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Mutual Funds

The Definition

A mutual fund is nothing more than a collection of stocks and/or bonds. You can think of a mutual fund as a company that brings together a group of people and invests their money in stocks, bonds, and other securities. Each investor owns shares, which represent a portion of the holdings of the fund.

You can make money from a mutual fund in three ways:

1) Income is earned from dividends on stocks and interest on bonds. A fund pays out nearly all of the income it receives over the year to fund owners in the form of a distribution.

2) If the fund sells securities that have increased in price, the fund has a capital gain. Most funds also pass on these gains to investors in a distribution.

3) If fund holdings increase in price but are not sold by the fund manager, the fund's shares increase in price. You can then sell your mutual fund shares for a profit.

Funds will also usually give you a choice either to receive a check for distributions or to reinvest the earnings and get more shares.