What Does NAV Stand For?

Net Asset Value (NAV) is a critical concept in the investment world, particularly relevant to mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). It represents the per-share value of a fund, calculated by dividing the total value of all the securities in the fund’s portfolio, minus any liabilities, by the number of fund shares outstanding. A thorough understanding of how NAV is calculated and what it encompasses can help investors make informed decisions.

How NAV is Calculated

The NAV of a mutual fund or an ETF is typically calculated at the end of each trading day based on the closing market prices of the assets within the fund’s portfolio. The formula for NAV involves subtracting the fund’s total liabilities from its total assets and then dividing this by the number of shares outstanding. Total assets may include stocks, bonds, cash equivalents, and any accrued earnings such as interest or dividends. Total liabilities could cover management fees owed, administrative costs, and other fund expenses.

Example During Trading Day and Closing

Unlike mutual funds, whose NAV is not calculated in real-time but rather at the close of each trading day using the day’s closing prices, ETFs can have their NAV estimated continuously throughout the trading day as they trade like stocks on exchanges. For example, if a mutual fund’s portfolio contains a variety of stocks and the stock market experiences a particularly strong day, the total asset value of the fund is likely to increase, leading to a higher NAV calculated at market close.

Fees and Expenses

Several fees and expenses are factored into the NAV calculation for mutual funds, which can decrease the overall value of the fund’s assets. These include management fees, which are paid to fund managers for their services and are typically calculated as a percentage of the fund’s assets under management. Additionally, 12b-1 fees, also known as marketing or distribution fees, cover costs associated with marketing the fund and providing shareholder services. Load fees are sales charges applied when buying or selling shares of a mutual fund and can be front-end (charged at purchase), back-end (charged at sale), or level-load (charged annually).

Do NAVs Include Sales Charges or Brokerage Commissions?

It is important to note that the NAV does not include sales charges or brokerage commissions. These fees are paid by the investor and are separate from the NAV calculation. When investors purchase or redeem shares, load fees or sales charges are applied based on the NAV but are not included within the NAV itself.


Understanding NAV is essential for anyone investing in mutual funds or ETFs. While NAV offers a valuable measure of a fund’s per-share value, investors should also consider the impact of management fees, marketing fees, and load fees on their overall investment returns. Additionally, NAV calculations do not include sales charges or brokerage commissions, so these must be factored in separately when evaluating the cost of an investment.

For comprehensive insights into how these elements may influence your individual investment strategy, consulting with an independent Fee-Only financial adviser is recommended. Such professionals can provide unbiased advice, taking into account all aspects of fund expenses and how they impact your investment goals and returns.

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