How much are you paying fund companies to manage your account? The average expense ratio -- that is, expenses as a percentage of assets -- is 1.4% a year for domestic equity funds, according to fund tracker Morningstar (NasdaqGS:MORN - News). That may not seem like a lot. But with mutual fund assets surpassing the $3 trillion mark, plenty of critics wonder why that figure has stayed the same for years.
What if expenses were reported as a percentage of returns? That puts mutual fund overhead in a whole new light -- and it's not pretty. With below-average returns and high fees, expenses for AllianceBernstein funds ended up consuming nearly 21% a year of the gross returns over the past 10 years. At Vanguard Group, the lowest-cost fund outfit, expenses came to just 2.7%. These are among the findings of a recent study by William Dougherty, a Boston investment consultant.