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How Do I Buy Shares of a Mutual Fund?

The Three Ways New Investors Can Buy Shares of a Mutual Fund

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Mutual Funds for Beginners

If you want to buy your first shares of a mutual fund, there are three easy ways you can do it. You can buy from the mutual fund company itself, through a stock broker such as Charles Schwab, or through a 401(k) account at work.

As a new investor, when you are ready to buy shares of your first mutual fund, there are three ways to do it. This article is part of the Beginner's Guide to Mutual Fund Investing that was put together to help you understand the basics of using mutual funds in your portfolio.

Buying a Mutual Fund Through a Stock Broker

If you have a brokerage account, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or other account at a stock broker such as Edward Jones, Charles Schwab, or E-Trade, you can buy most mutual funds just like you would a share of stock. You simply go on the broker's website, go to the nearest office, or call your broker on the phone and tell them the ticker symbol of the mutual fund you want to purchase and the total amount of money you want to invest. (The ticker symbol is a short code assigned by the stock exchange to represent an investment. If you were buying shares of Coca-Cola, for example, the ticker symbol is KO. If you were buying shares of the Tweedy Browne Global Value Fund, a mutual fund, the ticker symbol is TBGVX.)

Most stock brokers will charge you a commission to buy a mutual fund, just like they would if you were buying shares of your favorite stock. An exception would be a broker like Charles Schwab, which has a network of mutual funds that are part of their "OneSource" family of funds. These can often be bought or sold with no commission because the money managers that run the mutual funds share part of the management fee with Schwab, instead. From what I've seen in my own experience, most mutual fund commissions are $49.95 but you can sometimes get them waived if your investment balances reach a high enough level that the broker fights for your account.

Buying a Mutual Fund Directly from a Mutual Fund Company

If you know you want to have your money invested in a specific mutual fund, you can often open an account directly with the mutual fund itself. You fill out paperwork online, mail it in with a check, and tell the company whether you want to open a regular account, or a special account such as a retirement Roth IRA or Traditional IRA. You can even set it up so that the mutual fund automatically makes investments for you by regularly withdrawing money from your checking or savings account each month! This technique, called dollar cost averaging, is a fantastic way to smooth out the average price you pay for your mutual fund shares and helps lower the risk that you put all your money in the market at a peak, such as the day before the dot-com crash or the Wall Street meltdown that started the Great Recession in 2008.

The biggest advantage to buying mutual fund shares directly from the mutual fund company itself is that you often won't get charged a commission, meaning more money goes into your investments and is working for you.

Buying a Mutual Fund Through a 401(k) at Work

If you work at a company with more than a few dozen employees, the odds are good you have a 401(k) plan and that the company will let you invest in shares of mutual funds through the plans. There are no commissions on 401(k) mutual fund purchases and you often have a limited number of funds from which you can choose. Virtually all 401(k) mutual fund offerings include a low-cost index fund that tracks a major stock market index such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the S&P 500.

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