Market pulse: Fees are falling fast

David Vomund

Every generation thinks they have it harder than previous generations. Gen Z is no different, but they may have a point. They were raised during the Great Recession and the Covid shutdown. College graduates are hampered by huge student loans and those that work after high school often have jobs that don’t cover their cost of living. Sky-high housing prices, especially with today’s mortgage rates, price many out of the housing market. Add to that a warming planet. All true, but when it comes to investing in stocks times couldn’t be better.

When I began my career in the 1980s trading commissions were in the hundreds of dollars and you had to make a phone call to buy or sell (and that phone had a cord). Mutual funds charged outrageous load fees so investors could lose up to five percent the day they bought a fund. Stock prices were calculated in eighths instead of pennies so bid-ask spreads were larger. Investing was expensive.

Compare that to today. Trading commissions and powerful research tools are free. Instead of holding a mutual fund that charges 1.5 percent annually to have their “gurus” pick stocks, today’s investors buy very cheap index funds.

Index fund fees keep coming down. Because of its low fee, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) became the largest ETF with $413 billion in assets. But today’s investors can buy S&P 500 index funds for less than the low annual 0.09 percent fee in the SPY. Last month State Street cut the fee on its cheapest S&P 500 ETF (SPLG) to 0.02 percent, which is lower than rival funds from BlackRock and Vanguard. A $1,000 investment in SPLG costs investors only 20 cents a year!

In addition to owning some ETFs, most of my client accounts also hold some stocks. After all, there are no fees to owning equities. I’ve written about the stocks I like, such as Amgen (AMGN), Ares Capital (ARCC), Becton Dickinson (BDX), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Merck (MRK), Visa (V), and Williams Cos. (WMB). All are dividend payers and raisers.

When it comes to investing, fees have never been so low. One can hold the S&P 500 for nearly no cost and the longer you own it the better the odds of success. If you held stocks for one year then there’s a 27-percent chance of losing capital. A three-year horizon brings a 17-percent chance of loss while a ten-year horizon yields only a 6 percent chance of loss. The advantage goes to Gen Z savers.

David Vomund is an Incline Village-based Independent Investment Advisor. Information is found at or by calling 775-832-8555. Clients hold the positions mentioned in this article. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial advisor before purchasing any security.

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