Whether it's 25 years in the workforce or 25 years in a federal penitentiary, investors' concerns are the same, according to MarketWatch.

Columnist Chuck Jaffe fielded questions from investors in federal and state prisons interested in mutual funds, and offered the advice he would to anyone on the outside.

One inmate in a federal prison in Oklahoma City asked whether $250 was too little to invest in mutual funds. "Time may be your enemy in prison, but it's your friend when it comes to investing," Jaffe responded. "Even small amounts can grow to be significant given the right kind of returns and sufficient time to grow." Jaffe urged inmate investors to think about the future, and enjoying later what they set aside now.

Questions ranged from starting something with their small sums, and choosing funds they could trust, rather than a company that might take the money and run. Jaffe advised a prisoner in Michigan to stretch his $200 initial investment further by being mindful of long-term performance, in addition to fees and expenses.

"Typically, investors are better shopping for the funds they want than looking for the issues with minimums they can afford," Jaffe wrote. "The reason is that most firms waive their minimums for shareholders t who make automatic monthly or quarterly deposits, taken electronically form a savings or checking account."  Jaffe used the example of a $100 minimum with $100 monthly deposits. The caveat is that no money can be withdrawn until the advertised minimum is met.

Jaffe assured him that the cash is with a custodian, but warned of fly-by-night companies that issue fake statements and offer false assurance.  "Do be careful of where your money goes, particularly if you are using an intermediary," he offered. Follow directions from the prospectus, and don't be afraid to ask questions, he added.

The staff of Money Management Executive ("MME") has prepared these capsule summaries based on reports published by the news sources to which they are attributed. Those news sources are not associated with MME, and have not prepared, sponsored, endorsed, or approved these summaries.

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