What Is a Mutual Fund Class Z?

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Do-it-yourself investors typically gravitate to no-load funds.
Do-it-yourself investors typically gravitate to no-load funds. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Class Z shares are a mutual fund class; these shares can be purchased without paying an up-front commission. If you are new to investing, load funds charge up-front commissions and are bought through stockbrokers or advisers, and no-load funds do not have up-front commissions. Do-it-yourself investors typically gravitate to no-load funds and their lower cost structure.

Z-Share Creation

Typically, Z shares are created as a result of fund companies merging. For example, Company A, which markets load funds, takes over company B, which markets no-load funds. The Company B funds now charge commissions and are part of Company A’s family of funds. Z share classes are created for the former Company B funds.

Investors and Z-shares

Investors who are invested in the no-load shares before the merger are put into Z-class shares. New investors cannot buy into these shares and must purchase A, B or C shares through a broker or adviser. You may also find that Z shares have lower expense ratios compared to load share classes. For details on the other share classes, see the fund prospectus. Many other fees may be involved.

Fund Company Employees Eligible

A benefit to working for a fund company is that employees get to purchase shares at net asset value (NAV). Buying at NAV is the same as saying you didn’t pay a load or up-front commission. Employees, unlike new investors, get to invest in the fund through Z shares.

Stick to No-Loads

For most investors, Z shares do not really come into play. Ultimately, you can bypass the alphabet soup of share classes by sticking to no-load funds. It takes a little more effort, but it's well worth it. Various finance websites have mutual fund sections where you can start your research.

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