In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on investing and how it can help you build wealth. However, even with all of the new technological tools that make it easier than ever to start investing, many people still believe they need expensive help to get the best returns for their money.

If you are looking for a better return on your investments without paying an advisor, here are four tips that can help you take charge of your investment portfolio:

1. Look for low-cost index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

There is a belief that it takes a so-called expert to manage a mutual fund and provide solid returns. However, indicates number of studies indicate that most of the time, index funds outperform actively managed funds. In fact, according to a March 2013 study by personal finance site Nerdwallet, only 24 percent of active mutual fund managers beat the market.

If you are paying for an expertly managed fund, you might be paying more than you need to in fees and still not getting the returns you could be receiving. Consider investing in low-cost index funds and ETFs and leaving the actively managed funds behind.

2. Dig into your 401(k) fees.

According to a 2014 study from the Center for American Progress, typical 401(k) fees—about 1 percent of assets managed per year—could erase up to $70,000 from your account over the course of your career.

Thanks to relatively recent regulations, your 401(k) statement is much more transparent than it used to be. That means you should be able to see how much money you are spending on plan fees. If your employer’s plan charges high fees, talk to your Benefits department and lobby for a better plan. If that doesn’t work, you may want to consider contributing just enough to get your employer’s match, then maxing out an IRA or buying stocks.

3. Take advantage of free money.

Make sure that if your employer offers a match you take advantage of it. An employer match can boost your investment earnings over time. Try to get the maximum possible match because that’s free money.

If you have the option, you may also want to consider investing in dividend-paying stocks. A dividend is a cash payment to shareholders based on the company’s earnings. If you invest in dividend-paying companies or funds, you can receive regular payments. These dividends may seem small at first—they can be as low as 10 cents a share—but if you reinvest your dividends, your portfolio can grow.

4. Compare transaction fees.

Don’t forget to compare transaction fees. If your employer offers a self-directed 401(k), which allows employees to choose from a much wider variety of funds, fees can vary depending on the type of investment and number of shares you want to buy.

If you are using a self-directed online discount broker, look for a company that doesn’t charge high fees. One of the best ways to save on transaction fees is to set up an automatic investment plan, as many brokers offer further discounts when you automatically invest each month. Additionally, many brokers will allow you to reinvest your dividends without charging a transaction fee.

Look at account maintenance fees as well. These can be charged as a percentage of your assets or as a flat monthly fee, and cover the cost of everything from the accounting services, to the plan website you can access. Some brokers charge monthly fees or enforce minimums.

The best thing you can do to get the most investing bang for your buck? Be patient. With a little vigilance and some consistent investing, you’ll eventually reach your retirement goals.

Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money as an Online Writer and the writer behind

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