Understanding mutual fund share classes

You have to be careful in the cookie aisle at the supermarket. If you’re in a hurry and thoughtlessly grab a bag of Oreos, you might get a rude surprise at home when you eat an unexpected flavor from the company’s growing menu, like peanut butter, birthday cake, or lemon.

The need for vigilance is greater—and the stakes are higher—when shopping for mutual funds. Fund firms have a dizzying array of share classes for their funds. If you find a fund you like, you may need to decide which of its varieties is right for you. Different companies offer different options, but the share classes you may see include A, ADV, B, C, F, I, J, K, L, M, N, R, S, T, V, W, Y and Z.

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