The Frugal Fiduciary Small Business 401(k) Blog
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Cost matters a lot when saving for retirement. When paid from plan assets, 401(k) fees reduce the account returns of plan participants dollar-for-dollar. Over decades, these losses can cost a 401(k) account hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost compound interest. Given the stakes, employers have a fiduciary responsibility to pay only “reasonable” 401(k) fees from plan assets. When this responsibility is not met, business owners can be held personally responsible for restoring excessive fee payments.
The conventional wisdom about 401(k) fees is that participants in small business plans pay higher account fees than participants in “mega” plans sponsored by large corporations. In truth, a small business can help their participants pay less by paying all 401(k) administration fees from a corporate account. Why would a small business owner incur this expense when they can pay the fees from plan assets - like most large corporations do - instead? To grow their personal 401(k) account faster while lowering their taxable income.
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Due to the power of compound interest, 401(k) participants can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to their savings – or retire years sooner - by keeping their account fees as low as possible throughout their working years. And yet, in my experience, few participants appreciate this indisputable truth. Employee Fiduciary would like to help change that. This month, we launched an online calculator to show users how much they can add to their future savings by lowering their 401(k) fees today. Our bet - most users will be shocked by the amount they find.
This month, the Department of Labor (DOL), IRS and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp (PBGC) proposed changes to the Form 5500 – a report most 401(k) plans must file annually to meet ERISA requirements. Two changes would require large Form 5500 filers to report more 401(k) fee information. I think more fee reporting is necessary.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is federal agency that, according to its website, “provides Congress and federal agencies with objective, non-partisan, fact-based information to help the government save money and work more efficiently.” In an August report, the GAO assessed the effectiveness of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) 401(k) fee disclosure rules. They found that nearly 40% of 401(k) plan participants do not understand the fee information mandated by the DOL. This much confusion is a big problem when you consider the cumulative effect of 401(k) fees over time. To manage these losses, participants need a clear understanding of their 401(k) fees.
401(k) plan fiduciaries are often concerned about their fiduciary liability – little surprise when they can be personally liable for fiduciary failures. To mitigate this risk, fiduciaries must understand the sources of liability. A way to do that is asking insurance companies about the factors that increase the price of 401(k) fiduciary liability insurance.