What is expense ratio in mutual funds? 1

What is expense ratio in mutual funds?

Mutual fund investment can be a lucrative endeavour, offering the potential for significant returns over time. However, navigating the world of mutual funds requires understanding various terms and concepts, including the expense ratio. So, what exactly is an expense ratio, and why should you consider this ratio while investing in mutual funds?

By understanding the expense ratio, you can make more informed decisions and enhance your mutual fund investment.

What Is An Expense Ratio And What's A Good One?

What is the expense ratio in mutual funds?

The expense ratio represents the annual cost to a mutual fund company (asset management company) for managing your investments. Simply put, it’s the fee for operating and managing the mutual fund. This ratio is expressed as a percentage of your total investment.

The expense ratio is not a separate charge you pay but a small amount deducted daily from your investment’s value. This means you only pay for the time invested in the mutual fund. While it may seem like a small percentage, remember that even small deductions can compound over time, affecting your net returns.

Why does the expense ratio matter?

The effect of the expense ratio adds up over time. Consider two funds with similar returns. If one has a 1% expense ratio and the other has a 2% ratio, the fund with the lower ratio will likely leave you with more money in the long run. Even a seemingly small difference can add up.

For example, if you invest ₹1 lakh in a fund with a 2% expense ratio and an average annual return of 10%, your returns after 20 years would be approximately ₹5.2 lakhs. With a 1% expense ratio, the returns jump to approximately ₹6.7 lakhs. That’s a difference of ₹1.5 lakhs.

Components of expense ratio

The expense ratio in mutual funds covers a variety of costs incurred by the AMC:

  • Fund manager’s fee: Actively managed funds involve higher fund manager fees compared to passively managed ones. These fees are justified by aiming for superior returns through the manager’s expertise.
  • Administrative costs: These include essential operational expenses like record-keeping, maintaining investor accounts, customer service, and other office-related costs.
  • Marketing and distribution expenses: Marketing, awareness creation, and distribution costs also influence the expense ratio. Direct funds often have lower expense ratios than regular funds distributed through intermediaries.
  • Legal and audit fees: Mutual funds incur costs for legal checks, audits, and related processes to comply with regulations. These costs contribute to the overall expense ratio, ensuring compliance and transparency.

Expense ratio formula: Breaking it down

The formula for calculating the expense ratio is simple:

Total expense ratio = Total expenses / Average assets under management (AUM)


  • Total expenses: The costs incurred by the AMC, such as the fund manager’s fee, marketing and distribution expenses, and legal/audit costs.
  • Average AUM: The total value of all investors’ money in that fund.

It is crucial to understand that the average AUM includes the total value of all investors’ money in the fund. This formula helps investors assess how the costs incurred by the AMC impact the fund’s overall performance.

Understanding the expense ratio is crucial for investors

  • Impact on returns: Higher expense ratios lead to lower returns. However, a lower ratio doesn’t guarantee superior performance. Investors need to balance cost-effectiveness with fund objectives to make informed decisions.
  • Regular vs. direct funds: Regular funds have higher expense ratios than direct funds, impacting long-term returns. Understanding the dynamics of distribution costs empowers investors to make more cost-effective choices.
  • Comparison tool: Expense ratios are a valuable tool for comparing mutual funds and choosing between similar options. While a lower ratio is generally favourable, investors should consider other factors such as risk, past performance, and the fund manager’s expertise.

Bottom line

Understanding the concept of expense ratios is crucial when choosing the best mutual fund plan for your portfolio. It’s important to select mutual funds that not only align with your financial goals and risk tolerance but also consider their associated costs. Remember, opting for mutual funds with lower expense ratios can be advantageous. However, for long-term investment success, a thorough assessment of all relevant factors is indispensable in selecting the best mutual fund investment plan.


I am a writer, financial consultant, husband, father, and avid surfer. I am also a long-time entrepreneur, investor, and trader. For almost two decades, I have worked in the financial sector, and now I focus on making money through investing in stock trading.