Before you invest in a mutual fund, carefully examine its performance and expenses. Here is an overview of sales charges, fees and expenses associated with different types of funds.

A Shares: The Front-End Load

Front-end loads are deducted from your initial investment, thereby reducing your immediate purchasing power. Investors in these shares are likely to have an extended time frame for their investment goals. These investors expect to remain in the fund for several years. If circumstances change, however, the shares can be redeemed at any time without additional charges.

One advantage of a front-end load is that it is based upon the fund’s net asset value at the time of purchase, and not on any appreciated value. In addition, some funds with front-end loads do not charge an annual 12b-1 fee. Investors should remember, however, that a front-end load could result in slower growth for your money than an investment in a level-load or back-end load fund.

B Shares: The Back-End Load

Back-end load funds typically charge what is known as a “contingent-deferred sales charge” if you sell your shares within seven to 10 years of purchase. The sales charge may be collected on either the existing net asset value at the time you withdraw the funds or on the net asset value at the time of purchase, depending on the fund.

For many funds, the sales charge is reduced gradually over time, and after several years, no sales charge is collected. Of course, this declining fee schedule depends on the individual fund. Back-end load funds may be an appropriate choice for investors who intend to hold the investments for four to six years. But because these funds often charge a 12b-1 fee (as much as 1 percent), a fund with a lower 12b-1 fee may be a better choice for longer-term investors.

The advantages of a back-end load are that all of your money goes to work for you immediately, and if you hold the shares long enough you will not pay a sales charge.

C Shares: The Level-Load Funds

Level-load funds may collect a sales charge based on the net asset value each year, and some may also include a small front-end or back-end load. They can also charge a 12b-1 fee. These somewhat higher costs may result in lower income per share than income earned on Class A shares. Therefore, these funds may be appropriate for an investor with an investment time frame of less than five years.

No-Load Funds

“No-load” funds do not charge sales fees but may incur 12b-1 fees. The maximum 12b-1 fee a no-load fund can charge is 0.25 percent.