What Is The Difference Between Net vs Gross Expense Ratio for Funds

Triston Martin

Jan 14, 2024

ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds) and Mutual funds are investment vehicles that pool client money to purchase financial assets. Fees are charged for all tasks required to operate a fund. Among these expenses are management fees, distribution fees, and other operating expenses. When represented as a percentage of the fund's assets, these operating expenditures are referred to as the spending ratio. ETFs, like mutual funds, pool client assets for a professional portfolio manager to invest in a particular market index or strategy. These portfolio managers must be rewarded for their services, and overhead, marketing, and trading costs must be fulfilled. All of these expenses are accounted for in the fund's expense ratio.

Expense-to-Revenue Ratios

An expense ratio is the amount of money that each investor contributes to a fund on an annual basis to pay the following expenses:

  • 12b-1 fees
  • An annual fee
  • Operating costs
  • Costs based on assets
  • Management expenses
  • Administrative service fees

When evaluating the cost of an ETF, you will often see two figures: a gross and a net expense ratio. These are vital statistics, but they reflect separate costs and convey different information about the fund's relative costliness. Many investors are perplexed by the contrast between the gross cost ratio and the net expense ratio. This is how they vary.

Gross Expense to Revenue Ratio

The gross cost ratio is the percentage of assets utilized to operate a fund before waivers or reimbursements. Consequently, the gross expense ratio is what shareholders would have paid if the exemptions and refunds had not been made. The gross expense ratio only impacts the fund, not the current shareholders. If an ETF has a gross cost ratio of 2% and a net expense ratio of 1%, it signifies that 1% of the fund's assets are used to waive fees, reimburse expenses, and give rebates. Is this, however, a long-term solution? That is something you must decide via your investigation. If the gross expense ratio surpasses 4%, you should exercise caution.

The ratio of Net Expenses

Deducting waivers and reimbursements from the share price yields the net expense ratio. A fund's expenditures may be waived, reimbursed, or reclaimed via agreements. This is often the case when new funds are introduced. To keep investors' cost ratios low, an investment firm and its fund managers may agree to waive some fees after the debut of a new fund. The total expense ratio represents the fees paid to the fund after any exemptions, reimbursements, or recoupments have been applied. These cost reductions are often only available for a short time, after which the fund may be required to pay the total fees.

Recognizing Waivers and Payments

Newer and smaller funds sometimes have higher gross expense ratios since they cost more to manage on a relative basis. Exemptions and refunds will be used by smaller funds to recruit new participants. Consider a firm that is running a promotion to attract more customers. Another good example is a new supermarket that opens in town and competes with an existing brand by offering lower prices. To increase earnings, the supermarket will raise prices in a few weeks or potentially two to three months. The promotional time of an ETF, like that of a store or supermarket, may end.

Other Critical ETF Factors

When reading about spending ratios, the net expense ratio is mentioned. This information may be retrieved by visiting Yahoo Finance, entering the ETF ticker, and selecting Profile. From there, scroll down to the Fund Summary section. Following is an outline of Fund Operations. This is where you can find the net expense ratio. If the cost ratio exceeds 0.21%, it exceeds the average expense ratio computed throughout the ETF universe. This is not to argue that ETFs should be ignored as an investment vehicle, but it does suggest that you do your homework.

While cost ratios are important, they are not the only thing to consider when choosing an ETF. Take into account the average daily trading volume as well. If it crosses 1 million shares daily, it is liquid, enabling you to buy and sell quickly. If you want to trade volatile leveraged and inverse ETFs, you must have a clear game plan for acquiring shares as well as an exit strategy in place.


You do not contribute an ETF's gross cost ratio as an investment. However, a substantial gap between the gross and net may indicate that future expenditures will be higher since waivers and reimbursements are more likely to be deleted. Be aware of additional risks associated with ETFs, especially those actively managed.

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