Why Expense Ratios Are Important To Investors
The most valuable pieces of advice ever shared regarding investing of any kind, in ascending order of importance:
1. Fundamental analysis is crucial. Technical analysis is akin to fortune telling by interpreting patterns in tea leaves.
2. Its not a game or a hobby. Spend hours researching an investment when others are spending minutes. Spend days when others are spending hours. Done right, youll still enjoy a stupendous return on your time.
3. You make your money going in.
Its straightforward math, and easy to overlook or dismiss in its simplicity. An overpriced asset is that much harder to gain a return on than an underpriced or properly priced one. Wait for a real estate bubble (or, say, the hoopla surrounding a social networking sites much-anticipated initial public offering) to subside and then buy; yourmargin for error and potential for return should increase correspondingly.
The Price of Management
Were not talking about normal price fluctuations, here, or the inherent unpredictability that comes with almost any investment. Rather, were looking at whats essentially a surcharge on the price of the investment, levied before you buy. For example, take two new cars with the same model, same color and same options. One dealer sells the first vehicle for $22,000, out the door. The other sells the identical vehicle for $22,000, but with a $495 non-negotiable advertising and marketing assessment. Do you need to be told to buy the former? Its like purchasing a residential air filter in Vancouver, Washington (and paying 8% state sales tax) instead of going across the river and buying the same thing in Portland (Oregon levies no sales tax).
This is how it goes with mutual funds, the financial product of choice for most casual and many sophisticated investors. While no two funds are indistinguishable, two similarly constituted funds can come with price tags that differ considerably. Why? Varying expense ratios.
Its understandable that a mutual funds price costs more than the prices of its components. It costs money to create a fund. The fund has to be set up, registered and maintained. The firm that created it and that hired its managers has to be compensated. However, to what tune? The U.S. Securities