The use of hedge funds in financial portfolios has grown dramatically since the start of the 21st century. A hedge fund is just a fancy name for an investment partnership that has freer rein to invest aggressively and in a wider variety of financial products than most mutual funds. It's the marriage of a professional fund manager, who is often known as the general partner, and the investors, sometimes known as the limited partners. Together, they pool their money into the fund. This article outlines the basics of this alternative investment vehicle.