According to the most recent Investment Company Institute Factbook, the fund industry, based on what they refer to as emergence of fund entrepreneurs have made the middle class the money class. With 90 million households owning mutual funds, either in their 401(k)s or some other type of defined contribution plan available n the workplace or through their investments in various types of IRAs, a picture of a mature and developed industry has emerged.
With 90 million Americans holding $12.2 trillion in assets in these investments, the ICI study, the 50th anniversary of this industry marketing factbook, points towards the ability of these funds to achieve a wide range of investment strategies that have helped 44% of households move closer to their financial goals. Admittedly, this increase in investment activity is the direct result of the creation of defined contribution plans and IRAs as pensions became less prominent in for retirement income.
While households have found the use of mutual funds to their liking, so have institutional investors and businesses found the tool a good place to park cash and short-term assets. This increase, while not noted in the research may be contributing to the length of the recent economic downturn as business is reluctant to invest in their own operations, preferring to keep cash (which the ICI does note as a record) in money market accounts instead. Many of these entities have employed ETFs to a greater degree to keep those assets even more liquid.
But not all is well in terms of who offers these products. More here along with part two in this series.