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Check Your 401(k) Fees: Invest In Index Mutual Funds

Although I wasn't as experienced with personal finance as I am now, I still saw the plan as a raw deal for the employees.

Sometimes even the best investment option in a retirement plan isn't very good. But if you're still living with whatever the company decided you should be invested in, or if you followed your company's automatic guidance based on your risk profile, as I did when working in the financial industry, chances are you'll either be retiring with less money in your nest egg or you'll be waiting longer to retire.

The other option includes evaluating your investment options, choosing low-cost index mutual funds, and doing more to take control of your retirement investments than just allowing your employer to automatically enroll you in something that benefits the financial industry more than it benefits yourself.

As I've seen in my own 401(k) plans, it can be hard to determine the true cost of your investments. My former company offered its employees a small-cap index fund, which seemed to be a good choice for balancing retirement funds between a variety of company sizes. Of course, what I should have done would be sticking to the low cost index fund that matches the S&P 500 or a similar index without concerning myself with company sizes, but I was strongly influenced by the company's own model portfolios used in its risk models.

I liked the idea of balancing my investments with a small-cap fund. What I didn't realize is that the account was actually an annuity - or a mutual fund that had some annuity features. The expense ratio, the typical measurement of a fund's management expenses, was listed as 0%, and I thought that was a great deal.

I should have known an expense ratio of 0% was too good to be true; there were expenses built into this fund that were not disclosed in the expense ratio.

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