The return on any investment, measured over a given period of time, is simply the sum of its capital appreciation and any income generated, divided by the original amount of the investment, which is expressed as a percentage. The term applied to this composite calculation is total return.

However, there is a difference in this simple concept as applied to stocks and mutual funds. Unfortunately, a great many mutual fund investors do not seem to have a clear understanding of a fund's total return. The relationships between a fund's
net asset value (NAV), yield (income) and capital gains distributions can be confusing. For stock investors, calculating and understanding their total return is relatively easy. By comparing how total return is derived for both stocks and mutual funds, you'll be able to better understand how this measure works for mutual funds.

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