Reports show Canadians pay some of the highest fees in the world to manage their mutual fund investments, according to a story in the National Post. And while it’s true Management Expense Ratios can run between 2% and 3%, it is also true that in life you get what you pay for.

lf it makes sense for an investor to own professionally managed products, then you have to pay the professional manager (see Why Do People Say When You Purchase A Mutual Fund, You Are Buying The Fund Manager?). lt’s no different than hiring a lawyer. Regardless of whether they win or lose in court, they still have to be paid. lf you’re earning 10% a year after fees of 2.5%, are you really going to be upset about paying for that advice? If the results are there, then the cost is worth it.

Here are a few key pieces of advice you can use to minimize the expense of investing without sacrificing diversification or rates of return.

  • Understand what you have in your portfolio, what you’re paying for those investments and the results. Effective July 2016, advisors will have to disclose mutual fund fees in dollar figures creating a greater level of transparency for investors, as noted in the Globe and Mail.
  • Ask your advisor to explain their fees and what they are doing to earn them. For example, if you have a bond portfolio with very few transactions each year, why should you pay a flat fee solely based on the value of the portfolio? ln this case, it may make more sense to pay-as-you-go on a transactional basis.
  • Create your own mutual fund. lf you have $100,000 or more to invest, rather than buying managed mutual funds, build a custom portfolio of individual securities and bonds. Working with an investment advisor who understands the market and is licensed to buy and sell stocks, you can expect to pay a flat fee, or fee for service rate of approximately 1% to 2% on the value of the portfolio as opposed to typically higher mutual fund fees. ln addition, the adviser’s fee can be tax deductible for income tax purposes (consult a tax expert for verification).
  • Consider investing in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), which often have lower fees than those associated with mutual funds because they tend to be passively managed. In my opinion, it makes the most sense to invest in ETFs that are narrowly focused on specific sectors or geographic regions as opposed to broad-based indexes such as NASDAQ, the S&P 500 or the TSX, which are much more volatile.

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At the end of the day, l believe investors should run their investments like a business. The focus should be on optimizing returns and minimizing cost where it makes sense. You don’t want to cut costs at the expense of growth. Statistics show that investors who work with an investment adviser make more money than those who don’t. I welcome you to call me at 416-332-3863 or email me at allan@allansmall.com to learn more about how I can help you maximize your returns.

1 National Post: Canada trails pack on fund fees     
2 Globe and Mail: Full disclosure coming on mutual fees (albeit slowly)