67 The Best Mutual Fund Screens for a Fee

The Best Mutual Fund Screens for a Fee

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Although free screens get the basic job done, turbo-charged mutual fund screens can improve your results and earn their subscription fee.

Mutual fund investors are stingy, if the number of mutual fund screens for a fee is any indication. Compared to stock screens that cost money, the pickings are pitiful for fund investors willing to pay for extra bells and whistles. That's probably because the best free fund screens on the Web are good enough for most investors. But what you're missing when you opt for a free mutual fund screen is not only enhanced screening capabilities, but extra goodies such as in-depth, independent analyst research at Morningstar or cool data-visualization fund analysis tools at SmartMoney. If you put these additional tools to use making better mutual fund choices, the fees involved are a pittance compared to the money you can earn with improved returns.

1 What You Pay For

When you pay a fee, you want a site that helps you figure out what kind of fund you need, sorts through all of the options, and makes it easy to regularly check on your portfolio. With some sites, you can access current financial news, investment information and analysis for funds, stocks and bonds, as well as portfolio tracking tools. Figure differentiates the tools that come with a price offered by three top web sites.

If you're a fund investor trying to get your portfolio on track or just checking on it now and then, consider subscribing to one of these services for a month or two instead of a whole year.

Tools from Morningstar, SmartMoney, or NAIC can improve your results from your mutual fund investments






Ten built-in screens

Do-it-yourself screen with 54 criteria for 5 fund categories

Six built-in screens

Do-it-yourself screen with 53 criteria for 8 major categories

Basic screening

Offers a full list of fund families

Fund data and reports

Over 14,000 funds; 2,000 have analyst commentary

6,000 funds

Over 14,000 funds

NAIC customized reports


Similar fund analyzer

Portfolio X-ray

Fund map data visualization

Fund comparison tool

Fund performance trend tool

Current commentary

Thorough; top-notch coverage of fund scandal

Focuses on results of Smart Money screens plus magazine articles

Articles from Better Investing magazine


Extensive; covering funds, portfolio management, stocks, and bonds

Wide-ranging; covering investing, retirement, debt management, and more

Focuses on basics of investing in mutual funds

Data Source


Lipper and Morningstar

Standard & Poor's

Morningstar (http://www.morningstar.com)

Although Morningstar is the most expensive option, it's the best value for the money. With the Morningstar Premium Fund Screener, you can specify precise screening criteria to find exactly what you want. When screening for funds, you can save your screens for future reference or customize Morningstar's built-in screens, as shown in Figure [Hack #77].

You can choose from 54 mutual fund screening criteria with Morningstar's Premium Fund Screener

  • Best feature: screening tool is easy to use and offers variables to satisfy the most compulsive researcher. Screen results are well organized with crisp presentation of data. Offers other effective tools.

  • Worst feature: busyness of the home page makes it hard to find what you need. The site has so much information that it's overwhelming for the new investor.

  • Price: $12.95 a month; $115 a year; $199 for two years.

SmartMoney (http://www.smartmoney.com)

The SmartMoney fund screener offers numerous criteria plus customized screens built around Lipper Leaders, which are funds that meet standards set by Lipper fund analysts. The fund map tool presents information and a separate screen through data-visualization technology. It categorizes the fund universe by fund objective and company size. Funds with positive performance show up in green; those with negative performance in red. Click on a part of the map, and a fund's name pops up as well as a link to more information. Use it to find funds with specific objectives or to look for replacements for a fund that you currently own but want to sell. Like Morningstar, SmartMoney offers lots of information and tools for fund investors, but it's more like a stock site with some fund information and tools.

  • Best feature: weekly features built around topical fund screens. For example, Bond Funds Built For Rising Interest Rates explains how rising interest rates hurt bond fund investors and offers a screen that you can view or download.

  • Worst feature: tools are very slow to load, even with a high-speed connection.

  • Price: $5.95 a month; $59.95 a year.

NAIC Mutual Fund Education & Resource Center (http://www.better-investing.org/funds)

The only non-profit option of the bunch, NAIC offers unique tools that go right to the heart of fund analysis. The fund comparison tool lays out key fund criteria side by side and incorporates a ranking system that helps you figure out which fund is best. Keep an eye on trends in an individual fund through the trend report, which provides historical data and lets you filter the data by month, quarter, or semiannually. Help buttons next to each part of the tools explain fund criteria and S&P data. The screen, like much of the site, is functional but doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles. The University provides a sound basic education in mutual fund investing fundamentals.

  • Best feature: fund analysis tools.

  • Worst feature: no daily update of fund net asset values, so you have to go offsite to get the current NAV of your fund.

  • Price: $35 a year for members; $60 a year for nonmembers; no monthly option available.

Amy Crane

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