Incentives matter when it comes to financial products. Hat tip to Meb Faber whose podcast I was listening to earlier today and reminded me about this 2008 research report titled “Do Managers Eat Their Own Cooking?” from Russ Kinnel at Morningstar. As the title suggests, Kinnel analyzed whether mutual fund managers actually invest their money in their own funds. Recall that the promise of active management, and the reason that investors pay fees of around 1%, is that they can beat the market (but, alas, almost none do!). Recall also that getting the market return through an S&P500 index fund costs about 0.10-0.15%. Ok, so active managers charge high fees which makes it difficult for them to beat the market. Guess what, someone has figured this out, and it’s not who you might expect…it’s the actual managers running the funds. How do I know? Well, Kinnel found the following:
“At U.S.- stock funds, 47% report no manager ownership. And it gets worse from there. Fully 61% of foreign-stock funds have no ownership, 66% of taxable bond funds have no ownership, 71% of balanced funds put up goose eggs, and 80% of muni funds lack ownership.”
Yes, you read that correctly, in many asset classes over 50% of mutual fund managers DID NOT INVEST A DIME in their own fund. So why should you? Before you plunk down your hard-earned investing dollars make sure your manager’s incentives are aligned to yours and that they have some “skin in the game.” Or better yet, buy an index fund!
Think you can beat the market with your expert market timing skills, try this simulation and find out!