A:

An income distribution from a mutual fund to its shareholders can take two forms:

  1. A shareholder can elect to be paid directly, which puts the money in his or her pocket
  2. The shareholder can elect to buy more shares of the fund, which means that he or she is reinvesting the amount of the dividend in more shares.

Whichever scenario mutual fund shareholders choose, they either benefit from $100 paid to them in cash or $100 reinvested in additional shares of the ABC Fund. If you are living off investment income, you will choose one of the dividend payout alternatives. If you are building a retirement nest egg, you will choose to plow that dividend back into more shares of the fund and enjoy the long-term benefits of compounding your investment.(For related reading, see Compound Your Way To Retirement.)

For example, let's say the ABC Fund makes a quarterly income distribution of $100 as a dividend to shareholder Mary Smith. If the fund company has a money market fund, Mary could put the $100 there, which keeps it liquid and at her immediate disposal. The $100 could be sent to her by check or deposited to her bank account. In all of these instances, Mary gets to use the dividend amount any way she pleases. As an alternative, she can elect to reinvest the $100 dividend payment in more shares of the ABC Fund. Generally, this is done through automatic dividend reinvestment instructions established by Mary and automatically executed by the fund company for her account. The dollar amount of her investment in the fund will increase by $100.

By law, mutual funds must pay out income and realized capital gains to the funds' shareholders. These distributions come from a fund's assets, which why a fund's net asset value - and therefore its price - drops accordingly.

To learn more about how price and NAV are related, read Why is it that when investors realize returns on a mutual fund, its price tends to fall?

RELATED FAQS
  1. Are target-date retirement funds good investments?

    The main benefit of target-date retirement funds is convenience. If you really don't want to bother with your retirement ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Do mutual funds require a demat account?

    A dematerialized account enables electronic transfer of funds. The account is used so an investor does not need to hold the ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How liquid are Vanguard mutual funds?

    The Vanguard mutual fund family is one of the largest and most well-recognized fund family in the financial industry. Its ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Which mutual funds made money in 2008?

    Out of the 2,800 mutual funds that Morningstar, Inc., the leading provider of independent investment research in North America, ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Does OptionsHouse have mutual funds?

    OptionsHouse has access to some mutual funds, but it depends on the fund in which the investor is looking to buy shares. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Should mutual funds be subject to more regulation?

    Mutual funds, when compared to other types of pooled investments such as hedge funds, have very strict regulations. In fact, ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Products and Investments

    There's a Reason They're Called Junk Bonds

    The closing of Third Avenue Managemet's Focused Credit Fund is a warning to investors and advisors. Beware the junk.
  2. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 3 PIMCO Funds for Retirement Diversification in 2016

    Explore analyses of the top three PIMCO funds for 2016 and learn how these funds can be used to create a diversified retirement portfolio.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The 3 Best Downside Protection Equity Mutual Funds

    Learn how it is possible to profit in a bear market by owning the correct selection of mutual funds that provide downside protection and opportunity.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The 4 Best Lord Abbett Mutual Funds

    Discover the four best mutual funds administered and managed by Lord, Abbett & Co., LLC that offer investors a wide variety of investment strategies.
  5. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The ABCs of Mutual Fund Classes

    There are three main mutual fund classes, and each charges fees in a different way.
  6. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The 3 Best Vanguard Funds for Value Investors in 2016

    Find out which of Vanguard's value funds are the best for building a solid core-satellite value investing strategy for your portfolio.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The 4 Best American Funds for Growth Investors in 2016

    Discover four excellent growth funds from American Funds, one of the country's premier mutual fund families with a history of consistent returns.
  8. Investing Basics

    5 Questions First Time Investors Should Ask in 2016

    Learn five of the most important questions you need to ask if you are a new investor planning on starting an investment program in 2016.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The 5 Best US Small Cap Value Index Mutual Funds

    Find out which index mutual funds do the best at investing in small-cap value stocks for higher potential returns at the lowest cost.
  10. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The 5 Best T. Rowe Price Funds for the Income Seeker in 2016 (TROW)

    Find out which T. Rowe Price mutual funds to use to create a diversified income portfolio for current income, income growth and capital preservation.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Consumer Staples

    Essential products such as food, beverages, tobacco and household ...
  2. Benchmark

    A standard against which the performance of a security, mutual ...
  3. Alpha

    Alpha is used in finance to represent two things: 1. a measure ...
  4. Equity

    Equity is the value of an asset less the value of all liabilities ...
  5. Series 6

    A securities license entitling the holder to register as a limited ...
  6. Exchange-Traded Mutual Funds (ETMF)

    Investopedia explains the definition of exchange-traded mutual ...
Trading Center