What's the Best Way Out of This Fund's Exorbitant Transaction Fees?

It would be hard to find a podcast-hosting duo more totally invested in answering your financial questions than Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp -- they put "Answers" in the show's name, for goodness' sake! And this week, they're at it again, combing through the Motley Fool Answers mailbag in search of conundrums to address for their listeners. But because three heads are better than two, for this episode, they've enlisted the help of Sean Gates, a financial planner with Motley Fool Wealth Management.

In this segment, they consider the case of Jeff, whose wife has a Roth IRA with Fidelity that contains a Vanguard target date fund. Every time they add any money to the fund, they have to pay a $75 fee. That's both too much, and depressingly normal. But yes, there are maneuvers to get away from those fees.

Sean Gates is an employee of Motley Fool Wealth Management, a separate, sister company of The Motley Fool, LLC. The views of Sean Gates and Motley Fool Wealth Management are not the views of The Motley Fool, LLC and should not be taken as such.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on June 26, 2018.

Alison Southwick: Next question comes from Jeff. "My wife has a Roth IRA with Fidelity in which we bought a Vanguard target-date fund. I recently realized that every time we add money to the fund, they charge us a $75 fee!" Woof! "Would you recommend waiting until we have a large enough sum of money to add to the fund to make the fee 1-2% of the investment, or perhaps open an account with Vanguard and transfer the fund? Or maybe there's a better option than those two. My wife and I each already have a Roth IRA and 401(k), so if I transferred the fund to a normal account, wouldn't I get taxed on the dividends?"

Robert Brokamp: What he has encountered is what's called a transaction fee. When you open up a regular old brokerage account and you buy a stock, you pay a commission. It's usually $7-10. But when you buy a mutual fund, it can cost you -- as we're seeing here -- $75, unless it's a non-transaction fee fund -- you'll see a little NTF on the broker's website. One thing he might consider doing is selling that fund and buying a fund that is an NTF fund.

I will point out, though, there's a reason why Vanguard's fund in this situation is charging that. To be in these big brokerages, a mutual fund company has to pay Fidelity a fee to be on their fund marketplace. And in the end, the person who owns that fund is going to pay that. I've read an article that says the average is they're paying the broker 0.4% just to be on their platform.

So, to a certain degree, you're going to pay for it either way. If you love Vanguard's Target retirement fund, my recommendation would be then to transfer the money to Vanguard.

The second part of your question, about how you've said that you and your wife both have a Roth IRA and 401(k), it sounds like you're not aware of the fact that you can transfer this money to those accounts. You don't have to transfer the money to a taxable account. If you did do that, that would be considered distribution and it would be taxable, you'd pay penalties. You can just transfer it to your existing accounts. It might be that you're aware of the annual contribution limits to those accounts, and you might be confusing those contribution limits with what you can transfer. There's no limit on how much money you can transfer from one account to another. If you transferred this Roth IRA with Fidelity to another Roth IRA, that wouldn't affect how much money you could then contribute as a regular contribution. I'm just assuming, reading between the lines there, what the confusion is there.

Sean Gates: The only other thing I would add is, I don't think I would recommend waiting to collect a large sum of money before purchasing a mutual fund. I think that waiting has an opportunity cost associated with it that you might be discounting. Looking for alternate funds to invest in that don't have that commission would be a better option than just waiting until you have some sum of money to cover the cost of the $75 transaction fee.

Brokamp: We've talked about studies before that have looked at dollar-cost averaging vs. lump sum investing. You're better off just getting the money in as soon as you can -- just to back up what you said there. Having your money just sit around in a cash account until you've accumulated enough, there's a cost to that.

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