What Are Mutual Fund Class R Shares?

R Share Mutual Funds Explained in Less Than Three Minutes

mutual fund share classes
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Mutual fund class R shares are mutual funds designated as a retirement share class. If you own mutual funds in a 401(k) plan, or you've done research trying to find a no-load fund version of your favorite fund, you may have seen Class R share mutual funds. 

Learn more about what it means when you see the letter R at the end of a mutual fund name.

Definition and Examples of Mutual Fund Class R Shares

While Class A, Class B, and Class C are common types of mutual fund share classes, Class R shares are mutual funds designated as a retirement share class—hence the letter 'R.'

The R share class mutual funds are only available through an employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k). R share mutual funds do not have a load, such as a front-end load, back-end load, or level load. However, they do have 12b-1 fees that typically range from 0.25% to 0.50%.

One example of a common R share fund family seen in 401(k) plans is American Funds. You may have seen the American Funds Growth Fund of America, American Funds Fundamental Investors, or American Funds SMALLCAP World in either R1, R2, R3, or R4 share classes.

  • Alternate name: R share mutual funds

How R Share Mutual Funds Work

R share mutual funds are made available in 401(k) plans because mutual funds that charge loads are not allowed in employer-sponsored retirement plans. Therefore, mutual fund companies that mostly offer mutual funds that charge loads—which are mostly sold through commission-based brokers—came up with the R share class to get around that problem. 

Although R shares can have reasonable expense ratios, and they can be better than using load funds, like A shares, B shares, or C shares, they still tend to be higher than index funds.

For example, the American Funds Growth Fund of America R1 (RGAAX) has an expense ratio of 1.40%, which is slightly above average for actively-managed growth funds. However, compare that to the Vanguard Growth Index Fund Admiral Shares (VIGAX), which has an expense ratio of 0.05%, and you have a difference of 1.39% in favor of VIGAX. 


Over time, the larger expense ratio of the R share fund will be a big drag on performance. In the long run, that could translate into thousands of dollars less in total gain.

The Bottom Line on Investing in R Share Mutual Funds

It's wise to take advantage of any matching contributions your employer may make when you contribute to your own 401(k).

However, be sure to pay attention to the expenses, especially if there is no employer match. Therefore, you may choose to open your own retirement account, such as an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), at one of the best no-load mutual fund companies.

But if you want to take advantage of your employer's 401(k) plan, and R share funds are the only choice, you can still use them and find the best available that suit your objectives and risk tolerance.

Given the choice between R shares and a low-cost index fund, most investors are wise to choose the index fund, especially if investing for a period of 10 years or more.