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The True Cost of Mutual Fund Investments: Uncovering Hidden Fees

Mar 21, 2023

Mutual funds have long been a popular investment vehicle for individuals seeking professional management and diversification. However, for unscrupulous advisors, mutual funds represent an opportunity to double dip on fees and increase their profits at the expense of their clients.

This practice, involves charging clients an advisory fee while also profiting from the internal operating expenses of the mutual fund in which the client's money is invested. By recommending mutual funds that carry high internal fees, advisors can maximize their profits while reducing their traditional operating costs.

Traditionally, financial advisors would charge a client a 1-2% advisory fee and then pay all the of trading and management fees out of that advisory fee. Meaning that on a 2% advisory fee, the advisor would be lucky if they netted 1%. This is because they would be paying trading costs, third party money managers, and other fees out of their own pocket.

Now, here's where the unscrupulous advisor comes in.

The unscrupulous finds third party money managers that have Mutual Funds. Instead of putting their clients in to the SMA or Separately Managed Account version of their strategy (which would cost the advisory money.) They put their clients into the Mutual Fund version of the strategy.

Mutual Funds by their very nature lack transparency. The Mutual Fund can hide all kinds of fees and expenses inside the Fund and investors would never know...See, Mutual Funds are investment companies, as such they have "internal operating expenses." The more assets they have the lower the "expense ratio" is...and the more money the manager could be making.

In the "fee-based" world, most advisors charge a management fee in addition to the "internal operating expenses" of the mutual. This represents a double dipping of management fees. Normally the advisor would have to pay these fees directly to the money manager directly. By using a Mutual Fund the can essentially have the client pay the manager directly. Allowing them to maximize their profits.

This presents a conflict of interest for advisors, as they may be incentivized to recommend funds that pay higher internal fees, rather than funds that are best suited to the client's needs. The lack of transparency regarding the true cost of these investments can also make it challenging for clients to make informed decisions about their portfolios.

While the use of mutual funds is not inherently problematic, investors should be aware of the potential for conflicts of interest when working with advisors who utilize these investment vehicles. Seeking out advisors who are transparent about their fees and committed to putting their clients' interests first can mitigate the risk of falling victim to double dipping.

Investors can also consider alternative investment options, such as separately managed accounts, which provide greater transparency and control over investment decisions. This can provide greater flexibility and potentially lower costs for investors who are willing to take a more active role in managing their portfolios.

At Yields4U, we are fee-only, which means that we never accept a commission on any products we recommend, and we only use Separately Managed Accounts where we pay the manager directly. We strive to be as transparent as possible...and because we have built our own FinTech platform, we can generally charge less than most advisors. Allowing us to deliver greater cost savings for our clients.

In conclusion, while mutual funds can offer benefits to investors, they also present opportunities for unscrupulous advisors to prioritize their own financial gain over their clients' interests. Investors should be vigilant in seeking out advisors who prioritize transparency and client interests, and consider alternative investment options when appropriate.

It's never too late to get a second opinion on your portfolio. Give us a call today and see how the Yields4U team can help you maximize your income in retirement and protect your life savings from unnecessary taxation and market volatility.

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