Underlying investment fees dropped but the average overall costs for small 401(k) plans remained flat over the past year, according to the latest edition of the "401k Averages Book."

For the average small retirement plan, with 50 participants and assets of $2.5 million, costs came in at 1.44 percent.

The costs for eight of the nine asset classes tracked by the publishers of the book fell on a year-over-year basis. But increasing exposure to investments with higher costs, such as U.S. equities, target-date funds and international investments, resulted in plan costs that stayed flat or climbed a single basis point.

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