Money Why discount investors should hate A class fund fees

22:16  16 april  2018
22:16  16 april  2018 Source:   MoneySense

About $195 million is going to discount brokers, instead of you and me

  About $195 million is going to discount brokers, instead of you and me About $195 million is going to discount brokers, instead of you and me

Super Clean funds are just low-price share classes of regular funds . If the discounted fund ’s Ongoing Charge Figure (OCF) plus the platform fee amounts to more than you’d pay for Big brands will always try to leverage their cachet but as savvy DIY investors we should seek out their hungrier

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a man sitting in front of a laptop: iStock© Used with permission of / © Rogers Media Inc. 2018. iStock

A class action law suit* filed recently against TD Asset Management serves as a reminder to all investors to be vigilant regarding costs. The claim relates to the industry practice of selling high-cost mutual funds through online discount brokers. It’s important to note that while this action targets TD, the issue is industry wide.

Mutual funds come in different “classes”, the most expensive of which are called “advisor class” or “A class” funds because they incorporate a fee for advice. The legal action against TD arises from the fact that billions of dollars of these high-fee, A class funds are sold through online discount brokers which do not, and by regulation cannot, provide investment advice. These A class funds are often offered side by side with “discount class” or “D class” versions of the same fund which produce higher returns because the advice portion of the fee has been stripped away.

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fund ’s shares. Good idea. You should ask your financial adviser whether any breakpoint discounts are available to you. Like most investments, all mutual funds charge fees and expenses that are paid by investors . These fees and expenses can vary widely from fund to fund or fund class to fund

Lower 12b-1 Fees – Class A shares tend to have lower 12b-1 fees (marketing and distribution fees included in the fund 's expense ratio), so if you plan on holding these shares for several years, a front-end load might be beneficial in the long run. Breakpoints – These provide a discount off regular

READ: About $195 million is going to discount brokers, instead of you and me

Many investors make the mistake of buying more expensive, lower return A class funds through discount brokers. Perhaps they assume that, as discount broker clients, they will always be provided with lower-cost products. There are exceptions, but with most discount brokers, this is not the case when it comes to mutual funds.

What is the potential impact of this practice on an average investor? Let’s consider an investor putting $2,500 into the TD Dividend Growth mutual fund each year for 20 years.

If we assume the average annual compound return of the TD Dividend Growth Fund over the next 20 years will be 6% before fees, the investments within the fund would grow to $97,482. If you purchase a D class version of the fund, you would be left with $84,922 after the cumulative deduction of the 1.19% annual fees (MER) whereas an investor purchasing the A class version of the same fund with a MER of 2.02% would end up with only $77,248.

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Variable annuities (VA) are an insurance product that is best described as a mutual fund wrapped in an insurance wrapper and covered with fees . However, it isn’t uncommon to hear arguments that “a doctor in a high tax bracket should invest in a VA instead of in mutual funds in a taxable account.”

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READ: How mutual fund fees work

In this example, the D class investor retains 74% of the total gains of the fund while the A class investor retains just 57% of the total gain, with the balance lost in fees.

For many years, investor advocates have been calling for the practice of selling A class funds through discount brokers to be banned. While regulators have expressed their distaste for the practice, no concrete action has been taken to protect investors. Until the regulators or the courts act, investors must protect themselves. If you choose to buy mutual funds through an online discount brokerage, make sure you buy lower cost D class funds and keep more of your investment returns for yourself!

Of course, index ETFs are an obvious, much lower cost alternative to mutual funds for online discount brokerage investors. Let’s again look to TD for an example. Assuming a similar 6% average annual compound return and $10 commission costs on each annual purchase, the TD S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index ETF with a MER of 0.08% would generate a total value of $96,188 after 20 years ($50,000 invested and $46,188 gained – 97% of gain retained).

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In 2000, fund giant Vanguard Group introduced what it calls its Admiral class of shares as a way of rewarding loyal investors . But almost no one, it seems, offered shares with discounted fees for loyal investors .

time the market, he should invest only in no-load, low- fee mutual index funds , using a dollar-cost averaging Why would a long time investor with the investment philosophy outlined above ever chose a Especially if the fund has multiple share classes (i.e., where better classes get lower expense

READ: Are fund fees worth 35 times the amount you pay to DIY?

How will the TD ETF actually perform against the TD mutual fund? We can’t be sure but a comparison of top holdings gives us a clue. The majority of both funds are invested in a small number of prominent Canadian stocks. In fact, as of December 31, 2017, the 9 of the top 10 stocks in both funds are identical. They are the big five banks, Enbridge, CN Rail, Suncor and TransCanada.  If this similarity continues we could guess that returns might also be similar before fees and that the outcomes are highly likely to favour the lower-cost index fund after fees.

Regardless of whether investors choose online discount brokers or traditional advisors, the lessons are simple:

Know exactly how much you are paying in feesUnderstand the long-term impact of feesMake sure the services you receive are worth the price you pay now and over timeMORE ABOUT


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What a thief of $9 million learned about money and greed .
What a thief of $9 million learned about money and greedZNH

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