Chris Arnold

Each year Americans pay billions of dollars in fees when they roll over their retirement accounts — and those fees can be hard to see.

Elizabeth Merry, 49, a marketing manager at a technology company, has saved up $150,000 in a 401(k) there. At the end of the year, though, she's leaving her job, and so she was thinking about rolling over that money into an IRA with the help of her financial adviser with Ameriprise Financial. She pays him $1,000 a year to manage her money.

Many Americans feel they can't save any money for the future. Yet if an employer automatically enrolls workers in a 401(k) plan and matches some of their contributions, 90 percent of people stick with it and save and invest for retirement.

Now, what if your employer doesn't do that for you? What can you do? People in NPR's new Your Money and Your Life Facebook group wanted to know.

Many American parents face a tug of war over trying to save enough for retirement and saving for college.

Some, like Lisa Carey, a 44-year-old high school history teacher in Tampa, Fla., and her husband, Peter, a minister, haven't yet started saving for their three kids' college education. (Carey joined NPR's Your Money and Your Life Facebook group. If you're on Facebook, you can join the group, too.)

Are the mutual funds you invest in efficient wealth generators or overpriced losers sucking money out of your retirement account with fees? It turns out most Americans don't know.

We asked the members of NPR's Your Money and Your Life Facebook group, and most respondents said they had "no idea" if the investments in their 401(k)s or IRAs were "good, bad or ugly." That holds true with broader surveys as well.

At an outdoor market in London, Garfield Bloomfield, 30, who sells vegetables, offers an amused smile when asked if he's saving for retirement yet.

"My wife is not working at the moment because she decided to go back into studies ... and I got kids to take care of," he says. "I would like to save for the future, obviously, but at the moment I'm just working to get by, really."

Jack Bogle is leading a populist revolution on Wall Street.

The longtime investment guru, who 40 years ago founded the investment company the Vanguard Group, wants everyday Americans to make a lot more money in the stock market — and give less of their returns away to financial firms.

And the surprising thing about his revolution? He's winning.

Americans collectively are losing billions of dollars a year out of their retirement accounts because they're paying excessive fees, according to researchers studying thousands of employer-sponsored retirement plans across the country.

The rearchers say part of the trouble is that many employers that offer 401(k) plans to their workers are outgunned by financial firms that sell them bad plans loaded with hefty fees. That's especially true, they say, for small and midsize employers that don't have much financial expertise in-house.

How do some of the most respected investors on the planet think Americans should be investing their money? NPR talked to three about what a retirement portfolio should look like.

  • David Swensen has made an average return of 13.9 percent a year over the last 20 years for Yale, adding $20.6 billion to the university's endowment. That gives him the best track record of any institutional investor around. "Low costs and diversification serve investors well," he says.

New federal rules could be in the works to make it easier once again for Americans to seek relief through class action lawsuits. That's the latest word out just this morning from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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Boeing is moving to settle a lawsuit accusing it of mishandling its 401(k) plan for thousands of workers. The case is part of a legal assault by a consumer rights attorney to stop companies from offering employees high-cost, bad retirement plans.

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Tractor-trailers have 18 wheels. But under current federal law, you can't be 18 years old and drive one across state lines. You have to be 21. The highway bill working its way through the Senate, though, would change that.

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The Greek word for no is oxi, and across Athens and the Greek Islands on Sunday, it was everywhere: on posters, spray-painted on walls and old cars.

And it was also on ballots: Greek voters voted oxi Sunday in a historic referendum over the country's economic future.

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At the end of World War II with the continent in ruins, Winston Churchill famously proclaimed, "We must build a United States of Europe." He believed such a union would bring an end to centuries of European wars.

For 70 years Europe has been engaged in a political and economic quest to make that happen. But many in Greece, such as Athens cabdriver Jordan Repanidis, feel this historic reshaping of the Western world has a stranglehold on their country.

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There's a serious problem in the American economy: Big corporations are doing well, but real household income for average Americans has been falling over the past decade — down 9 percent, according to census data.

"That's not good for America," says Harvard economist Michael Porter. "That's not good for America's standard of living. That's not good for our ultimate vitality as a nation."

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Oil prices hit a new high for the year Wednesday — closing at just under $61 a barrel. They've been rallying for a month, but nobody's predicting $4-per-gallon gasoline anytime soon. And some analysts say weak demand will send oil prices down again.

The recent rise follows an historic drop in prices, which were as low as about $45 a barrel less than two months ago.

So to understand what's going on now, let's look at what sent prices tumbling in the first place

When it closed at 5,056.06 on Thursday, the Nasdaq Composite Index hit a new high — surpassing the old record close of 5,048.62, reached March 10, 2000, during the dot-com craze.

That also makes it 15 years since that infamous tech bubble burst, sending the index down more than 75 percent by the time it hit bottom.

Saving enough money to retire can be tough. But it's next to impossible if a financial adviser is steering the client into bad investments — and getting big commissions in return. And according to the Obama administration, that's exactly what too many advisers have been doing.

Millions of Americans trying to save for retirement have ended up with investments where high fees cripple their returns over time. U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez says much of that is due to bad advice.

The sprawling conglomerate General Electric is radically paring down its business, ditching most finance and real estate operations. GE was badly burned by the financial crisis, and the plan announced Friday would protect it from the risks associated with banking.

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