There are many variables to this question, and they all involve a degree of risk. Stock mutual funds are essentially a group of several dozen stocks grouped together into one investment instrument. The main things to consider before picking out a stock fund is its management team, the funds success in a down market, and whether the fund's investment objectives meet the investor's needs. All of these questions can be answered in the stock fund's prospectus, which is issued by the company that is managing the stock fund.
As far as the management team goes, the questions to be asked are: How long has the management team been with the stock fund? What is the turnover rate of the managers in the stock fund company? How successful have these investment managers been? What are the investment styles that these managers employ? These are important questions because a stock fund company with a lot of turnover is especially risky. The major questions here are: Why are all of these managers leaving the company? Would I feel comfortable investing my money with a company that is either firing its managers, or are they leaving on their own free will because of a poor work environment? A stock fund's management should be extremely crucial in a potential investor's eyes, because these are the people actually managing the investor's money.
The next consideration after stock fund management is the stock fund's performance in a down market. This will essentially tell you if the stock fund managers are smart, if they did their homework and if they picked out good stocks that are in a position to weather a down-market trend. When stock fund managers pick out company stocks they should focus on a few major points: Are these companies consistently making money? Are these companies in debt, and how are they leveraging this debt? Who are the board of directors and what is their track record? If stock fund managers are not addressing or answering these questions they are not doing their job and the stock fund will most likely not be successful in the long term.
The final consideration: What are the investor's objectives? If the investor is interested short-term profits , then she will probably not find them in a stock fund, unless she is willing to accept a great deal of risk. It is possible to invest in stock funds that focus on company stocks from developing countries. These types of funds have a great potential for upside as companies from developing countries tend to have enormous swings in their markets. The same rings true however with the downside potential, as many of these companies from developing markets are not very regulated by their respective governments, making investing in them similar to investing in a company during the Wild West.
At the end of the day, an investor needs to know what he/she is investing in and do their homework. Investing in a good stock fund is usually a prudent measure, but one shouldn't do so blindly. How To Invest in a Stock Fund