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I often read about yield such as in this article from Kiplinger, but I have not been able to find a good description of what a yield is. What is it, and why would I care as a novice investor?

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For bonds bought at par (the face value of the bond, like buying a CD for $1000) the payment it makes is the same as yield. You pay $1000 and get say, $40 per year or 4%. If you buy it for more or less than that $1000, say $900, there's some math (not for me, I use a finance calculator) to tell you your return taking the growth to maturity into account, i.e. the extra $100 you get when you get the full $1000 back. Obviously, for bonds, you care about whether the comp[any or municipality will pay you back at all, and then you care about how much you'll make when then do. In that order.

For stocks, the picture is abit different as some companies give no dividend but reinvest all profits, think Berkshire Hathaway. On the other hand, many people believe that the dividend is important, and choose to buy stocks that start with a nice yield, a $30 stock with a $1/yr dividend is 3.3% yield. Sounds like not much, but over time you expect the company to grow, increase in value and increase its dividend. 10 years hence you may have a $40 stock and the dividend has risen to $1.33. Now it's 4.4% of the original investment, and you sit on that gain as well.

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Yield can be thought of as the interest rate you would receive from that investment in the form of a dividend for stocks or interest payments on a bond.

The yield takes into account the anticipated amount to be received per share/unit per year and the current price of the investment.

Of course, the yield is not a guaranteed return like a savings account. If the investment yield is 4% when you buy, it can drop in value such that you actually lose money during your hold period, despite receiving income from the dividend or interest payments.

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