Home Features Law The ABCs of Mutual Fund Share Classes - Page 3

 

Comparing Share Classes

 

Class A shares

Class B shares

Class C shares

Front-end load

Initial sales charge. Can be reduced or eliminated by breakpoint discounts.

None

None

Contingent deferred sales charge (CDSC)

None

Declines over several years

Typically lower than Class B, and eliminated after 1 year

12b-1 fees

Typically lower than Class B and C shares

Typically higher than Class A shares

Typically higher than Class A shares

Converts to Class A shares

N/A

After several years, thereafter reducing expenses

Generally Class C shares don't convert to Class A shares


You may also qualify for breakpoint discounts by signing a letter of intent to purchase additional shares within a certain period of time (generally 13 months), or by combining your current purchase with other investment holdings that you, your spouse, and/or your children have within the same fund or family of funds (called a right of accumulation). Since rules vary, read your fund's prospectus to find out how you may qualify for available breakpoint discounts, or contact your financial professional for more information.

Also, 12b-1 fees on Class A shares tend to be lower than those of other share classes, reducing your overall costs. This may make Class A shares more attractive if you wish to hold the fund for a long time.

Class B shares

Class B shares may appeal to you if you wish to invest a smaller amount of money for a long period of time. Unlike Class A shares, there is no up-front sales charge, so all of your initial investment is put to work immediately. Instead, Class B shares have a back-end load, often called a contingent deferred sales charge (CDSC), that you pay when you sell your shares. The load usually decreases over time (typically 6 to 8 years), although this varies from fund to fund. By the end of the time period no sales charge applies. At that stage your shares may convert to Class A shares.

For example, suppose you invest $5,000 in Class B shares, with a 5% CDSC that decreases by 1% every year after the second year. If you sell your shares within the first year, you will pay 5% of the value of your assets or the value of the initial investment, whichever is less. If you hold your shares for 6 years, the CDSC will be reduced to zero.

Before you purchase Class B shares, however, make sure that this investment fits in with your overall goals. Class B 12b-1 fees can be considerably higher than those for Class A shares, so the cost of investing large amounts over time might be more than you would like. In addition, you don't benefit from the breakpoint discounts available with Class A shares, and you must pay the CDSC if you sell your Class B shares within the time limit. You should also keep track of when your shares convert to Class A shares, especially if your account has been transferred from one broker to another.

Class C shares

When you purchase Class C shares, a front-end load is normally not imposed, and the CDSC is generally lower than for Class B shares. This charge is reduced to zero if you hold the shares beyond the CDSC period (typically 12 months). For those reasons Class C shares may be appropriate if you have a large amount to invest and you intend to keep the fund for less than 5 years.

However, the 12b-1 fees are greater for Class C shares than for Class A shares. Unlike Class B shares, these expenses will not decrease during the life of the investment, because C Class shares generally don't convert to Class A shares. Also, no breakpoints are available for large purchases.

 

For more information, contact Stephen Clifford, managing director at The Winfield Group, stephen@winfieldgrouponline.com, or visit the Winfield Group online.

 

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