Mutual Fund Fees and Charges

A mutual fund will classify expenses into either annual operating fees or shareholder fees. Annual fund operating fees are an annual percentage of the funds under management, usually ranging from 1–3%. Annual operating fees are collectively known as the expense ratio. A fund's expense ratio is the summation of the advisory or management fee and its administrative costs.

Shareholder fees, which come in the form of sales charges, commissions, and redemption fees, are paid directly by investors when purchasing or selling the funds. Sales charges or commissions are known as "the load" of a mutual fund. When a mutual fund has a front-end load, fees are assessed when shares are purchased. For a back-end load, mutual fund fees are assessed when an investor sells his shares.

Sometimes, however, an investment company offers a no-load mutual fund, which doesn't carry any commission or sales charge. These funds are distributed directly by an investment company, rather than through a secondary party.

Some funds also charge Exit load or penalties for early withdrawals or selling the holding before a specific time has elapsed. Also, the rise of exchange-traded funds, which have much lower fees thanks to their passive management structure, have been giving mutual funds considerable competition for investors' dollars.