PERSONAL •H • r*-"*-.»V'«»- te^^d Finance f c By JEAN SHERMAN CHATZKY Stock-market novices: Go with a mutual fund Q: I'm a new investor in the stock market with only two weeks' experience. I opened an account with a deep discount broker because I have just $2,500. What should I do? Can you recommend any books? Jeff Stone, Los Angeles A: Just by getting started, you're already on the right track. The trick for a person with limited funds is not getting eaten alive by brokerage commissions. That's tough to do when you're investing in individual stocks. Even deep discount brokers charge a typical $25-$35 to execute your trade. So if you choose to put, say, $500 into each of five stocks, you've already lost 5 percent to commissions. Instead, see if your discounter offers a menu of no-load (no sales charge) mutual funds. There are some expenses associated with mutual funds; each year, you'll lose an average 1.4 percent of your fund assets to the "expense ratio," which covers the manager's salary and other "The trick Is not getting eaten alive by brokerage commissions." administrative expenses. But your out- of-pocket is substantially less. And it fits your budget. Minimum initial investments are usually $1,000-$3,000; subsequent investments can be as low as $50. Particularly if you want to get in the habit of regularly putting in small sums, buying funds through a discounter is an easy way to begin. As for reading material, start with the business section of your local paper — check your stocks or funds regularly in the tables. Also, read your brokerage statement. If there's anything you don't understand, call customer service for an explanation. A good book on getting started is Get a Financial Life (FIRESIDE, sn), by Beth Kobliner, which offers advice not just on investing but also on buying your first home and staying debt-free, ra Contributing Editor Jean Sherman Chatzky, a Money magazine editor, wrote TTie Rich and Famous Money Book. She is seen on NBC's Today show and MSNBC. 14 USA WEEKEND • May 22-24, 1B88 USA WEEKEND TRAVEL ALABAMA Alabama Is unforgettable. From breathtaking beaches to championship golf, Alabama Is filled with a variety of destinations and activities, all at affordable prices. Call 1-800-ALABAMA for your free vacation guide. MINNESOTA 11. SflMTMKMM USAFESTML- AU51HMN. family CtMntlan FiUi» July 3-taatti, MI B, 19M A one-of-a-klnd-three-day holiday family destination, Highlighted on July 5 with children's SPAM games, SPAM activities, SPAM contests, SPAM entertainment and unique SPAM food choices served all day...SPAM merchandise tent tooll It promises to be SPAMTASTK™ 1-507-437-3448. NEW YORK 21. 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