# Can you have a positive return with a balance below cost basis?

I use Fidelity for an investment. Their website says I have a cost basis of \$5000.00 invested in FUSVX. Now the balance of this mutual fund (which I believe is simply market value at closing from the previous day) reads 4947.77.

4947.77 (balance) - 50000 (price paid) = -52.23.

Negative return right? Why does my YTD return read positive 0.65% for this mutual fund?

I also have a money market balance of 400 valued at 400. They take the .65% mutual fund return and add the 0% return for the money market and give me a .72% positive total return...?

I called Fidelity and talked to two representatives who could not give me a clear explanation of why this is. Basically, they said "it has to do with time and dollar cost averaging". I understand DCA; this feels like voodoo.

I have a TD ameritrade acct and their cost and gain/loss numbers make sense. Can someone explain Fidelity's seemingly magic number system?

# Fidelity Definitions

### Balance

The market value of each investment in your account as of the date displayed in the Returns As Of column.

### Cost Basis

Generally, the total cash value of all your share purchases of a given investment option, accumulated based upon the original cash amount used to purchase shares, exclusive of any change in the price of a given investment over time. This basis is inclusive of all your share purchase activity, regardless of the type of activity (includes standard cash flows, such as contributions, exchanges and withdrawals, as well as non-cash flows such as interest, dividends and adjustments). Keep in mind that cost basis calculations are done at the investment option level. Due to gain/losses realized at the time of an exchange from one investment to another, adding up your cost basis for each investment option will not give you an account level cost basis If your investments were transferred from another recordkeeper to Fidelity, your cost basis starts at the point your new shares were purchased here at Fidelity, except for stock funds. For company stock funds, your tax cost basis is transferred and thus reflected in cost basis number indicated in the table.

### YTD

Your cumulative return of each investment since the beginning of the current year. Refer to the "Returns As Of" date to determine when this value was last calculated.

## 3 Answers

Have you owned the stock for longer than 2015? The stock appears to have grown in value since December 2014 from 72.85 to 73.5 which is about 0.89% growth in the year to date (2015).

• Ah, so if they are calculating the fund's return and not my return that makes sense!! I bought into the fund in April of this year. Though, clearly their representatives should KNOW THIS. And their definition should say "the funds return and not your return" Aug 20, 2015 at 13:30
• Yes, you'll need to calculate your own return. I tend to use the `XIRR` function in an Excel spreadsheet: dates and totals of investments (cost) vs dates and totals of returns (including the current stock price on the date of calculation). Most investment websites I use tend to be very bad at showing what my current annualized return is, so I do it myself. Aug 20, 2015 at 13:32
• Note here that YTD return is 2.32%. Fidelity says 0.65% so I'm not sure that's what they are doing either :\. The value in Fidelity is 73.50 and current as of 8/19/2015. So the chart you posted should match their YTD if that is the case. Aug 20, 2015 at 13:34
• You'll notice the large dip immediately after the December 31st data point I've highlighted above. They may be calculating from January 1st, which is possibly much lower than the December number. Aug 20, 2015 at 13:36

It is important to know that cost basis has very little to do with performance. When a fund (or stock) has distributions that are reinvested, the cost basis goes up while the value generally does not. This is very important and helpful. You dont want to pay capital gains on investment returns that have already been taxed. So, increasing the cost basis prevents you from having capital gains tax due on taxable dividends.

• Cost basis has nothing to do with performance. Ex-dividend causes zero change in position value. Taxes are due on all distributions if in a non sheltered account. Important to distinguish that total cost basis increases when distributions that are reinvested but average cost per share decreases. Oct 19, 2019 at 15:07

It's also possible their YTD return is not weighted properly - if the initial investment had a higher return before the next investment, it would have a higher percentage of your portfolio when you made another investment. If that investment then went down slightly, the absolute decline from the first investment would be larger but you'd hive a slightly positive "YTD" return is the periods were weighted equally.

Practical example:

\$100 monthly investment.

``````T0: \$100 investment
T0-T1 return: 10%
T1 initial balance: \$110
T1 investment: \$100
T1-T2 return: -8%
T2 balance: \$193 (\$210 * (1 + -.08))
``````

So you have a total loss of -\$7 bot an "average" return of 1.0% arithmetically and 1.2% geometrically (1.1 * 0.92)