Investing Information

How to Choose the Right Share Class

You'll want to opt for the no-load or institutional share class instead. If you're a no-load investor who is determined to buy a fund that's primarily broker-sold, go through a supermarket and opt for the D shares.

If you are using a broker or planner, the decision about whether to opt for the A, B, or C share class boils down to your own time horizon and, to a lesser extent, how much you're investing. If you plan to invest for the long haul--say, 10 years or more--the A shares will invariably make more sense for you than the B or C shares. That's because A shares' lower ongoing expenses will offset the higher fee you'll pay to get in. At Morningstar, we believe in long-term investing, and that's why we tend to recommend A shares over B or C shares; if you're a Premium Member, you'll notice that our Analyst Reports of broker-sold funds typically apply to the A shares, too.

So should you ever use B or C shares? Possibly, if you expect to hold a given fund type for a short period of time. If you plan to own a fund for just a year or two, for example, you may want to opt for C shares, and if your time horizon is in the neighborhood of five years or fewer, B shares may be the way to go. Morningstar's Cost Analyzer tool can help you determine the correct share class given your anticipated time horizon and the amount of money you have to invest. (Cost Analyzer is available to Premium Members of; for a free trial membership, click here.)

Protect Yourself: Know Your Rights and Ask QuestionsMany brokers and planners work hard to select the correct share class for their clients, but you should also be aware of unscrupulous practices in this area. B and C shares carry higher expenses, and part of those fees, called 12b-1 fees, go straight to the broker each year. Thus, some brokers might be inclined to recommend B or C shares even if they're not the best deal for their clients. Some fund shops--including Franklin--have stopped selling B shares altogether.

To help ensure that you get into the right share class for your needs and time horizon, it never hurts to ask your broker why he or she is recommending a certain share class of a given fund. What assumptions is he or she making about your holding period? Does he or she have a financial incentive to recommend one share class over another?

Also be sure to ask whether your total investment with a given fund family qualifies you for a discounted sales charge. These breakpoints often kick in when your total investment across the fund family reaches $25,000 or more, and they can save you substantial amounts of money. And even if you don't meet the minimum asset level yet, you may still be able to qualify for the discount if you sign a "letter of intent" that states you plan to invest enough money to qualify for the discount within a specified period of time (usually one year). Some brokerage firms have recently gotten into trouble for failing to provide these bulk discounts, so your broker should be well aware of the issue and able to tell you whether you qualify.

Brian Dylan,http://www.blueairnews.com


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