Destroy 401k Fees

Most people don’t realize it but every year fees are slowly destroying their retirement.  These fees are very tiny and often ignored.  However, over the course of time they can cause serious damage.  If you’re contributing regularly to your 401k (and I really hope you are!), you should be very concerned.  To protect your retirement you need to destroy 401k fees.

Fortunately, destroying 401k fees is easy and not very time consuming at all.  You can definitely look at the prospectus of each 401k fund you have by hand but I never really want to spend so much time tweaking my 401k.  So, for the sake of this post I’m going to walk you though the awesome tool I use.

Detect 401k Fees

401k Fee Graph

Small fees compound over time

Personal Capital is a new tool that sits in the Mint.com space.  They don’t do budgeting but they have a bunch of cool graphs and pictures to explain your money situation.  I think they still have a ways to go with their money tracking tools but their 401k Fee Analyzer is top notch.

You can visit their site, register your account and add in financial institutions much like Mint.  From there you’ll go under the Investments header in the top right, and click 401k Fee Analyzer.  On the page you’ll be greeted with an awesome graph of your potential 401k earnings.

I’ve put my sample data contribution rates in there along with my age and I selected 1% as an even number to evaluate the impact of fees.  If I paid only 1% to fees in my 401k portfolio, fees would consume a whopping 28% of my future earnings basically

401k Fee Assumptions

Easily adjust the graph to represent your situation

shaving off a cool $1 million from my retirement account!  That is not ok.  If you want to check out your own situation, you can easily adjust the numbers with their Edit Assumptions section.

Using this tool has been eye opening for me.  Until last week I had no idea I was basically giving away all my hard earned money for no reason.  Beyond the cool graphs, the best part of the tool is how it aggregates all of your funds, charts each out with its fees as well as finds out your overall fee percent.  From there it is pretty easy to see who the culprits are.

Now that we’ve found the funds that are stealing our retirement money we need to do something about it!

Destroy 401k Fees

401k Fee Rate

I think it’s rather easy to beat 0.50% if you try

Remember, the fees will sink you and any fee is too much.  Even the Personal Capital bench mark at 0.50% would still be a lot.  Based on my same base numbers, I would still lose roughly 13% to fees… not acceptable.

From the research I’ve done, there are plenty of popular funds that have near zero fees.  For example, my personal favorite, Vanguard, has plenty of mutual funds at 0.20%.  Not only are Vanguard’s fees very low but their performance is excellent.

I even think you can do better.  For example, in my portfolio I have a fund called Blackrock Equity Index Fund H and it only has 0.07% fees.  Now that’s a good deal!  Better yet, it’s returned over 8% over the course of it’s life and 16% just last year.

Retire with more for less

Most people set their 401k up once and hardly look at fund returns before they set their allocations.  After that, they never log back in and check again.  If you did that, just take five minutes and optimize your retirement savings.  There is a huge difference between 1% and 0.50%.  For me that difference is $500,000 and for you it may be even more.  Don’t throw your retirement savings away, destroy 401k fees!

Have you tried Personal Capital?  Share your experience with us in the comments!

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  • http://www.krantcents.com krantcents

    Last year I made a small change to avoid the fees. I stopped a percentage fee and replaced it with a flat fee of $1 per month. My investing is less automatic, but I am willing to take 2-3 minutes per month to save money.

    • http://www.listenmoneymatters.com Andrew

      Interesting, I thought the fee was on the fund level. Care to provide more details?

  • http://thecollegeinvestor.com The College Investor

    My 401k administrator has terrible fees, but what can you do? The company chooses the plan administrator, not you.

  • http://www.seedebtrun.com Jefferson @SeeDebtRun

    i have noticed there can be a double-whammy of fees… those taken from the administrator, and then those from the funds themselves.. i try to choose funds with low fees myself, altho i do weight performance into the equation as well..

  • http://www.wstreetstocks.com Brett @ wstreetstocks

    Very interesting analysis. Your graphics were very useful. Interesting to see how small fees add up over time.

  • http://www.escapingmydebt.com Alan@escapingmydebt

    I currently invest in Vanguard. Most of their fees appear to be under 0.50% but none are fixed. I never thought that it would account for such a large impact over time.

    • http://www.listenmoneymatters.com Andrew

      Yea, Vanguard is usually the way to go. The cool thing is, they’re a not for profit corporation so they are actually incentivized to keep their rates low.

      I didn’t know how high the fees were from other mutual funds either, that’s why I really found this tool so helpful. After I saw how much money I was losing, I felt like a sucker and optimized it. I hope everyone else does they same!