Understanding the Expense Ratio and How It Affects Your Investments

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Not wanting to pay for anything you don’t have to is also true with investing. You want to maximize the return on any investment you have. You might think that means finding the investment with the best returns. High returns are certainly an eye-catching statistic. They are a significant factor when deciding where to invest your money. However, there is a bit more to it. The flip side of it is how much its costs you to invest in any particular fund. That’s where the expense ratio comes in.

An expense ratio can most easily be defined as the cost for a fund to operate vs. its assets’ total value. Think of any fund as a business. Employees need salaries, rent for the office needs to get paid, utility bills to pay, office supplies to buy, and just general costs of doing business.

What is an Expense Ratio?

Why Are Expense Ratios Important?

If you are interested in a few funds, lower expense ratios make an excellent secondary factor. Would you rather invest in a fund that charges you 1% or 1.25%? Simple math says if the returns are about equal, you would want to pay lower fees.

How do I Know a Funds Expense Ratio?

Now that you know about expense ratios and how they can change your investments, where do you find them? Well, the good news is that they are relatively easy to find. Funds are required to make them known to investors, so we’re not talking about hidden fees here.

Can You Avoid Expense Ratios?

Any fund you invest in will have operating expenses, so no, if you are a mutual fund investor, you can’t avoid them. Don’t let it deter you, as other investment choices will have costs associated with them as well. However, what you can do is find funds with relatively low costs associated with them.

Which Investment Strategy Should I Use?

Your investment strategy comes down to how active or passive you want to get with your investments. Over the long haul, actively managed funds don’t typically outperform index funds. With the higher fees involved and similar returns, passive investing make sense for most of us. Index investing allows us to put our money in an index fund and forget about it, making better use of our valuable time.

However, mutual funds can outperform index funds over a short period of time. In investing terms, that might mean a few months or even a few years. If you want to take on a more active role in your investing, you can review and rebalance your portfolio as you see fit. Short-term investing can be difficult in a good market, nevermind a volatile or bear market. Please make sure you are ready to put in much effort consistently see returns high enough to make an effort and higher expense ratios worth it.