What Are Dividend Mutual Funds?

Dividend Mutual Funds Explained

Definition

Dividend mutual funds are mutual funds that invest in stocks that pay dividends. If you invest in these funds, you can reinvest the dividends into more shares, or you can use the money as an income stream.

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Definition and Example of Dividend Mutual Funds

Dividend mutual funds hold stocks of publicly traded companies that pay regular cash dividends, generally every fiscal quarter.

If you own stocks of dividend-paying companies through a mutual fund, the dividends will be paid to the fund, which will pass that money along to its investors.

Dividend mutual funds tend to own shares of established companies. They often have a long history of paying dividends. These stocks are often referred to as "blue-chip stocks."

When companies offer a dividend on their stock, they base it off a percentage the cost for one share of stock. The more shares of stock you own, the higher your dividend will be.

How Do Dividend Mutual Funds Work?

Some dividend mutual funds focus on stocks that pay high dividends that represent a large percentage of their stock price. That percentage is known as "dividend yield." Here's how you can find it. First, divide the annual payout by the share price, and then multiply by 100.

For instance, suppose a stock pays a dividend of 60 cents per share each quarter. It trades at $42 per share. That means its annual dividend payout would be $2.40. When you divide that figure by $42 and multiply it by 100, you arrive at the dividend yield: 5.71%.

The names of these funds might include phrases like "dividend yield" or "high dividend."

Note

In late 2021, the dividend yield of the Standard & Poor's 500 was 1.30%. The long-term average is 1.87%.

Other dividend mutual funds focus on stocks that are increasing the amounts of their dividends. These funds might include phrases like "dividend growth" or "dividend appreciation" in their names.

A dividend mutual fund may invest according to an index that tracks companies that have high dividend yields or those that have a history of increasing their dividends. For instance, the Vanguard High Dividend Yield Index Fund (Admiral Shares) seeks to mimic the return of the FTSE High Dividend Yield Index.

When looking into dividend funds, assess their yields based on two methods:

The 30-day SEC yield reflects the dividends paid during the 30 days that ended on the last day of the last month; this is after you deduct the fund's expenses.

A mutual fund's trailing-12-month (TTM) yield refers to the percentage of income the fund returned to investors during the past 12 months. In the case of a stock mutual fund, income consists of dividend payments.

Alternatives to Dividend Mutual Funds

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are like mutual funds that are traded like stocks. Their prices change often throughout the trading day, in contrast to mutual funds. ETFs are meant to reproduce the performance of an index of stocks. And like dividend mutual funds, some of them aim to mimic an index of stocks known for paying high or increasing dividends. For instance, the iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF seeks to match the performance of the Morningstar US Dividend Growth Index.

Note

Mutual funds and ETFs that seek to mimic an index's performance tend to have lower fees than funds that are actively managed. The funds' managers choose their investments using a screening process, which is in contrast to passive buying simply because they're in the benchmark index.

Dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs) allow you to buy more shares using your dividends. You can even buy fractions of a share. Some companies let you invest in their stock directly without using a broker, and many online brokers will set up a DRIP for you free of charge.

Pros and Cons of Dividend Mutual Funds

Pros
  • Offer a steady stream of income

  • Perform better in a bear market

Cons
  • Tend to be outpaced in a bull market

  • Taxed as ordinary income

Pros Explained

Offer a steady stream of income: By paying investors at regular intervals, dividend mutual funds offer a steady stream of income.

Perform better in a bear market: When a bear market occurs, trading is down. In a bear market, dividend funds tend to do better than mutual funds that look for stocks with quickly rising share prices ("growth stocks").

Cons Explained

Tend to be outpaced in a bull market: In a bull (up) market, dividend funds will likely be outpaced by growth-focused mutual funds.

Taxed as ordinary income: Ordinary dividends are the type you would receive by owning shares of a mutual fund. These are taxed as ordinary income. They aren't taxed at the lower long-term capital gains tax rate. For that reason, you might want to invest in dividend mutual funds through a retirement savings plan. In that case, investments grow tax-deferred until withdrawals begin.

Key Takeaways

  • Dividend mutual funds are mutual funds that invest in stocks that pay dividends.
  • You can then reinvest the dividends into more shares of the funds, or you can use the money as an income stream.
  • A DRIP plan enables you to reinvest dividends to buy more of the same stock.
  • You must pay taxes on dividends from these funds as ordinary income, in most cases, even if the dividends are reinvested.
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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. YCHARTS. "S&P 500 Dividend Yield: 1.30% for Nov. 2021." Accessed Dec. 15, 2021.

  2. Vanguard. "Vanguard High Dividend Yield Index Fund Admiral Shares (VHYAX)." Accessed December 15, 2021.

  3. Zacks. "What Is a 30-Day Yield on a Mutual Fund?" Accessed Dec. 15, 2021.

  4. Corporate Finance Institute. "What Is SEC Yield?" Accessed Dec. 15, 2021.

  5. iShares. "iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF." Accessed December 15, 2021.

  6. Thrivent. "Why Are Dividends and Capital Gains in Mutual Funds Important?" Accessed Dec. 15, 2021.

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