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Mutual Fund Fees

November 2nd, 2013 at 04:00 am

I wager some of my retirement funds that many of you saw the PBS Frontline special, "The Retirement Gamble" when it first aired last spring or maybe when it was rebroadcast last week. Here's a link to it:

It got me mad (as usual) and got me thinking about my own mutual fund holdings and how badly I've probably been stung by the fees. I just did a cost comparison from one of my American Century holdings with a Vanguard Index fund. Now granted, this is Vanguard's site, but if it's near accurate, American Century, whose fees are ranked "below average" is costing me a lot of money. A lot of money.

I'm wondering about how I sweat the small stuff, like the price of coffee, yet these fees, which seem to have little if any relation to performance, are costing me tens of thousands. It sort of makes me sick.

I suppose I'm the only ding-dong here who isn't in all low-expense ratio funds?

15 Responses to “Mutual Fund Fees”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    A quick look at a common American Century Fund...and that expense fee is 1.25%! I looked at If this money is in a 401K there isn't much you can do, but if you own them in an IRA, you can at least cut your losses and move (transfer) to a low fee fund. If you own them in a taxable account that will be a taxable event. I suppose you could STOP contributing to your 401K as another way to stop the losses and invest in ROTH IRAs. I would also tell your employer about this issue, to see if changes can be made to the plan.

  2. My English Castle Says:

    I am more than a bit abashed. I worked in brokerage for 10 years, and I know about fees. Even though my American Century fund has a fee of less than 1 percent (doesn't sound too awful, does it?), the comparison to super low-fee funds is staggering. I'm calling vanguard on Monday. Yikes.

  3. MonkeyMama Says:

    It's better late than never. Big Grin

  4. creditcardfree Says:

    Agree with Monkey Mama, better late than never!!

  5. sarah Says:

    Hello: You are an academic correct? You may have access to TIAA-Cref. They have some of -- if not the lowest fees on the market. They are also performing well above market at the moment. When I saw The Retirement Gamble I was very thankful I had access to them. I think you should look into them.

  6. Jenn Says:

    I went through that exercise earlier in the year when the accounts became required to expose the fees on my statement. I also had American Century funds and seeing the fees made me angry.

    You may want to research your 401k options. A little known option in our plan is that we can have up to 50% of the total invested in a Charles Schwab account. Because the 401k is managed by JP Morgan, they don't advertise this and they make it difficult to transfer money to the Schwab account, but it can be done over the phone. Once I did that, all the Vanguard funds (as well as stocks, etc.) became available to me.

  7. My English Castle Says:

    I do have a TIAA-Cref account at work, and am happy with it. The American Century holdings are in my IRAs from years ago when I was in brokerage. I'm going to start the research process and begin moving things as early as next week, I think.

  8. Buendia Says:

    I recently pulled everything out of Morgan Stanley (I had some there, and some in Vanguard) for this very reason!

  9. rob62521 Says:

    Quit beating yourself can't know everything and you can still make changes.

  10. soogar Says:

    I've been thinking about fees a lot. My boyfriend's mother is wealthy and she pays an advisor fees to manage her estate. I've seen a lot of investment statements in my line of work and most ultra high net worth people pay more than 1% in fees to invest their money and they don't limit themselves solely to index funds. So I don't know how to judge fees. There are some funds that have loads and 1% fees that do better than index funds. If someone is a good manager, or if the fund is more aggressive and there is a lot of trading, is a fee justified?

    Edited to add that my bf's mother was unscathed in the 2008 stock market downturn so her manager did well in preserving and growing her wealth.

  11. My English Castle Says:

    @soogar. I know there are funds out there that "beat" the market but look at this data that shows that after you factor in fees, 69 percent of the time index funds do better than actively managed funds.

    While some funds do better some years, it's hard to beat that percentage and I'm (obviously) not that good at picking which fund will do well every year. And my relatively simple mutual fund portfolio is probably a great deal different than the portfolios of rich folks who need to think about different tax implications.

    Not to doubt your boyfriend's mother, but among the people I knew in brokerage, people tended to talk about their wonderful gains a heck of lot more than they talked about their losses.

  12. starfishy Says:

    one option is to roll the old IRAs to TIAA-CREF. do you have a campus TIAA-CREF rep? if so, make an appt or call and they can do the work for you. good luck with whatever changes you choose to make.

  13. soogar Says:

    Everyone seems to be inclined to choose similar index funds which contain similar stocks. with so many people investing in the same thing and then possibly withdrawing funds at the same time, how will the fund and underlying stocks maintain the same value? i am invested in several funds, two index funds and two managed funds in particular sectors. I''ve been looking at some funds that specialize in dividend income and they have higher fees than an index fund. I don't know how bad fees really are. You look at how they rank against the index but maybe managed funds don't lose the same amount of money in bad years as an index fund. It takes a lot of skill and research to manage a fund. I won't say that fund managers do not deserve compensation. Obviously a lot of people choose more managed funds and don't worry so much about fees because their end objectives are achieved.

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