Don't Waste Money: Cheap ETF vs. Expensive Mutual Fund Example

When using an asset allocation strategy, cheaper is usually better.

Don't waste money on expensive financial products. Use a cheap ETF instead of an expensive actively managed mutual fund.

Watch this video to see how:​

If you'd rather read than watch, here is the text version...

All Things Being Equal...

If you're trying to pick a certain part of you asset allocation strategy (US stocks, emerging markets, bonds, etc.), it's usually best to go with a cheaper option.

When you start looking at expenses, make sure you're comparing apples to apples.

Go to Enter the symbol of the first investment you're comparing​ in the "Quote" box at the top.

Open a second tab and do the same for the comparison investment.​

First enter the symbols you want to compare.

Once you have your investment quotes pulled up, scroll down to the sections of "Style Map" and "Asset Allocation" on the right side.

This is where you can tell if two investments are similar.​

asset allocation expenses

The Style Map and Asset Allocation chart should look silimar between the investments you're comparing. So it's an apples-to-apples thing.

Now go to the second investment you're comparing and scroll to the same sections.

Are they really similar? Yes? Then it's cool to compare expenses. If not, you'll want to find another comparison investment that is.​

asset allocation 2

See how similar this one looks to the first? That means the expense comparison will be legit.

Cheaper Is Better

Now that you know you're comparing like investments, go back up to the top of the page.

You should see a bunch of numbers and info on the right side.

One section is "Expenses". For the ETF, it's all the way on the right side. For the mutual fund it's more towards the middle.​

ETF vs mutual fund expenses

Here's the section where the investment expenses can be found.

And here's a picture of that section zoomed in:

fund expenses

Here's the expense of our ETF fund. Wow! So cheap, in a good way.

For a mutual fund, the expense will be more in the middle of this section. 

Here's the picture of the mutual fund expense:​

active funds are expensive

Here's the mutual fund expense. Yep. More than 10x the ETF expense. Yikes!

So by changing from the actively managed mutual fund to the ETF, we cut our annual product expense by 90%!

Not too shabby...​

How Do Your Funds Compare?

Go through all your funds and see what the expenses are. Then see if you can find a cheaper alternative to use.

I'd check your IRA, Roth, 401k and any other accounts where you have mutual funds.​

Want some help? Click here to schedule a free call with me.

I'll see if I can find a cheaper option for you.​


When you're using an asset allocation strategy, make sure you have the right mix of assets first. Like U.S., bonds, emerging markets, etc.

But once you get the mix right, use the cheapest investment products that meet those needs.

And don't waste your money!​

Was This Helpful? Let Me Know...

Leave me a comment below to let me know if this was helpful to you.

Or ask me additional questions and I'll get you some answers.


Tommy Sikes​

  • maryhruth says:

    Good to know. Thank you Tommy!

    What are the pitfalls in investing in ETFs?

    • Tommy Sikes says:


      One thing is that very few 401k plans offer ETFs. The mutual fund industry has a tight hold on that market. Also, many of the new ETFs are “exotic” with very narrow holdings and high expenses.

      If you trade ETFs often, you’ll also incur a transaction cost in most places (not Folio!). But most (all?) investors should not be trading anyway…

      I like to stick with very liquid, broadly diversified and low cost.

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