No-load Funds

Q: M. Mitchell, Amarillo, Texas

A: No-load mutual funds are available for purchase without an upfront sales charge, but there is usually a charge when you liquidate or cash in your shares. With these funds, you can invest the money you save on the up-front charges, which will hopefully accumulate enough wealth to offset other fund charges over the long run.

You can find no-load funds in just about any category — mid-cap funds, large-cap funds, value funds, and bond funds — so, no matter which area you have an interest in, you should be able to find one that suits your investment style. Choose a no-load fund just like you would any other mutual fund. However, make sure it has enjoyed strong performance over the last three to five years and that the type of fund you choose fits properly into a well-diversified portfolio of investments.

Last year, Morningstar (www.morningstar .com) rated The Vanguard Group, Schwab Funds, Dodge & Cox Funds, Harbor Capital Advisors Funds and Fidelity Investments as the least expensive of the top no-load mutual fund families (in terms of how much it actually costs, once fees are factored in, to invest in the fund). Vanguard and Schwab specialize in low-cost index funds. Dodge & Cox and Harbor Capital are known more for their emphasis on growth. Fidelity is so large it has something for just about everyone. You may also want to visit the Mutual Fund Education Alliance’s Mutual Fund Investor’s Center (www.mfea.com) for a list of the top 10 no-load mutual funds.

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