Reserve Primary Fund (RFIXX) boasts an impressive pedigree as the very first money-market mutual fund, opened in 1971.
But the $6.3-billion portfolio also holds another less-appealing distinction among money funds: despite its multi-billion dollar heft, Reserve Primary Fund charges annual expenses that are considerably above average — 1% of assets versus an average 0.73% for retail money funds tracked by iMoneyNet Inc.
These days, more than ever, investors in money funds, which hold $2.2-trillion in assets, need to be scrutinizing such charges. Short-term interest rates are at their lowest levels in more than four decades, their lowest since money funds were created. Furthermore, market participants expect the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates further later this month in a bid to stimulate the economy.
For investors, the net result of the record-low rates is that expenses as a percentage of money funds’ portfolio earnings “are much higher than they have ever been,” says Bob Auwaerter, head of fixed-income portfolio management at Vanguard Group.