First, if you are going to the trouble of moving your annuity, consider moving it to someone like Vanguard. They offer very low cost annuities with no surrender charges. This gives you great flexibility to move it if you are dissatisfied with performance.Check out the funds you are offered on morningstar.com available on line from the financial pages of excite.com. There you will find full details of loads, expense ratios, and 12b-1 fees. Also you will find data on manager history and performance history compared to the indexes.As an ML employee, you get a special deal in that you do not pay loads. However, those 12b-1 fees mean that a fraction of the NAV of your funds are paid to ML. So look for no 12b-1 fees if you can find one, but I would be surprised if ML will offer you any of those.If you are offered a self directed account that can buy stocks, does ML give you a break on commissions? If yes, then look into SPY, the S&P 500 shares. They have low expense ratios. Commissions are your main concern.If you are a beginning investor, an S&P Index fund, 100% is a good place to begin. If you choose another fund, especially a managed fund, make sure its performance consistently beats the respective indexes.Some would suggest you diversify. They would go for 70% S&P Index Fund, 15% international fund, and 15% small cap fund (but make sure the ones you are offered meet or exceed their indexes). Some would include up to 20% of funds in a hot sector fund or selected high performance stocks. (QQQ can do this for you in exchange traded funds--again with low expense ratios.)To learn about stocks, start with Fool School from the fool.com home page. Put your funds into an index fund while you learn, then begin experimenting with some more aggressive mutual funds and/or stocks like Rule Makers or Rule Breakers.Best of luck to you.
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