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All You Need to Know About the Expense Ratio of Mutual Funds

Posted on 25-Mar-2024

6 min read

Discover how the expense ratio in mutual funds affects your investments and learn strategies to optimize returns.

Table of Content

Mutual funds is arguably one of the best investment options. As an investor, it is crucial to understand the expenses related to mutual fund investment. The expense ratio is a fee charged to manage to cover certain costs like management fees, operational fees and so on. It is mandatory for all Mutual Funds to display their expense ratio in order to promote transparency for investors.
Expense ratio in Mutual Funds may sound complicated but once you have understood the details, you will be able to invest more efficiently. This article will take you through the information you need to know about expense ratio, how it works and why you need to pay attention to it.

Importance of Mutual Funds Expense Ratio

Mutual Funds are handled by professionals that watch market fluctuations and ensure the people investing in their funds get the best returns. In exchange for this service a small fee is charged which is included under the expense ratio. While some investors may not check on such factors, it is important to be aware of what you are paying for and where your hard-earned money is going.
In the case of expense ratios, the higher the asset value the lower the charges will be. This is because it is calculated by dividing the total expense by the total assets of the fund. To better understand what this means, let's take a look at how expense ratios work for Mutual Funds.

How is the Total Expense Ratio Calculated?

You can calculate the expense ratio on your mutual fund through a simple formula to know the exact amount you will be paying for your investment. Here is an example to help you understand the formula better:

Suppose the equity mutual fund with Assets Under Management (AUM) totals Rs. 600 Crores. And let's say the total expenses incurred for the various components amount to Rs. 14 Crores.
Using the formula: Expense ratio = Total expenses / Average AUM, the expense ratio of our example is Rs. 14 Crores / Rs. 600 Crores = 2%.

This means that each investor will contribute 2% annually as the expense ratio to the Asset Management Company (AMC).

What are the Components of Expense Ratio?

As explained earlier, the expense ratio works as a fee for the Mutual Fund management. It is a considered to be a portion of the amount you have invested. Here are the components of expense ratio in mutual funds:
  1. Management fees: Compensation for the investment strategy's execution.
  2. Administrative costs: Essential operational expenses like recordkeeping and accounting.
  3. Distribution fees: Commissions incurred for marketing and selling the fund to investors.
  4. Brokerage: Costs associated with buying and selling securities within the fund.
  5. Entry Load: The entry load reduces disposable income for mutual fund investors. However, recent SEBI rules exclude it from the total expense ratio.
  6. Exit load: A potential penalty levied upon early withdrawal of investments.
  7. Legal fees: Expenses incurred for legal compliance and other legal matters.
  8. Maintenance expenses: Costs associated with maintaining the fund's operational infrastructure, such as technology and security.
  9. Operating expenses: The sum of all ongoing costs incurred in managing the fund.

Things to Remember About Expense Ratio

The expense ratio in mutual funds is a pivotal factor in determining the overall profitability of your investment. It's not just a fee but a significant determinant of your fund's net performance. Let us illustrate this with examples:

• Long-Term Impact Example: Consider two mutual funds, Fund A and Fund B, each with an annual return of 10%. However, Fund A has an expense ratio of 0.5%, while Fund B's ratio is 1.5%. Over 20 years, assuming you invest Rs. 1,00,000 in each, the difference in returns due to the varying expense ratios can be substantial. Fund A would yield a significantly higher return than Fund B, solely due to its lower expense ratio. The compounding effect over the years makes the lower-expense ratio fund more profitable.

• Performance Comparison Example: Suppose you are comparing two equity mutual funds with similar risk profiles. If Fund X consistently outperforms Fund Y but also charges a higher expense ratio, you need to analyse whether the higher returns justify the additional cost. If the net return (after accounting for the Expense Ratio) of Fund X is still superior to Fund Y, the higher expense ratio might be justifiable.

• Actively Managed vs Passive Funds Example: Actively managed funds typically have higher expense ratios due to active portfolio management. For instance, an actively managed large-cap fund might have an expense ratio of 1.2%, compared to a large-cap index fund with an expense ratio of 0.2%. If the actively managed fund does not significantly outperform the index fund, the lower expense ratio of the passive fund may make it a more attractive option.

Checklist for Investing In Mutual Funds 

Here are some things you should remember to check before investing in Mutual Funds:
  1. Define your goals: What are you saving for (retirement, child's education, etc.)?
  2. Assess your risk appetite: How comfortable are you with market fluctuations?
  3. Research your options: Explore different fund categories (equity, debt, hybrid) and compare schemes.
  4. Understand costs: Check expense ratios, exit loads, and other fees.


The expense ratio in mutual funds is more than just a fee; it's a critical factor in shaping your investment journey. A deeper understanding of this ratio equips you with the power to make smarter, more informed decisions that align with your financial goals. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are the commonly asked questions about expense ratio in mutual funds.

Q: What is a good expense ratio for a mutual fund?

A good expense ratio varies by fund type. For actively managed funds, a ratio below 1% is generally favourable. For index funds, look for ratios lower than 0.5%. However, these are guidelines, not hard rules. Always consider the ratio in the context of the fund's historical performance and management quality.

Q: How does the expense ratio affect my returns?

The expense ratio does reduce your returns. For example, if a fund has a return of 8% before fees and an expense ratio of 1%, your net return would be 7%. 

Q: Can expense ratios change over time?

Yes, expense ratios can fluctuate. Factors like changes in management, fund asset size, and regulatory guidelines can lead to adjustments. Regularly reviewing the expense ratios of your investments is important.

Q: Is it worth paying a higher expense ratio?

Sometimes, a higher expense ratio can be justified by superior fund performance or exceptional management. However, it's crucial to ensure that higher returns consistently outweigh the extra cost.

Q: How can I find a mutual fund’s expense ratio?
The expense ratio is usually listed in the fund's prospectus and on the Asset Management Company's website. It's also often included in mutual fund comparison and analysis tools.

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