Putnam discloses 401(k) fee details to workers

AP News
Posted: Oct 13, 2010 11:07 AM
Putnam discloses 401(k) fee details to workers

Get ready to see some changes in your 401(k) account statements. Retirement plan providers are positioning themselves to be a step ahead of new government regulations that require them to spell out fees in detail beginning next summer.

Putnam Investments on Wednesday announced it would provide greater fee disclosure to workers who invest in 401(k) accounts it administers. Expense details for each mutual fund in their 401(k) plan, transaction fees, and service fees for features including managed accounts and online advice are included. The fee information will be available by accessing the user's account online.

The Putnam website also includes a video tutorial about retirement plan fees and some of the services provided. This will help investors understand what they're getting for their money, said Ed Murphy, who manages Putnam's 401(k) business.

"They will have all the information they need to determine what their cost might be, based on how they use the plan," he said.

This latest development is the next step to satisfy an overall call for greater disclosure. Boston-based Putnam first provided more detailed fee information to employers in May.

The Department of Labor will require all investment companies that sell or administer 401(k) plans to follow the same pattern. These companies will be required to provide enhanced fee disclosure to employers by July 16, 2011.

Labor officials also are preparing a separate set of regulations requiring fees to be plainly explained to workers investing in 401(k) accounts. An announcement is scheduled for Thursday. Those rules aren't expected to be implemented until 2012.

Murphy said Putnam has no assurances its program meets all the requirements the government will include in its rules, but the company has received feedback that its fee disclosures are a major step in the right direction.

The issue of fee transparency in the retirement industry has been discussed for years; however, Congress failed to pass laws requiring it. In 2007 the Labor Department, which has regulatory oversight over companies that offer 401(k) services, decided to move forward with its own rules.

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Additional disclosure is an important development for average investors because more than a half a dozen fees may be charged against a 401(k) account for recordkeeping, administration, investment advisory, brokerage and management services. In addition, at least eight kinds of indirect fees and expenses may be charged. These are often shaved off the top of the account's investment gains. They include administrative service fees and annual marketing and distribution fees known as 12b-1 fees.

The Department of Labor has said a one-percentage point difference in fees would reduce overall retirement income by 28 percent over a lifetime of saving.