A break point is an amount that must be invested in order to reduce the front-end sales charge on a mutual fund
. For example, if a fund has a break point at $25,000, you might get charged a 5.5% sales charge on a $20,000 purchase, but only a 5.0% sales charge on a $30,000 purchase.
Most funds allow their shareowners rights of accumulation. These rights allow you, the investor, to use previous dollars you have invested in the fund (or fund family) as a credit towards reaching the next break point. For instance, if you already have $20,000 invested in a fund, you were charged 5.5% (using the previous example). However, if you put in an additional $10,000 order, the entire ten grand would get the reduced sales charge, because you went over the next break point. Another aspect of rights of accumulation is to allow you to use the money invested by others in your family (spouse, child, domestic partner) in order to qualify for a break point reduced sales charge. If your husband has $20,000 invested, and you invest the $10,000 in your own account, you can usually qualify for the reduced load.
So far, you've seen rights of accumulation on a per purchase basis. However, suppose you know you'll have $120,000 over the next six months, but not all at once? If you had the full $120,000, you might qualify for a $100,000 break point. In order to allow for this situation, many mutual funds allow you to establish a letter of intent. Letters of intent tell the fund that you will invest a certain amount of money soon. In response, the fund will allow your purchases during that period to meet the higher break point you plan on meeting in the near future, qualifying all of your purchases for the reduced sales charge. Letters of intent are rarely binding; should you not hold up your end of the deal, the fund will just sell a few shares of your account it had held in escrow in order to make up the difference in sales charges.