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A mutual fund is both an investment and an actual company. This may seem strange, but it is actually no different than how a share of APL is a representation of Apple, Inc. When an investor buys Apple stock, he is buying part ownership of the company and its assets. Similarly, a mutual fund investor is buying part ownership of the mutual fund company and its assets. The difference is Apple is in the business of making smartphones and tablets, while a mutual fund company is in the business of making investments.
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 share of a mutual fund, you are actually buying the performance of its portfolio.
Mutual funds invest in stocks, but certain types also invest in government and corporate bonds. Stocks are subject to the whims of the market and thus offer a higher return potential than bonds, but they also present more risk. Bonds, by contrast, provide a fixed return that is usually much lower than what an investor gets from stocks. The advantage of bonds is they are low risk. Only in an extreme situation, such as the complete failure of a corporation, does an investor not receive the return he was promised from a bond security. A mutual fund's investment profile depends on the type of fund. There are three main types: equity funds, fixed-income funds and balanced funds.