A mutual fund is at its core a managed portfolio of stocks and/or bonds. You can think of a mutual fund as a company that brings together a large group of people and invests their money on their behalf in this portfolio. Each investor owns shares of the mutual fund, which represent a portion of its holdings.
Investing in a share of a mutual fund is different from investing in shares of stock. Unlike stock, mutual fund shares do not give its holders any voting rights. A share of a mutual fund represents investments in many different stocks (or other securities) instead of just one holding.
Investors typically earn a return from a mutual fund in three ways:
1. Income is earned from dividends on stocks and interest on bonds held in the fund’s portfolio. A fund pays out nearly all of the income it receives over the year to fund owners in the form of a distribution. Funds often give investors a choice either to receive a check for distributions or to reinvest the earnings and get more shares
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 in the market. Mutual funds have some clear advantages for investors, but also some limitations and drawbacks. Here is an overview of the pros and cons:
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