Fees might get all the headlines, but a recent survey ranks themlast when it comes to lack of retirement readiness. “401(K)/IRAHoldings in 2013: An Update from the SCF,” by Alicia Munnell, thedirector of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College,cites government data that identifies three factors more costlythan fees.

The report focuses on what it calls the “missing $273,000.” Thisrepresents the difference between what we should expect the average401(k) account balance to be and what it really is. Munnell brokedown the difference into four distinct components. While she doesmaintain “plan sponsors clearly have room for improvement in thearea of fees,” the data shows fees, based on the average mutualfund expense ratio, accounts for only $59,000 of the missing$273,000. Mind you, no one expects to get something for nothing, sosome amount of fees must exist. More importantly, for all the badpress (much of it well deserved), three elements—allunnecessary—produce significantly more damage to retirementreadiness than fees.

What Munnell calls “immature system” accounts for $65,000 of themissing $273,000. This phrase can best be described as people notbeginning to save at an early age. The “immature” part presumablyrefers to the early years of the 401(k) vehicle. Employees werejust getting their feet wet with the 401(k) concept and might havedelayed participating as a result.

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Christopher Carosa

Chris Carosa has been writing a weekly article and monthly column for BenefitsPRO online and BenefitsPRO Magazine since 2011 and is a nationally recognized award-winning writer, researcher and speaker. He’s written seven books, including From Cradle to Retire: The Child IRA; Hey! What’s My Number? – How to Increase the Odds You Will Retire in Comfort; A Pizza The Action: Everything I Ever Learned About Business I Learned By Working in a Pizza Stand at the Erie County Fair; and the widely acclaimed 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions. Carosa is also Chief Contributing Editor of the authoritative trade journal FiduciaryNews.com and publisher of the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, a weekly community newspaper he founded in 1989. Currently serving as President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and with more than 1,000 articles published in various publications, he appears regularly in the national media. A “parallel” entrepreneur, he actively runs a handful of businesses, including a small boutique investment adviser, providing hands-on experience for his writing. A trained astrophysicist, he also holds an MBA and has been designated a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. Share your thoughts and story ideas with him through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christophercarosa/)and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ChrisCarosa).