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Mutual Funds

A mutual fund is a type of financial vehicle made up of a pool of money collected from many investors to invest in securities like stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and other assets. Mutual funds are operated by professional money managers, who allocate the fund's assets and attempt to produce capital gains or income for the fund's investors. A mutual fund's portfolio is structured and maintained to match the investment objectives stated in its prospectus.


Mutual funds give small or individual investors access to professionally managed portfolios of equities, bonds, and other securities. Each shareholder, therefore, participates proportionally in the gains or losses of the fund. Mutual funds invest in a vast number of securities, and performance is usually tracked as the change in the total market cap of the fund—derived by the aggregating performance of the underlying investments.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
A mutual fund is a type of investment vehicle consisting of a portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other securities. 
Mutual funds give small or individual investors access to diversified, professionally managed portfolios at a low price.
Mutual funds are divided into several kinds of categories, representing the kinds of securities they invest in, their investment objectives, and the type of returns they seek.
Mutual funds charge annual fees (called expense ratios) and, in some cases, commissions, which can affect their overall returns.
The overwhelming majority of money in employer-sponsored retirement plans goes into mutual funds.

Mutual funds pool money from the investing public and use that money to buy other securities, usually stocks and bonds. The value of the mutual fund company depends on the performance of the securities it decides to buy. So, when you buy a unit or share of a mutual fund, you are buying the performance of its portfolio or, more precisely, a part of the portfolio's value. 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:

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.
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.
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.
If a mutual fund is construed as a virtual company, its CEO is the fund manager, sometimes called its investment adviser. The fund manager is hired by a board of directors and is legally obligated to work in the best interest of mutual fund shareholders. Most fund managers are also owners of the fund. There are very few other employees in a mutual fund company. The investment adviser or fund manager may employ some analysts to help pick investments or perform market research. A fund accountant is kept on staff to calculate the fund's NAV, the daily value of the portfolio that determines if share prices go up or down. Mutual funds need to have a compliance officer or two, and probably an attorney, to keep up with government regulations.