Mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) are popular options for many investors who are saving for retirement and other financial goals. They often offer a cost-efficient way to invest in professionally managed portfolios of securities. As with any investment, however, investors should understand their benefits, risks and costs.
When comparing funds, investors should review each fund’s prospectus, shareholder reports and portfolio holdings and evaluate their overall risk/return profiles. Expense ratios also are an important consideration when reviewing funds since, over time, they may reduce a fund’s earnings. Investors can find a fund’s expense ratio on the brokerage company’s website, by searching for the fund’s ticker symbol or in the fund’s prospectus (under Shareholder Fees).
An expense ratio is a fund’s total annual operating expenses expressed as a percentage of its assets. For instance, a one percent expense ratio means that for every $1,000 you have invested, you’ll pay $10 in expenses per year.
Mutual funds and ETFs charge shareholders an expense ratio – which is how they pass on a fund’s operating costs to their shareholders on an ongoing basis. The expense ratio reflects all recurring fees a fund charges, such as management fees, administrative fees and distribution or service fees.
Since operating expenses are deducted from a fund’s assets, the return to investors is reduced. Thus, investors should be aware of how operating expenses could impact their investment for any particular fund.
In addition to expense ratios, investors may pay other fees depending on which fund type they choose. Investors may also pay brokerage fees or fees to purchase or redeem shares of a fund (sales load). These are separate from the expense ratio.
Ron Thomas, director of the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Division of Securities and Retail Franchising, encourages investors in Virginia to always consider the total fees and expenses they will be charged in connection with any investment. “When investing, remember that all fees and expenses you pay reduce the return on your investment,” he said. “Make sure you consider a fund’s expense ratio as well as sales loads and any other fees when evaluating the overall cost of investing in that fund. Even small differences in fees and expenses can mean a big difference in your returns over time,” he said.
Thomas encourages Virginians to understand the basics of mutual funds and ETFs before investing in them, noting, however, that questions and inquiries regarding fees associated with mutual funds and ETFs should be directed to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as the SEC has authority over such matters. Still, as with any type of investment, he reminds investors to protect themselves financially by defining their objectives when investing, balancing risk versus reward, researching details about an investment, understanding all costs associated with buying, owning and selling that investment, and regularly monitoring their investments.
To learn more about expense ratios, visit the North American Securities Administrators website . For additional resources regarding securities and investing, or to find out if an investment or the person offering it are properly licensed or registered in Virginia, contact the Division of Securities and Retail Franchising in Richmond at 804-371-9051 or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945, or visit its website at .