These Fees Are Eating Up Your 401(k)

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The best things in life are free, sure — but it helps to know what's free and what's not. Saving for retirement seems like one of those things that should add up. Instead, a huge number of Americans have no idea that 401(k) plans come with annual charges.

Good benefits with any employer will ideally include mechanisms for retirement savings, especially if they offer matched contributions. Hauling a 401(k) from job to job will pay off in the long run, but 95 percent of 401(k) investors pay annual fees ranging from 0.37 percent to more than 1.4 percent. If you're pumping cash into your account, it could mean hundreds of dollars each year just for the privilege of it. In fact, as CNBC notes, "A comprehensive 2015 academic study found that in 16 percent of 3,500 plans analyzed, fees were so high that they 'consume the tax benefits of investing in a 401(k) for a young employee.'"

Not saving for retirement is far and away Americans' biggest financial regret. You don't have to freak out, though: First, if your employer provides your 401(k), find out from HR what the fees are and whether your employer's contribution zeroes them out. Fees tend to be lower at larger companies, thanks to economies of scale. If your portfolio's fees are keeping your growth down and your employer's match isn't cutting it, consider looking into other savings and investment options, like an IRA. Consult an accountant or retirement planner to help you make an informed choice — even if their advice is to be patient and stay the course.