Warren Buffett has made a reputation for himself as the world’s greatest investor, and he’s a big fan of index funds. Funds are basically one big investment made up of a bunch of individual ones. If you’re into lazy, set-and-forget investing, you’re familiar with them. But how do you find out exactly what’s in your fund?
There are a handful of reasons you might want to dissect your index fund. Maybe you don’t want to be invested in certain companies. Maybe you want to make sure you definitely are invested in others. Maybe you’re just curious! Whatever your reason, it’s easier than you might think to see what specific holdings, or investments, make up your fund.
Get a Simple Summary
For a simple summary, just head to Yahoo Finance and search the ticker symbol for the fund in question. For instance, if you want to see what’s inside VTSAX, a popular total stock market index fund from Vanguard, just type in VTSAX and you’ll see the following:
The section titled “Top Holdings” will show you the ten most valuable companies that make up that fund. If you click on the tab “Holdings,” you’ll see what industries you’re invested in, too. If you go to a site like Morningstar, you’ll see your top 25 holdings.
Get a Full View
Funds are made up of hundreds or even thousands of individual investments, though. If you want to see every single company in that fund, head to the investment firm’s website.
For example, since VTSAX is a Vanguard fund, you’d head to the Vanguard website and type in the symbol. From there, you’ll see another summary of information. If you head to “Performance,” you’ll see the top holdings, but click on the link “Portfolio Holdings,” and you’re taken to a page that includes the many, many companies that make up the VTSAX fund so you can see exactly what you’re invested in.
Other popular firms like Fidelity and Charles Schwab will use similar language. Look for the phrase “holdings,” “components” or “composition” when you search the fund.
If you can’t find a full list of holdings there, search for the fund’s prospectus. A prospectus is basically a report that includes all the detail about the fund in one place. Here are some resources for searching:
If you have a fund at a smaller firm and can’t find what you’re looking for, you can just give the firm a call and ask for it directly.
Find Your Fund in the First Place
Maybe you have no idea what kind of funds you’re invested with in the first place, though—like, you have a 401(k) you signed up for at work and you’re simply not sure what’s in it.
Your account statement should include a summary of the funds you’re invested in, and then you can just research those fund using the steps above—easy! Your investment firm’s website should allow you to look up the fund and offer a prospectus. Otherwise, again, you can contact them and ask for this.
Sites like FeeX and Personal Capital can also break down what’s in your investment account. You link your account(s) to the site (the same way you would with Mint.com), and they’ll analyze your investments and break down your holdings so you can see what specific funds you’re invested in.
These tools are helpful because they’ll give you extra information on your investments, too. FeeX looks for cheaper alternative funds, for example, and Personal Capital will tell you if your portfolio is properly balanced.
You don’t need to be Gordon Gekko to start investing, you just need a simple, lazy, buy-and-hold portfolio. That might mean signing up for a plan at work, opening a simple Target Date Fund, or even using a robo-advisor to do the work for you. However, with these methods, you might not be sure what you’re invested in, exactly. The good news is, it’s pretty easy to find out.