Young investor may need a long-term perspective

QI'm in my 20s with money in a diversified stock fund. I invest monthly. But I am disappointed with my returns. They are terrible, even though the fund is well known and highly rated. Would I be better off pulling my money from the fund and just putting it in a money market account, which is earning about 4 or 5 percent?

G.C., Los Angeles

A"Everyone is asking the same question right now," says Michelle Smith, who heads up the Mutual Fund Education Alliance, in Kansas City, Mo. "But remember, a money market fund is a cash reserve." It is not designed for long-term growth, she says.

"You are doing all the right things," Ms. Smith says. By investing monthly, you are currently buying "low," since at some point the market will come back, and share prices will again rise.

Smith suggests that unless you need the money now, you should stay the course, and "keep investing on a monthly basis."

QI am annoyed at our mutual-fund company. I recently had to check on my wife's IRA account, and I called the company to ask about the status of two checks that she had sent in for deposit. But the fund representative would not provide me with any information. I told her I had my wife's permission, Social Security number, and account number. But the representative still refused to help. I'm thinking of switching to another fund company. Am I wrong?

Name withheld, New York

ACalls to several fund companies, including Fidelity, Vanguard, and T. Rowe Price, indicate that they traditionally decline to release personal information except to the actual account holder. The reason: to prevent unauthorized persons from illegally entering accounts.

One possible way around the problem: Use an online account to retrieve information. The computer can't tell if it is you, or your wife, online.

QHow can I tell if my mutual funds are too risky?

S.H., New York

AInformation firms such as Morningstar and Value Line use various risk screens, which can help you determine the relative safety of a fund. Another approach: check out www.portfolioscience.com. The website measures the risk of a stock or mutual fund against a major stock index, such as the S&P 500.

Questions about finances? Write:

Guy Halverson

The Christian Science Monitor

500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845

New York, NY 10110

E-mail: halversong@csps.com

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