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The meaning of the clases of funds varies from fund company to fund company, but ...

Class A shares typically have a front-end load--so much percentage paid up front. I.e., with Merrill fund MDADX the class A shares have a front-end load of 5.25%; only 94.75% of your money is put to work. Class B shares have trailing fees (typically a declining deferred sales charge) and ongoing 12b-1 marketing fees. class C & D shares may vary.

Info on MDADX, from Morningstar Profile at

"Class A shares have front loads and no 12b-1 fees and are designed for institutions and fund employees; B shares have deferred loads and conversion features; C shares have level loads; D shares have front loads and lower 12b-1 fees. "

Stated loads:

"Fees and Expenses

Expense Ratio:2.72% Redemption Fee:0.00%
Front Load:5.25% 12b-1 Fee:0.25%
Def. Sales Charge:0.00% Min. Init. Purchase:$1,000 "

So, you may be paying 5.25% every time that you make a purchase. Also, the expense ratio of 2.72% is quite high.

There are lots of places to get mutual fund primer information. Read a few prospectuses (prospecti?). The Fool isn't big on mutual funds, but there is some info here, and there are some folders on it, I think. Use and the Morningstar and ValueLine profiles. Go to Go to any library. Almost all will have the paper Morningstar reports. Almost all will have primers on investing with mutual funds.

Look back on this board. The concensus is to use S&P 500 funds in a 401(k) if the optioins aren't great, BUT YOU MUST DECIDE FOR YOURSELF. Morningstar doesn't give the expense ratios for MASRX (Merrill's S&P index fund), but THE PROSPECTUS WILL. [Are you detecting a theme here?]

Good luck.
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