Half the plan sponsors did not know if they or their plan participants paid investment management fees, or they mistakenly believed those fees were waived. That was the case for 57 percent of small plan sponsors, defined as those with fewer than 50 participants. Even among large sponsors with at least 500 participants, 31 percent didn’t know. It’s disturbing because investment management fees account for the majority of overall 401(k) fees. They’re paid to managers who select stocks, bonds or other investments in funds that 401(k) assets are invested in. Plan sponsors may be unaware because management fees are typically deducted from a participant’s account, rather than being invoiced to the plan sponsor, the GAO said.
— Many sponsors reported they asked providers little about which fees were charged. For example, 70 percent hadn’t asked about whether the plan charged 12b-1 fees. Those charges can cover everything from compensation for brokers selling funds to advertising and promotions. Eighty-two percent didn’t ask about fees to reimburse plan record keepers for services including maintaining participants’ accounts and distributing disclosures sent to fund investors.
Plan participants lack clarity regarding the fees they pay, until now. The new disclosure regulations will help plan sponsors and plan participants build a successful retirement.
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