When things start to go bad in the stock market or the economy in general, previously ignored things like mutual fund fees can suddenly irk investors.

Tim Koehler, a 32-year-old software developer who used to rely on a financial adviser for his Roth IRA, became dissatisfied after he had to pay annual expense fees over 2%.

“I felt I was just throwing money away,” Koehler told The Wall Street Journal.

He decided to take control of his investments and placed his money into low-fee no-load funds, with expenses ranging from 0.27% to 1.15%.

According to Morningstar Inc, the average investor paid an expense ratio of 0.9% for retail mutual funds in 2007. This number has remained relatively stable since the considerable decreases that occurred between 2003 and 2006 after the mutual fund scandal.

Many people in the mutual fund industry question Morningstar’s report, and take issue with the fact that the report does not reference the access that smaller investors have through their 401(k) to institutional shares, which usually require base investments of at least $100,000.

When those shares are included in calculations, the expense bill for the average investor actually declined this past year, according to the Investment Company Institute.

Current fees may frustrate some investors now, but perhaps their concern is premature.

Beginning in 2009, the mandatory fee cuts implemented by former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer will expire. Consequently, some companies might be tempted to boost their fees.

John Reilly, a spokesman for MFS Investment Management, said “it’s too early” to predict what may or may not happen after the cuts expire.

The staff of Money Management Executive ("MME") has prepared these capsule summaries based on reports published by the news sources to which they are attributed. Those news sources are not associated with MME, and have not prepared, sponsored, endorsed, or approved these summaries.

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