Sunday, January 06, 2008

529 - Part 5

More about fees:

Many broker-sold 529 plans offer more than one class of shares, which impose different fees and expenses. Here are some key characteristics of the most common 529 plan share classes sold by brokers to their customers:

* Class A shares typically impose a front-end sales load. Front-end sales loads reduce the amount of your investment. For example, let’s say you have $1,000 and want to invest in a college savings plan with a 5% front-end load. The $50 sales load you must pay is deducted from your $1,000, and the remaining $950 is invested in the college savings plan. Class A shares usually have a lower annual distribution fee and lower overall annual expenses than other 529 share classes. In addition, your front-end load may be reduced if you invest above certain threshold amounts – this is known as a breakpoint discount. These discounts do not apply to investments in Class B or Class C shares.

* Class B shares typically do not have a front-end sales load. Instead, they may charge a fee when you withdraw money from an investment option, known as a deferred sales charge or “back-end load.” A common back-end load is the “contingent deferred sales charge” or “contingent deferred sales load” (also known as a “CDSC” or “CDSL”). The amount of this load will depend on how long you hold your investment and typically decreases to zero if you hold your investment long enough. Class B shares typically impose a higher annual distribution fee and higher overall annual expenses than Class A shares. Class B shares usually convert automatically to Class A shares if you hold your shares long enough.

Be careful when investing in Class B shares. If the beneficiary uses the money within a few years after purchasing Class B shares, you will almost always pay a contingent deferred sales charge or load in addition to higher annual fees and expenses.

* Class C shares might have an annual distribution fee, other annual expenses, and either a front- or back-end sales load. But the front- or back-end load for Class C shares tends to be lower than for Class A or Class B shares, respectively. Class C shares typically impose a higher annual distribution fee and higher overall annual expenses than Class A shares, but, unlike Class B shares, generally do not convert to another class over time. If you are a long-term investor, Class C shares may be more expensive than investing in Class A or Class B shares.