Last year's boom in stocks, combined with investors' growing awareness of the fees they pay, resulted in declines in the expense ratios of mutual funds – and, as a result, more money for retirement savers.

Bull markets benefit mutual fund investors for all of the obvious reasons. But rallies like last year's are even more profitable, thanks to "breakpoints" in fund management fees, which are triggered after a fund's assets grow beyond a set amount. Once thresholds are surpassed, as was the case in equity funds last year, managers charge less of a percentage on each dollar returned.

Fund tracker Morningstar reports that the average investor paid .71 percent in expenses on open-end mutual funds in 2013. That's down from .72 percent in 2012, .78 percent in 2010, and from .95 percent in 2000.

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