Copyright 2012 Tom Madell, PhD, Publisher
Feb. 2012

The following chart shows a matrix of investor choices and possible outcomes on any given hypothetical fund investment.

Assume that the net asset value (NAV - i.e., the price) of a fund being considered was 10.00 on the day you acted or could have acted.

x Years/Months
Result (Cumulative)
of This Decision


11.50 GAIN
(at least +15%)


9.50 "Probable" LOSS
(less than 5%)
SELL/ or
Do Nothing

11.50 Missed the
above GAIN
SELL/ or
Do Nothing

9.50 Avoided the
above LOSS

Note: "Do Nothing" refers to when you do not already own the fund.

The result shows the outcome for the action you actually took assuming you had the choice of owning the fund and retaining it for x number of years/months.

As time elapses, your action (or inaction) means that you are subject to an actual (or potential) gain or loss depending on whether the price of the investment goes up or down. But you should note that there is no way to know the exact result of your decision unless you find out how large the distribution(s), that is dividends and/or capital gains, of the particular fund was/were (if any). Especially if any of the distributions were large (e.g. amounting to anything more than just a percent or two), this means that you will likely get a distorted view of the potential gains or losses by merely looking at the price. This is because funds must adjust their NAV downward by an amount equal to the distribution. So, if after your purchase at 10.00, the NAV rises to 10.50 and then a distribution of .50 is made, the price will drop to 10.00. It may now appear as though you have no gain, but in actuality, you still have the same gain of 5% you had before the distribution because your fund will give you 5% more shares.

The point is that it is sometimes very hard to ascertain even a close estimate of the result your decision and to visualize it on an annualized basis. But even if you do have a good idea of whether you either gained or potentially lost as a result of your decision, the question remains would you have done better choosing a different fund altogether. For example, even if you correctly appraise that you made 10% annualized over the last x years/mos. by investing in the large cap fund Whatever, a hypothetical managed fund, could you have done better by investing instead in a large cap index fund, such as a low-cost S&P 500 fund?