A mutual fund is an investment vehicle in which multiple investors pool their money into one account to be managed by a professional investor. From a money making standpoint, the benefits of using a mutual fund are pretty clear. For one, if you've got extra cash lying around but don't know how to invest it, it pays to hand your money to someone who knows what they're doing. Secondly, mutual funds are heavily regulated by the government, so it's definitely a more secure way to invest. Finally, the primary benefit of investing a mutual fund is the diversification. Mutual funds typically hold many different securities and this diversification is a great way to mitigate risk. It isn't all sunshine and rainbows, however. Investors in a mutual fund have to pay various fees and expenses, and since they're part of group, each investor must sacrifice his/her ability to invest individually.

How do they work?

From a functional standpoint, mutual funds are simultaneously an investment portfolio and, because of their size, a full fledged company. A mutual fund, day-to-day, works much like any other company. A fund manager is elected by the board of directors and is legally obligated to make decisions that benefit the fund's shareholders. Most mutual funds exist as part of a larger investment corporation, with some companies containing hundreds of funds.

Mutual funds invest in multiple securities at once in order to hedge their bets.

What's the difference between a mutual fund and a hedge fund?

Mutual funds are not to be confused with their risk-taking, coke-addled cousin, the hedge fund. The fundamental difference between the two is that a hedge fund's leverages (bets made with borrowed cash or prospective earnings) aren't regulated. While both mutual funds and hedge funds lack a certain level of transparency, investors in a mutual fund can rest a little easier, knowing that the company they're invested is relatively safe (in theory). While the SEC doesn't have the jurisdiction to supervise a mutual fund's investments, it does require these funds to publicly report their earnings. The biggest safety net in the world of hedge funds is its barriers to entry. You must have a net worth of at least $1 million to ride that ride. That said, if you're trying to bet the minimum, you might be better off at a casino.

Are there different types of mutual funds?

Since there are different types of securities (bonds, stocks, derivatives etc.), naturally there are different types of mutual funds. One of the more prominent types is based on fixed income and the collecting of government and corporate bonds. Fixed income funds generate their income via interest. Another type of fund is based around market indexes. These funds are predicated on the belief that the stock market is too hard to judge. Instead of trying to beat the market, investors buy into specific indexes (i.e. Dow Jones, S&P, NASDAQ). The advantage of these funds is twofold. Investing this way is extremely risk averse and feels significantly safer than the other mutual funds out there. On top of this, betting on an index isn't rocket science, so there are way less fees involved with this type of fund. Another relatively secure option is a money market fund, in which the objective is to keep the fund's share price at $1 and to turn a profit on short term investments. These funds move quickly but are a comparatively safe way to invest one's money. There's also no fee associated with entering and exiting a money market fund. There are also sector funds (funds based on specific industries), balanced funds (funds that hold both stocks and bonds), and too many other variants and combinations to mention here. This is the 101 course for God's sake. If you've read this and thought "gee, I didn't know what mutual funds were, but now I'm itching to get involved," I recommend talking to a financial advisor.

Index Funds are the safest way to play

Aren't all funds just scams?

Yes. Invest in real estate you idiot. Sorry, I got ahead of myself there. What I meant to say was:

Yes and no. Where mutual funds come up short, is in the idea that picking a company with a star investor or manager is going to to yield better results. An investor's success rate is not predictive of future success. According Henry Blodget and David Swensen the only thing that's predictive of a mutual fund's success is the cost it takes to run it. This is why index funds, with their lower operating costs, always seem to beat out other funds in revenue. So yes, funds that claim to have "inside knowledge" about the stock market and investing, are lying to you. Investing at that level tends to be little more than educated guessing. That said, these funds exist and have been legitimized in the American financial space. The amount of money tied up in US-based mutual funds is about the same as our GDP. So, if you have the money, and are looking to bet it, a mutual fund is closer to blackjack than roulette. Still, unless you're counting cards (or insider trading) it's pretty much all luck.
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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.