Costs really do matter. Here's why.

The many deep-seated biases and behaviours humans exhibit were once useful to survive in the wild - but not so much when investing.


Source: Albion Strategic Consulting 

One area of weakness is our poor grasp of the exponential impact of compounding that can work both for and against us.

Imagine three different portfolios that deliver returns of 1%, 3% and 5% per year after inflation, but before other costs, over a period of 30 years: £100,000 invested in each would result in a growth of purchasing power to around £135,000, £240,000 and £430,000 respectively.  Seemingly small differences in the compound rates of return (geometric returns), turn into large differences, in terms of financial outcomes.  That’s one of the great positives of a disciplined and patient approach to investing – small returns turn into big numbers, given time.

On the other side of the coin, costs – when compounded over time – eat away at these market returns to a far greater degree than many investors ever imagine.  Let’s compare two managers who deliver 3% gross (before fees) above inflation, where Manager A has costs of 0.25% and Manager B has costs of 1.00%.  We plot the purchasing power impact of these different fee strategies on outcomes, across time, in the chart above.  As you can see, costs matter a great deal; an investor in Manager B’s fund is over £40,000 worse off than an investor with Manager A’s fund over 30 years. Put another way, you end up one third more wealthy selecting Manager A over Manager B.

To read more on this subject, take a look at Acuity Volume 47: How to get what you don't pay for.