Do You Fly First Class?

Bill Parrott |

Flying first class is an incredible experience and enhances the pleasure of travelling.  I’ve relished the warm towels, fine dining and exceptional service of first class travel.  Unfortunately, I’ve also sat in the last row sipping diet coke from a plastic cup while rationing pretzels.

Does it pay to fly first class?  Regardless of where people sit all passengers will take off and land at the same time.  A Delta One round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to New York costs $4,258 and the economy seat costs $552.  Is the experience of flying first class 7 ½ times better than economy?  It might, especially if you’re receiving value for the price you paid, and your expectations are being met.  When I fly first class my expectations are high; when I sit in economy they’re low.

Like the airline industry, mutual funds have a wide divergence in fees.  Unlike the airline industry, shareholders don’t benefit from higher fees.  Quite the opposite as high fees will lower your investment returns.  Higher fees won’t deliver a better investment experience. 

Below are three funds with different fee structures listed from the highest fees to lowest.[1] The Dimensional Fund has the lowest fee and highest return.  Its fees are 90% lower than the Dreyfus fund.

Dreyfus Tax Managed Growth Fund Class C (DPTAX) has a one-year deferred sales charge of 1% and ongoing fees of 2.10%.  It has generated an average annual return of 5.74% for 10 years.

Gabelli Asset Fund Class A (GATAX) has a front-end commission of 5.75% and ongoing fees of 1.36%.  It has generated an average annual return of 7.21%.

Dimensional Fund Advisors U.S. Core Equity 1 Portfolio (DFEOX) doesn’t have a sales charges but it does have an ongoing fee of .19%.  It has generated an average annual return of 8.88% for 10 years.

How do you know if you’re paying high fees?  Here are three ideas.

1.       Fee audit.  A review of your investment holdings will highlight the amount of your fees you’re paying.  Your fees can be benchmarked to industry averages.

2.       Fund Comparison.  Comparing funds side by side will allow you to make better investment decisions.  In addition to the fee structure, you can compare returns, holdings, asset levels, and management tenure.

3.       Advisor Fees.  If you work with a Registered Investment Advisor, the fees are listed in their Form ADV, a public document.  RIA’s are regulated under the Investment Advisors Act of 1940 and they must disclose their fees.  Brokers and insurance agents aren’t required to disclose their fees.  If you work with a broker or insurance agent, you’re going to have to work hard to uncover the fees you’re paying.  An independent advisor can help you decipher their fees.

In a few weeks you’ll receive your 2017 year-end statements giving you the opportunity to analyze the fees you paid.  January is also great time to review your financial plan and investment goals.  Are your fees hindering your plan?

2018 could be the year you upgrade to first class and start working with an independent, fee-only, fiduciary advisor!

Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights. ~ Proverbs 18:15.


Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management an independent, fee-only, fiduciary financial planning and investment management firm in Austin, TX.  For more information please visit

December 13, 2017

Note:  Past performance is not a guarantee of future returns.  Your returns may differ than those posted in this blog.  Investments are not guaranteed.  Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors.




[1] Morningstar Office Snapshot, ten-year return ended 11/30/2017.