You were having a great time on your vacation--until your toddler woke up from her nap with a fever. If you were at home, you'd take her to the pediatrician right away and rely on your health insurance to pay for her care. But what do you do now that you are miles away? Here are some things you need to know about health insurance while traveling.
It's easy to see how inflation affects your daily life. Gas prices are higher. Electric bills are steeper. Wallets are thinner. But what inflation does to your investments isn't always as obvious. Let's say your money is earning 4% and inflation is running between 3% and 4% (its historical average). That means your so-called "real return"--the stated return minus inflation--is only 1% at best. After you subtract any account fees, taxes, and other expenses, you could actually end up with a negative number. What can you do to keep from losing the race against inflation? One way is to buy investments that are designed to keep pace automatically.
When investing in a mutual fund, you may have the opportunity to choose among several share classes, most commonly Class A, Class B, and Class C. This multi-class structure offers you the opportunity to select a share class that is best suited to your investment goals. The only differences among these share classes typically revolve around how much you will be charged for buying the fund, when you will pay any sales charges that apply, and the amount you will pay in annual fees and expenses.
Understanding fees and expenses
Before you can compare share classes, you need to understand the costs that are associated with mutual funds, since these costs are usually deducted from the money you've invested and can affect the return of your investment over time.
Typically, mutual fund costs consist of sales charges and annual expenses. The sales charge, often called a load, is the broker's commission deducted from your investment when you buy the fund or when you sell it. The annual expenses are asset-based fees that cover the fund's operating costs, including management fees, service fees, and 12b-1 fees (which cover distribution and marketing expenses). The expenses are generally computed as a percentage of your assets and then deducted from the fund before the fund's returns are calculated.
So which share class should you choose? The answer to that depends on two factors: how much you want to invest and your investment time horizon.
Class A shares
Class A shares may appeal to you if you're considering a long-term investment in a large number of shares. When you purchase Class A shares, a sales charge, called a front-end load, is typically deducted upfront, reducing the amount of your investment. Suppose you decide to spend $35,000 on Class A shares with a hypothetical front-end 5% sales load. You will be charged $1,750, and the remaining $33,250 will be invested.
However, Class A shares also offer you discounts, called breakpoints, on the front-end load if you buy shares in excess of a certain dollar amount. Typically, a fund will offer several breakpoints; the more you invest, the greater the reduction in the sales load. For example, a mutual fund may charge a load of 5% if you invest less than $50,000, but reduce that load to 4.5% if you invest at least $50,000 but less than $100,000. This means that if you invest $49,000, you'll pay $2,450 in sales charges, but if you invest $50,000 (i.e., you reach the first breakpoint), you'll pay only $2,250 in sales charges.
Comparing Share Classes
If you're covered by Medicare, here's some welcome news--Medicare drug coverage can help you handle the rising cost of prescriptions. If you're covered by original Medicare, you can sign up for a drug plan offered in your area by a private company or insurer that has been approved by Medicare. Many Medicare Advantage plans will also offer prescription drug coverage in addition to the comprehensive health coverage they already offer. Although prescription drug plans vary, all provide a standard amount of coverage set by Medicare. Every plan offers a broad choice of brand name and generic drugs at local pharmacies or through the mail. However, some plans cover more drugs or offer a wider selection of pharmacies (for a higher premium) than others, so you'll want to choose the plan that best meets your needs and budget.
Go out into your yard and dig a big hole. Every month, throw $50 into it, but don't take any money out until you're ready to buy a house, send your child to college, or retire. It sounds a little crazy, doesn't it? But that's what investing without setting clear-cut goals is like. If you're lucky, you may end up with enough money to meet your needs, but you have no way to know for sure.