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There are innumerable ways to improve 401(k) participant fee disclosure. But, let’s be honest, what is the point of disclosing plan fees to employees? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you’re all going to say. You’re thinking: “Participant fee disclosure keeps the plan sponsor’s feet in the fire.” Sure, I’ll grant you that – but just a smidgen of a grant.

We all recognize most employees don’t have either the background or the experience in ERISA plan costs to understand what an appropriate fee might be. Some have suggested fee disclosure should include benchmarks so employees can tell if the fees their plan pays are in line with the broader industry. Understanding, however, goes beyond the mere measurement of dollars paid. What is the value derived from those dollars paid? A case can be made plan beneficiaries are better served when the plan pays higher fees. Remember the old adage: You get what you pay for.

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