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Fees and Trading Costs of Equity Mutual Funds in 401(k) Plans and Potential Savings from ETFS and Commingled Trusts

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  • Richard W. Kopcke
  • Francis M. Vitagliano
  • Zhenya S. Karamcheva

Abstract

As the role of 401(k) and similar defined-contribution plans continues to expand in our retirement system, plan participants are paying more of the cost of financing their retirement income. This study analyzes the trading costs and fees of the 100 largest domestic equity mutual funds held in defined-contribution pension plans for the years 2004 through 2008. The pricing of the actively managed funds in this sample cost the average plan 0.70 of a percentage point or more in annual returns. By shifting investment options from managed mutual funds to exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or commingled trusts, 401(k) plans can align the fees they pay more closely with the expense of the services they use. This realignment can allow an average plan to reduce its administration and management fees between 0.20 and 0.40 percent of assets. In addition, the shift to ETFs and commingled trusts that hold ETFs can reduce average trading costs 0.50 percent of assets or more for participants holding managed equity mutual funds. The fees and trading costs of the domestic equity funds in this sample are not correlated with the performance of the funds. The funds with the greatest expenses tended to divide evenly between those funds that outperformed and those that underperformed the market by the largest margins.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard W. Kopcke & Francis M. Vitagliano & Zhenya S. Karamcheva, 2009. "Fees and Trading Costs of Equity Mutual Funds in 401(k) Plans and Potential Savings from ETFS and Commingled Trusts," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2009-27, Center for Retirement Research, revised Nov 2009.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2009-27
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    File URL: http://crr.bc.edu/working-papers/fees-and-trading-costs-of-equity-mutual-funds-in-401k-plans-and-potential-savings-from-etfs-and-commingled-trusts/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carhart, Mark M, 1997. " On Persistence in Mutual Fund Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(1), pages 57-82, March.
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    4. Nicolas P. B. Bollen, 2005. "Short-Term Persistence in Mutual Fund Performance," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(2), pages 569-597.
    5. Kempf, Alexander & Korn, Olaf, 1999. "Market depth and order size1," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 29-48, February.
    6. Chan, Louis K C & Lakonishok, Josef, 1995. " The Behavior of Stock Prices around Institutional Trades," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(4), pages 1147-1174, September.
    7. Harris, Lawrence, 1990. " Statistical Properties of the Roll Serial Covariance Bid/Ask Spread Estimator," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(2), pages 579-590, June.
    8. Richard W. Kopcke & Francis Vitagliano & Dan Muldoon, 2009. "The Structure of 401(k) Fees," Issues in Brief ib2009-9-3, Center for Retirement Research, revised Feb 2009.
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