this sort of thing?


If - and only if - the funds used within your 401k are the same as ML offers the public will it be possible for you to track that fund's performance on a daily basis. You indicate the one you're interested in is a proprietary fund, or one not open to the general public. Generally, unless the fund manager chooses to publish such information you won't be able to track the performance of this kind of fund until you receive your 401k statements. That receipt may be quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Few 401k plans issue monthly statements. OTOH, if you use funds that are sold to the public, then you can use any portfolio tracker to check on them daily simply by entering their ticker symbol.

Be aware that when trying to track your 401k performance you will only be able to approximate that return within any given year for a number of reasons. First, public funds often have different expenses when available within a 401k. That difference will have an effect on the share prices within the 401k versus that published for the same fund in a public setting. Additionally, you will almost certainly have other administrative charges levied by the plan itself, which will reduce the value of your shares. These charges are not reflected in the public fund's numbers.

Next, any return is time-sensitive. You have to know the starting date to measure it. In a 401k, that means you have to know precisely when your contribution was deposited into the fund. It isn't the day the deduction was made from your paycheck because companies vary in when they remit that deduction to the plan. It can be up to the 15th business day of the month following the month the money was taken from your paycheck. Until you get that statement, you don't know when the money hit the account.

For these reasons, IMHO the best way to measure 401k performance for your particular account is once each year as of the date of a statement you receive. You know what the beginning balance was, you can account for the timing of deposits, and you know what the ending balance is. With that date you can compute an accurate return for you personally. Other calculations based on approximations are just guesses..

Regards….Pixy


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Author: AliFool Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 5620 of 75335
Subject: Re: Tracking Mutual Funds Online Date: 9/24/1998 6:32 PM
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On Thu, 24 Sep 1998 TMFPixy@aol.com wrote:

If - and only if - the funds used within your 401k are the same as ML offers the public will it be possible for you to track that fund's performance on a daily basis.

That's what I thought. I was looking for the tickers so I could track
them:

o Fidelity Advisors High Yield Fund Class A
o Templeton Foreign Fund
o Merrill Lynch Global Holdings Fund
o Merrill Lynch Pacific (!) Fund
o Merrill Lynch Equity Index Trust (S&P 500)
o Merrill Lynch Capital Fund Class A
o Merrill Lynch Basic Value Fund Class A

I'm guessing that the ML ones are NOT trackable. And yes, most of the money is in the S&P fund. : )

You indicate the one you're interested in is a proprietary fund, or one not open to the general public. Generally, unless the fund manager chooses to publish such information you won't be able to track the performance of this kind of fund until you receive your 401k statements.

That's the only way I've found so far, and that's what a customer service rep told me, too. Just seems weird.

That receipt may be quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Few 401k plans issue monthly statements.

I get all those lovely quarterly ML brochures. I've got stacks. Are they worth keeping at all? That info is always available, right?

OTOH, if you use funds that are sold to the public, then you can use any portfolio tracker to check on them daily simply by entering their ticker symbol.

I guess I just haven't FOUND the tickers yet. I must not know the right places to look. I was getting into stocks, so I dumped all my mutual fund bookmarks. Can you help me out with where to look?

Be aware that when trying to track your 401k performance you will only be able to approximate that return within any given year for a number of reasons....

Yow! I knew it was hard to track, but not this hard. How about this: I assume that since ML is a fee-based, full-serivce broker, there is a 4% or 5% load on these funds. How do I know how much of my money is actually going towards this crap? I.e., I could just put in the bare minimum to get max company match, and then take the rest of the money and park it in Vanguard's S&P 500 Index (which I already have -- in a Roth IRA). On the other hand, this is PRE-tax money... so maybe it would be worth it, rather than have it come out after taxes. Do 401K plans eat up our contributions with loads and fees, etc.? How can I tell? I don't want to be ignorant on this.

For these reasons, IMHO the best way to measure 401k performance for your particular account is once each year as of the date of a statement you receive. You know what the beginning balance was, you can account for the timing of deposits, and you know what the ending balance is. With that date you can compute an accurate return for you personally. Other calculations based on approximations are just guesses...

Thanks for this sound view of things, Pixy. Any additional comments you have regarding my above questions are welcomed. I love the Fool -- it's great! I feel like at this young age, I can start to take charge.


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Author: IndecisiveFool Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 5624 of 75335
Subject: Re: Tracking Mutual Funds Online Date: 9/24/1998 11:15 PM
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If - and only if - the funds used within your 401k are the same as ML offers the public will it be possible for you to track that fund's performance on a daily basis. You indicate the one you're interested in is a proprietary fund, or one not open to the general public. Generally, unless the fund manager chooses to publish such information you won't be able to track the performance of this kind of fund until you receive your 401k statements. That receipt may be quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Few 401k plans issue monthly statements. OTOH, if you use funds that are sold to the public, then you can use any portfolio tracker to check on them daily simply by entering their ticker symbol.

Be aware that when trying to track your 401k performance you will only be able to approximate that return within any given year for a number of reasons. First, public funds often have different expenses when available within a 401k. That difference will have an effect on the share prices within the 401k versus that published for the same fund in a public setting. Additionally, you will almost certainly have other administrative charges levied by the plan itself, which will reduce the value of your shares. These charges are not reflected in the public fund's numbers.

Next, any return is time-sensitive. You have to know the starting date to measure it. In a 401k, that means you have to know precisely when your contribution was deposited into the fund. It isn't the day the deduction was made from your paycheck because companies vary in when they remit that deduction to the plan. It can be up to the 15th business day of the month following the month the money was taken from your paycheck. Until you get that statement, you don't know when the money hit the account.

For these reasons, IMHO the best way to measure 401k performance for your particular account is once each year as of the date of a statement you receive. You know what the beginning balance was, you can account for the timing of deposits, and you know what the ending balance is. With that date you can compute an accurate return for you personally. Other calculations based on approximations are just guesses..

Regards….Pixy


For some 401k plans, it is possible to follow the performance daily. My wife and I work for different companies. Each company has a 401k plan that allows you to access your 401k plan through the internet. Some of the services they provide is changing the investment options, redistribution of account balances, checking account balances, and submitting loan applications. Account balances are usually based on previous day fund values. The only thing we are not allowed to do through the internet is increase the total contributions that are taken out of each paycheck.

The ability to do account management on the internet is a recent event. Both of our 401ks only permitted access last month. I would expect that in the future more 401k plans will allow all account transactions to be completed on the internet.

That said, I think there should be some concern that internet access is allowed. 401k plans are designed long term investments for retirement. Having easy access to the account may encourage people to try to time the market and readjust their accounts based on how the stock market fared yesterday. Chasing up or down trends in the market may have an adverse effect on returns.

-IF

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Author: DownwardSpiral One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 5632 of 75335
Subject: Re: Tracking Mutual Funds Online Date: 9/25/1998 10:54 AM
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Tickers for mutual funds can be found on a number of sites. Try ww.usatoday.com or www.quicken.com. The info would also be in the prospectus. I would also suspect that these funds have an 800 number that you can get NAV with a touch-tone phone.

FAHDX o Fidelity Advisors High Yield Fund Class A
TEMFX o Templeton Foreign Fund
MAHDX o Merrill Lynch Global Holdings Fund
MAPCX o Merrill Lynch Pacific (!) Fund
MASRX o Merrill Lynch Equity Index Trust (S&P 500)
MACPX o Merrill Lynch Capital Fund Class A
MABAX o Merrill Lynch Basic Value Fund Class A

Note that I easily found all of your funds; at least this set seems to be retail and not just institutional.

I bet you are paying the Wise a pretty penny upfront to get these class A shares.

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Author: AliFool Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 5633 of 75335
Subject: Re: Tracking Mutual Funds Online Date: 9/25/1998 1:01 PM
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Wow! Thanks for all the ticker symbols! I'll check into it to see if I can find them for myself, too, for future reference.

I read this once but forget: what is the difference between Class A, Class B, etc. And why would I be paying more? Is it worth it? Thanks.

--AliFool, learning.

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Author: DownwardSpiral One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 5637 of 75335
Subject: Re: Tracking Mutual Funds Online Date: 9/25/1998 2:37 PM
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The meaning of the clases of funds varies from fund company to fund company, but ...

Class A shares typically have a front-end load--so much percentage paid up front. I.e., with Merrill fund MDADX the class A shares have a front-end load of 5.25%; only 94.75% of your money is put to work. Class B shares have trailing fees (typically a declining deferred sales charge) and ongoing 12b-1 marketing fees. class C & D shares may vary.

Info on MDADX, from Morningstar Profile at www.quicken.com:

"Class A shares have front loads and no 12b-1 fees and are designed for institutions and fund employees; B shares have deferred loads and conversion features; C shares have level loads; D shares have front loads and lower 12b-1 fees. "

Stated loads:

"Fees and Expenses

Expense Ratio:2.72% Redemption Fee:0.00%
Front Load:5.25% 12b-1 Fee:0.25%
Def. Sales Charge:0.00% Min. Init. Purchase:$1,000 "

So, you may be paying 5.25% every time that you make a purchase. Also, the expense ratio of 2.72% is quite high.

There are lots of places to get mutual fund primer information. Read a few prospectuses (prospecti?). The Fool isn't big on mutual funds, but there is some info here, and there are some folders on it, I think. Use www.quicken.com and the Morningstar and ValueLine profiles. Go to www.morningstar.com. Go to any library. Almost all will have the paper Morningstar reports. Almost all will have primers on investing with mutual funds.

Look back on this board. The concensus is to use S&P 500 funds in a 401(k) if the optioins aren't great, BUT YOU MUST DECIDE FOR YOURSELF. Morningstar doesn't give the expense ratios for MASRX (Merrill's S&P index fund), but THE PROSPECTUS WILL. [Are you detecting a theme here?]

Good luck.

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Author: TMFPixy Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 5650 of 75335
Subject: Re: Tracking Mutual Funds Online Date: 9/26/1998 10:58 AM
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AliFool, in a follow-on post, says:

I'm guessing that the ML ones are NOT trackable. And yes, most of the money is in the S&P fund. : )

<snip>.

I get all those lovely quarterly ML brochures. I've got stacks. Are they worth keeping at all? That info is always available, right?


DownwardSpiral gave you an excellent response on where and how to search for info on your 401k funds. Those quarterly brochures may contain data on the expense differences between what you see on the public funds versus what looks like the same fund in the 401k. Beyond that, as long as they don't contain data on your contributions you can chuck those brochures with confidence that nothing of significant importance will be lost.

Yow! I knew it was hard to track, but not this hard. How about this: I assume that since ML is a fee-based, full-serivce broker, there is a 4% or 5% load on these funds. How do I know how much of my money is actually going towards this crap? I.e., I could just put in the bare minimum to get max company match, and then take the rest of the money and park it in Vanguard's S&P 500 Index (which I already have -- in a Roth IRA). On the other hand, this is PRE-tax money... so maybe it would be worth it, rather than have it come out after taxes. Do 401K plans eat up our contributions with loads and fees, etc.? How can I tell? I don't want to be ignorant on this.

Assume nothing, get the info from your plan administrator to know for sure. You may have loads (i.e., commissions) to pay in the funds purchased and the administrative charges imposed by the fund itself. Additionally, you may have an administration charge imposed by the plan for records keeping, etc. You must examine both the fund prospectus and the plan documents to see what charges you will absorb. Your plan administrator/benefits administrator will have that info.

Yes, it's certainly Foolish to contribute at least enough to receive all the Free Money your employer will provide through a company match. Beyond that, you must compare the after-tax returns in the 401k to that of any other alternative you may wish to consider. Additionally, you must maintain the same discipline in the alternative as you do in the 401k (i.e., automatic contributions that increase as your pay does). See Step 4 of my 13 Steps to Foolish Retirement Planning available at: http://www.fool.com/Retirement/Retirement.htm .

Regards….Pixy


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Author: TMFPixy Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 5652 of 75335
Subject: Re: Tracking Mutual Funds Online Date: 9/26/1998 11:00 AM
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IF writes:

I would expect that in the future more 401k plans will allow all account transactions to be completed on the internet.

That said, I think there should be some concern that internet access is allowed. 401k plans are designed long term investments for retirement. Having easy access to the account may encourage people to try to time the market and readjust their accounts based on how the stock market fared yesterday. Chasing up or down trends in the market may have an adverse effect on returns.


IMHO many more but never all 401k plans will use internet access to allow participant transactions and monitoring. Just remember that doing so is not a cheap thing to do, and that cost almost certainly will be passed on to 401k participants. That cost will futher denigrate return performance. Convenience has its drawbacks.

As to market timers, that issue has been examined exhaustively in plans that use daily pricing and have both telephone and internet account change capability. These studies reveal consistently that less than 5% of folks do anything when the markets shift. For that reason, IMHO the issue of market timing within 401k plans is one without merit..

Regards……Pixy


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