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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Monday, July 29, 2013

Investing is getting cheaper

Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and Vanguard in a three-way battle royale

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By Clark Howard


Fidelity Investments is upping the ante in the investment world by lowering the minimum deposits and fees on index funds.

Investment minimums are being dropped from $10,000 to $2,500 for entry level investing. And for the Big Money crowd, minimums are shrinking down to $10,000 from $100,000.

The fees at Fidelity are getting the scalpel treatment too. "Fees will be cut at eight of the firm's Spartan index funds, with total net costs decreasing between 1 and 8 basis points," according to Morningstar/Yahoo! Finance.

Of course, Fidelity isn't the only one looking to attract more investment dollars by slashing fees.

Late last year, Charles Schwab cut the annual management expenses across the board on all 15 of its own branded exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

That move was part of Schwab's effort to gain market share from rivals Fidelity and Vanguard. It followed months of moves by all three discount houses continually undercutting each other in an industry-wide price war.

Schwab's latest move now makes them cheaper than Vanguard. The Schwab U.S. Total Stock Mart ETF (SCHB) and the Schwab U.S. Large Cap ETF (SCHX) are now believed to be the cheapest mutual funds in the world. Both charge just 0.04 percent in annual expenses. Other Schwab ETFs cap out at expense rations of .20 percemt.

For the layman investor, this means that if you put $1 into a Schwab ETF, you have almost 100 percent staying and working for you.

By contrast, a typical mutual fund can have annual management fees of 1.5 percent, which means a penny and half of every dollar is gone. That may not sound like much, but over time it can actually reduce what you have in retirement by half.

ETFs have historically been for only for the wealthiest and biggest investors. But today they're for normal Earthlings. Schwab, Fidelity and Vanguard all allow you to buy and sell ETFs commission-free.

Most people are intimidated by investing and feel that they have to go to a high-commission salesperson who knows the territory. But you can do it yourself!

I have revised my investment guide with a special emphasis on skill level to help you get started. If you're a beginning investor, simply click the "easy" button to get started building long-term wealth.

The only decision you have to make is...when are you going to start writing the checks?!

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