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When you’ve got a little extra money to work with — or a lot — what do you do with it? Maybe you stuff it under the mattress. Maybe you try to invest it and put it to work. Or maybe you spend it on yourself and some important people in your life. That last option is what many American companies seem to be doing with their cash hoards these days:returning it to investors via stock buybacks and dividends. What else could that money be doing?

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Follow Ryan Kailath at @ryankailath