As an investor, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of paperwork you receive for your accounts. Account statements, prospectuses, annual reports and statements of additional information are just a few of the items that may appear in your mailbox or email inbox. If you're a mutual fund investor, the fund prospectus is the most weighty of these, and it's full of important and useful information. It does not, however, have a holding requirement.
The prospectus is the owner's manual for a mutual fund. It describes -- in great detail -- the fund's operations, fee structure, primary holdings, investment philosophy and historical performance. It may include instructions for share purchase and sales, as well as a discussion of any restrictions on those trades.
Investment companies provide prospectuses to anyone upon request so investors can review the fund data before purchasing shares. The investment company will also send you a prospectus when you make your first purchase and again anytime the document is updated.
The length of time you keep a prospectus is up to you; there is no requirement or need to keep this document once you have reviewed it unless you want to have a copy on hand for reference. If you do choose to hold onto your prospectus, throw it out when you receive a fresh copy. Any prospectus more than one year old is likely out of date.
Alternate Data Access
Most investment companies provide prospectus information on their websites, along with current, up-to-the-moment performance data. You can also find fund information on investment-oriented websites like Morningstar or the "Wall Street Journal" site. You can request a new prospectus at any time, and in most cases you can elect to receive your fund documents via email if you prefer less paper.
Nola Moore is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles, Calif. She has more than 20 years of experience working in and writing about finance and small business. She has a Bachelor of Science in retail merchandising. Her clients include The Motley Fool, Proctor and Gamble and NYSE Euronext.