You've committed to investing, figured out your asset allocation and chosen to buy mutual funds through a broker. Think all your big decisions...

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You’ve committed to investing, figured out your asset allocation and chosen to buy mutual funds through a broker. Think all your big decisions are made? Not quite.

If you’re working with a typical broker, chances are you’ll wind up buying load funds, and the share class you purchase will determine how you pay your adviser’s fee: all up front, when you sell your shares or over time for as long as you own the fund. Which share class is right for you depends on your investment strategy.

Financial planners who charge by the hour and do-it-yourself investors favor no-load mutual funds. But about half of all equity funds charge loads — a commission paid to the brokers and advisers who sell them, usually about 5 percent of the assets invested.

Most load funds have at least three share classes, commonly known as A, B and C shares, which connote, respectively, front-end loads, back-end loads and level loads (pay as you go).

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Some funds have more than a dozen share classes, aimed at institutional investors, individuals saving for retirement or college and others, depending on the clientele the company is trying to reach.

All these share classes create a confusing alphabet soup for novice investors. Many of us would resist the idea of paying up front for a fund, but research shows most people with a buy-and-hold strategy would be better off with A shares because they have lower expenses. If your investment time horizon is uncertain, you might prefer B shares, which charge a back-end load and typically convert to A shares after a certain number of years.

No matter which payment method you choose, there’s no getting around paying the commission. Companies that sell load funds will never let you in for free.

“The point people have to consider about loads is what are they getting for it? You should not be paying a load as an admission fee for a fund,” said Jeff Tjornehoj, an analyst with fund-tracker Lipper.

“You should be getting some solid advice from your broker or planner to justify the load,” he said.