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How to Avoid 401k Fees

December 29, 2018 · 4 minute read

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How to Avoid 401k Fees

As Bob Dylan so aptly put it, “The times they are a-changin’.” Gone are the days of starting and finishing your career with the same company. In previous generations, the chances of getting a job, and working at the same company for the entirety of your career were far more likely than today.

And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , most employees stay in the same job for only about four years.

While the increased job mobility has its benefits—it can be great for your annual salary—it could impact your 401k savings. When you leave your current employer, you’ll also have to deal with changes to your 401k plan. You’ll be responsible for paying any 401k fees associated with maintaining your account.

What most of us don’t realize is that these sneaky 401k fees can add up over time to hundreds of thousands of dollars and cut into our retirement savings.

The typical 401k plan charges a fee of 1% of assets managed. While that might not seem like a lot of money, it can easily add up to $100,000 or more over your lifetime—and that’s the amount on just one account. According to CNBC, “a 1% reduction in fees can add an additional 10 years to your retirement income.”

Consider this: If you’ve changed jobs multiple times, and each time leave your 401k plan with your former employer, then you are paying 401k fees on multiple accounts. In addition, your ex-employer might be charging you an administrative fee for the privilege of staying in the company’s 401k plan now that you are no longer an employee.

Perhaps then it’s not surprising that Federal Reserve’s 2017 Survey of Consumer Finances , finds that the typical couple nearing retirement will only receive $600 per month from their 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) combined.

If all this talk of hidden fees has you thinking that next time you switch jobs, you’ll just liquidate your account, think again. If you are under the age of 59 ½, early withdrawal penalties can throw a wrench in that plan. You’ll be taxed on that money as if it was ordinary income and there will most likely be to a 10% federal tax penalty.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid 401k fees. The next time you switch jobs, pay attention during your exit interview. Your human resources representative should go over your options for managing your 401k plan.

You aren’t required to keep your account with your former employer, and you won’t be forced to liquidate it. Instead you could transfer your 401k money by either rolling it into your new 401k plan with your next employer, or rolling it over into an IRA. Transferring a 401k is simple: It typically requires a phone call and some paperwork.

The benefit of setting up a separate account is that the next time you change jobs, you will automatically have somewhere to rollover your 401k. With your money in one place, you can easily see whether you are on track to reach your retirement goals.

If you rollover your 401k to a separate account or to your new employer’s 401k, you might find that over time you have more money in your retirement account, because the savings on fees will compound over time. The sooner you avoid sneaky fees, the better.

Before you decide where to move your 401k, here are some questions to ask yourself.

What Are Your Investment Choices?

In some ways, your 401k plan is only as good as its investment choices. While the average 401k plan offers 8-12 investment choices , many smaller employers may offer fewer options. While too many options may be overwhelming, it’s important that you have enough the opportunity to diversify your portfolio.

If your new employer’s 401k plan only offers a handful of investment options, consider starting a separate account for 401k transfers.

Are There Fees Associated with the Plan?

If you keep your retirement account in your former employer’s 401k plan, you’ll be charged a fee that will add up over time. Setting up an IRA account might cost you $50 or more a year in maintenance fees. On the other hand, you can look for a invest account that comes with no fees—and no strings attached.

How Easy Is It to Make Changes to My Account?

While you probably don’t want to change your investments every quarter without good reason, its a good idea to evaluate your investments at least once a year. In fact, your SoFi investment advisor will look at your account once a quarter to determine if it needs to be rebalanced. You can easily access your account online and through the SoFi app.

Setting Up Your New Retirement Account

If you plan to rollover your 401k plan, make sure the funds are being directly transferred from your old account to your new account. It’s usually not a good idea to take ownership of your retirement savings: Instead, you want to make the check out to administrators or guardians of the new account.

That means the check should not be made out in your name, otherwise the IRS will count it as income and charge you a penalty. If you need help rolling your old 401k into a SoFi Invest® account, we offer complimentary support from our team of financial advisors.

We can take a look at your current 401k plans and determine how much you are getting charged in management fees. Did you know that with SoFi Invest there are no management fees? Sign up for an appointment today to get started.

Thinking about rolling over your old 401k plan? Consider opening a SoFi Invest account and avoid the 401k fees.


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