MSN Money is carrying an article suggesting ways to get around mutual fund fees. As mutual funds have become more complex, fund companies need to spend more on marketing to explain their products. The expenses are then, as one would think, passed along to the customer.
Timothy Middleton suggests “marching straight into the new reality” by taking advantage of lower cost options.
Consign mutual-fund supermarkets to the dustbin of history. This is a reference to houses like Schwab, where mutual funds are sold. The author of the article explains how no-transaction-fee funds simply have the costs recouped from the customer in other ways.
The supermarkets got so many customers, and so many funds, they realized they could charge for this convenience. The tab at Schwab currently is 0.4% of assets of the funds in the NTF network. One way or another, funds pass that cost along to you. Most funds charge investors 0.25% in 12b-1 fees to pay supermarket costs. The rest comes out of their bloated management fees.
Recognize that exchange-traded funds can replace mutual funds. If mutual funds are old and busted, ETFs are the new hotness. There are places to get very low commissions, and ETFs have very low expenses. This is a good combination — if the investor is not dollar-cost averaging. ETFs generally act more like index funds, but for those who want ETF flexibility with an actively managed fund track record, there is good news:
The American Stock Exchange, where ETFs are important listings, is working feverishly on devising a structure that will allow an actively managed fund to trade as an ETF. The Amex needs this business: It will succeed.
Recognize that cash can be a great investment. Cash isn’t normally thought of an investment. When personal financial management software was developed, no one was keeping their investments in cash or CDs, opting instead for stocks, thus some features were never built into the software. This is one of the reasons, according to the article, people don’t consider cash a normal investment, even though interest rates are rising and a portfolio in cash would have done better than a portfolio of stocks in some cases.
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published October 4, 2005.