I recommend that you watch the eye-opening PBS Frontline Special “The Retirement Gamble.” Thank you to Claire for suggesting it.
Some key points from the program:
Many hidden layers of fees are eroding individual investor wealth.
Jack Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group, gave an example of how much fees cost an individual over a 50-year investing lifetime. If this consumer receives a 7% annual return and pays 2% in annual fees, fees will erode two-thirds of the investor’s gains. Bogle said you can see these results on a compound interest table.
I decided to do just that and found an investment calculator at Buyupside.com. (Please click on the image below.) Using the same figures show that the portfolio would be reduced by 63.58%. We should all be checking the fees on our retirement plans!
Robert Hiltonsmith, a policy analyst at Devos, examined his own retirement plan to see what fees were taken out of his account. He found that about 25 fees were extracted from his account by mutual funds, fund brokers, plan adminstrators, etc.
Teresa Ghilarducci, economist at The New School for Social Research said:
401(k) plans were originally designed for wealthy people. Now, the advisors middle class have access to are really just sales people.
American consumers don’t know the price, quality, or dangers of their 401k plans due to strong industry lobbying.
“So we know after 30 years of this 401(k) experiment that people do worse in 401(k)s than they would have if their money was in a traditional plan or if it was in a plain vanilla retirement account.”
Many of the options in plans are mediocre and many people are not prepared to invest their own money.
This became clear to me when I had someone from a cable company come to my home to repair the phone. When he saw that I had the TV set to a financial news channel, he began telling me that he had all of his retirement money in marijuana stocks. Although his portfolio had lost 50% of its value at this point, he was very optimistic about his future prospects. I was very shaken when he left as I wondered how many people were investing their retirement funds this recklessly.
- According to the Department of Labor, there are no clear standards on who can give advice to consumers of retirement plans. Also, there is no clear way for a consumer to tell who has the expertise to advise them. There was intense industry lobbying when new standards were proposed, forcing them to be withdrawn.
PBS Frontline. Videos and transcripts.
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