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Fees Damage Savings More Than Stock Slump

The Department of Labor, in an online advisory about plan fees, provided a similar take. It offers the example of an employee with 35 years until retirement and a 401(k) balance of $25,000. If returns on investments over the next 35 years average 7%, and fees and expenses reduce average returns by 0.5%, the employee will have $227,000 upon retirement even if there are no further contributions. If fees and expenses are 1.5%, he will amass only $163,000, reducing the account balance at retirement by 28%.

BrightScope's free tool, which was launched Tuesday, starts by asking participants for basic information, such as age and income, to assess the impact of fees. Users then identify all their 401(k) accounts, both active and plans from previous jobs. For each plan, individual investment holdings are itemized and fees are reported.

Graphs help illustrate potential income lost from fees. In an example used by Brightscope, a participant paying 1.22% in fees for an old 401(k) plan could potentially save $86,775 in retirement by moving money to a low-cost individual retirement account, or IRA.

-- Reported by Joe Mont in Boston.
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