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Mutual Funds

How to Navigate the Bond Fund Tables

Below is a guide for reading the mutual fund tables in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine.

FUND

To limit the number of funds in our tables, we’ve left out funds that are less than a year old.

TOTAL RETURN

Measures the change in value, assuming that dividend and capital-gains distributions were reinvested. Five-year returns are annualized -- that is, stated on an average annual basis. Returns are for periods through December 31. A dash in a five-year column means the fund hasn’t existed that long.

STYLE

Taxable and tax-free bond funds and ETFs are described by the type of bonds they invest in most heavily. Bonds are divided into corporate, government and municipal, and classified by their average time until maturity. Short-term bonds will mature in less than three years, intermediate-term in three to ten years, and long-term in more than ten years. Nine styles emerge from these elements: ShTerm (short-term general), Intermed (intermediate-term general), Long (long-term general), ShGov (short-term government), IntGov (intermediate-term government), LgGov (long-term government), STMuni (short-term municipal), IntMuni (intermediate-term municipal) and LTMuni (long-term municipal).

Other styles: BL (bank loan) funds invest in floating-rate loans made by banks to companies that typically carry below-investment-grade quality ratings. HY Corp (high-yield corporate) funds own mostly lower-grade bonds. InfPro (inflation-protected) funds invest mainly in Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS). Multi (multi-sector) bond funds invest across different bond types. WldBd (world bond) funds invest in bonds issued all over the world.

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12-MONTH YIELD

Through December 31. To figure your taxable-equivalent yield on tax-free bond funds, divide the number in this column by 1 minus your income-tax bracket.

EXPENSE RATIO

Represents the percentage of a fund’s assets taken out annually to cover management fees and other expenses. Expenses are included in total-return numbers.