How to use Morningstar growth charts
Growth charts are a very useful tool for investigating mutual funds and many characteristics of investments, particularly if you can view them for more than ten years, can compare one fund with another, and can choose the starting and endpoints. One site that provides these facilities at no cost is Morningstar.com. Here are some directions.
Using Morningstar growth charts
1) Go to Morningstar.
2) Type the name or ticker symbol of first fund into the "quote" box, wait for the drop-down list to appear, click on the name of the fund.
3) Click on (either) the "Chart" tab, or the word "more" in the little growth chart.
4) To overlay other funds, type in the symbol OR THE NAME in the box that says "compare to symbol." Wait for the list to drop down, then click on the fund you want. (Some users have reported that this does not work for them, but that pressing the "return" key does).
5) Morningstar automatically includes comparisons to two benchmarks of their choice. To remove them to reduce clutter, or to remove funds you've added to the chart, hover over the name of the fund; a little "X" button will appear next to it, click on it and the fund will be removed.
6) Choose the desired time period. Always consider using "maximum." For a cheap thrill, try typing MITTX (MFS Massachusetts Investors Trust) or VWELX (Vanguard Wellington Fund) into the quote box, then "chart," then click "maximum."
7) If you don't hover the mouse over the chart itself, next to each fund you will see how many dollars $10,000 grew to over the time period shown. If you do hover it over the chart, next to each fund you will see the dollar figure for the date where you've placed the mouse.
8) This feature is sometimes a little balky, but you can drag the little arrow gadgets at the bottom to look at any time period you want. This can be a very powerful feature. When two funds don't line up, playing with the start and end dates can help you identify the times at which each fund was outperforming the other. Starting near the end of 2007 or the beginning of 2008 to compare how far various funds dropped-- this is a very enlightening peek at one intuitive measure of "risk."
9) Provided you plot a mutual fund first, with the quote box, you can choose an ETF or even an individual stock to "compare to" and it will give you a growth (not price) chart for the ETF or stock.
10) You can type VMMXX into the "compare to" box, and although it will not show anything in the dropdown box, it will (usually) add Vanguard Prime Money Market fund to the picture.
11) Like other many fancy-schmancy Web 2.0 applications, the exact behavior of Morningstar's growth chart application can vary depending on your browser, OS version, etc. When the application gets "sticky," sometimes clicking on "event" and then check and then unchecking the "dividends" box will free it up. The stickiness and balkiness may be web browser dependent.
12) The discovery of many other features is left as an exercise for the reader.