NEW YORK (TheStreet) --Hidden fees are a major problem for retirement savers. Unfortunately, the move toward increased disclosure has not solved it, said Tony Robbins, author of Money: Master the Game.
"For 30 years, the industry did not even have to tell you what they were charging you," said Robbins. "Three years ago the law changed, and now, you get a 35 to 50 page disclosure document that somebody who is sophisticated can't read!"
Robbins stressed the simple truth that the more you pay in fees, the less money you have for retirement. And apparently small differences in fee percentage can have a major impact on your bottom line: Cutting fees by just 1%, he notes, can make your money last 10 additional years in retirement. According to Robbins, hidden fees and backdoor payments are costing Americans about $17 billion a year and can reduce an investor's overall nest egg by as much as 40% to 60%.
Robbins said he wrote Money: Master the Game because he believes that most 401(k) participants are in the dark about their retirement plans, and the people who run the financial system want to ensure it stays that way. He said the 401(k) industry has been around for more than three decades, but it wasn't until 2012 that these service providers had to disclose their fees.
Furthermore, he cited a study that said 67% of people enrolled in 401(k)s think they pay no fees at all, when that is not in fact true. While looking for an alternative, he found America's Best 401(k), a firm which offers discount fees, low-cost funds, and protection for business owners who are held to this standard. He later became an investor in the asset-management company.
Robbins does not give advice as to how retirement savers should diversify their assets. He does, however, advocate index funds as opposed to actively-managed offerings unless the fund manager has a superstar track record. In such cases, he said investors who can afford to pay those rock star fees should consider doing so.
"If you have access then that is wonderful," said Robbins. "But if not, you are going to have to get a fiduciary that helps you put together a nice diversification of those assets, but doing the assets that have the greatest performance over time with the least amount of fees."