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Wealth Management

Pay Less for Investing Costs

1. Slash Investing Costs They Drag Down Performance: The average diversified U.S. stock mutual fund charges 1.3% a year in expenses. If your fund isn't beating its benchmark (or you don't have the time to monitor actively managed funds), you're better off buying a low-cost index fund or ETF that hews to the benchmark. For instance, Fidelity Spartan 500 Index fund (symbol FSMKX), which tracks Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, has an annual expense ratio of just 0.10%. And indexing isn't a compromise strategy. Managers of many top pension funds and endowments swear by it.

Annual Savings: $1,200
(based on cutting expenses from 1.3% to 0.10% on a $100,000 portfolio)

2. Keep Tabs on Your Trades: If you aren't an active trader, make sure you’re not penalized by a broker who charges an "inactivity fee." For example, E*Trade charges investors who don’t conduct any trades in a given three-month period $40 for the quarter.

Annual Savings: $160

3. Clone Your Favorite Manager: Sticking with no-load mutual funds is a strategy that can save thousands over time, and there is almost always a great no-load alternative to a load fund. For example, instead of shelling out a 4.75% load for Davis NY Venture A fund (NYVTX), go for the nearly identical Selected American Shares S fund (SLASX), which doesn’t have a sales charge.

Annual Savings: $235
(avoiding a 4.75% load on a $5,000 investment)

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4. Go With a Discount Broker: Full-service firms charge $30 or more for an online stock trade. But online brokers' fees average just $10, reports Aite Group, a financial research firm. We like E*Trade and TD Ameritrade for $10 trades. And be honest: Is your broker’s research worth the extra 20 bucks?

Or, trade for free. ZeccoTrading gives you ten free stock trades per month if you maintain a minimum balance of $25,000. Wells­Trade allows 100 free trades a year if you keep a total of $25,000 or more in Wells Fargo in almost all types of accounts.

Annual Savings: $240 (using a discount broker for one trade per month)

TOTAL ANNUAL INVESTING SAVINGS: $1,835


Slideshow: Top Savings Tips for 2009
Save $50 a Day
Pay Less for Banking & Loans
Pay Less for Health and Insurance Costs
Pay Less for Utilities
Pay Less for Food
Pay Less for Transportation
Pay Less for Investing Costs
Pay Less for Leisure
Pay Less for Must-Have Trends
PLUS: How These Super Savers Do It