My advice is simple. Choose a low-cost mutual fund family like, oh, say, Vanguard. I do not know of any other. Vanguard is by no means perfect, but they are reasonably good and low-cost, allowing them to beat the performance of most mutual fund families, because let's face it, the stock market mainly moves in unison. There is not a whole lot of advantage to be had in stock-pickers, although there is a whole lot of risk to be had. That 1 or 2 per cent expense ratio on your darling mutual fund is probably being used for massage therapy and new luxury cars for the mutual fund manager, who is ultimately using a computer to pick stocks, anyway. To think you pay a guy more, and he picks better stocks, is a charming little fantasy.
With stock funds, all one needs to know are the fundamentals. One must know what a P/E ratio is, and bear in mind that in today's environment, 17 is not too shabby, but over 20, it's time to bail. One must pay attention to earnings growth. Anything in the double-digits is dandy. That implies red-hot growth. Right now, large-caps stink, but mid-caps and small-caps excel, and that's why investors are buying 'em. The smart money always looks at the fundamentals.
With bonds, one must keep in mind that bonds suck and have sucked for a very, very long time. Any interest rate under 5 per cent really is not worth the time of day. It is extremely high-risk, and there is a possibility one could encounter double-digit losses, depending on the bond fund, due to rising interest rates, defaults, or even inflation. All bonds these days are junk bonds. They are garbage. There is little to no protection against inflation, little to no protection against rising interest rates. That is why people are moving the lion's share of their money into stocks right now, because what's the alternative? There is no alternative to stocks, unless you want to stash your cash under your mattress.
I keep an eye on bonds, however, because if interest rates do recover, then bonds will become very attractive, especially in today's market, where the P/E ratios are through the roof, judged on a historical basis. Bear in mind, P/E ratios used to be in the neighborhood of 11 or 12, for about a hundred years or so. It is only in today's environment that a P/E of 17 or 18 has become "the new normal."