The expenses that 401(k) plan participants incurred for investing in long-term mutual funds — which include equity, bond and hybrid funds — declined in 2012, consistent with the downward trend of the past decade and a half, according to a just-released report by the Investment Company Institute.

The report, The Economics of Providing 401(k) Plans: Services, Fees, and Expenses, 2012, found that plan participants holding mutual funds tend to invest in lower-cost funds. In 2012, the average expense ratio on equity funds offered for sale in the United States was 1.4 percent.

401(k) plan participants who invested in equity mutual funds paid less than half that amount, 0.63 percent, the study found. Expenses paid by 401(k) investors were also lower than the asset-weighted average expenses for all equity fund investors (0.77 percent).

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Melanie Waddell

Melanie is senior editor and Washington bureau chief of ThinkAdvisor. Her ThinkAdvisor coverage zeros in on how politics, policy, legislation and regulations affect the investment advisory space. Melanie’s coverage has been cited in various lawmakers’ reports, letters and bills, and in the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule in 2024. In 2019, Melanie received an Honorable Mention, Range of Work by a Single Author award from @Folio. Melanie joined Investment Advisor magazine as New York bureau chief in 2000. She has been a columnist since 2002. She started her career in Washington in 1994, covering financial issues at American Banker. Since 1997, Melanie has been covering investment-related issues, holding senior editorial positions at American Banker publications in both Washington and New York. Briefly, she was content chief for Internet Capital Group’s EFinancialWorld in New York and wrote freelance articles for Institutional Investor. Melanie holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Towson University. She interned at The Baltimore Sun and its suburban edition.