In 2014, Tony Robbins was writing his bestselling book Money: Master The Game and interviewed over 50 of the world's most brilliant financial minds. When he sat down with 401(k) expert Tom Zgainer, he explored this epidemic of insanely high fees that were impacting millions of Americans.
Zgainer told Robbins that, "The 401(k) business is the largest dark pool of assets where nobody really knows how or whose hands are getting greased." That's because it wasn't until 2012 that providers where even required to disclose their fees, and, to this day, they are buried in the disclosure documents. "Disclosure documents are 30 to 50 pages in length and opaque at best," says Tom Zgainer. "In fact, most business owners we talk to have never even seen them before."
Tony Robbins Saves His Employees $5 million
Working with Zgainer's company, America's Best 401k, Tony Robbins was able to save about 70% in annual expenses by eliminating expense funds and unnecessary middlemen. He estimates he was able to save his employees over $5 million that would have overwise gone to fees - and there was no additional cost to switch. Tony Robbins has since joined forces with Tom Zgainer as a board member and investor to lend his voice to this cause and get business owners and participants alike to pay attention.
"A higher-income worker, making approximately $90,000 per year, will lose upward of $277,000 in fees in his/her lifetime," Tony Robbins explains. "Today, there is over $13 trillion in actively managed mutual funds, much of which is held in retirement accounts such as a 401(k) and an IRA. They were supposed to beat the market. But not only do they rarely beat the market, a significant majority are charging astronomical fees for their mediocrity. The aggregate of these fees will ultimately cost tens of millions of people their quality of life and could very well be the number one danger and destroyer of your financial freedom."
Bringing Transparency to 401(k) Fees
America's Best 401k, is working hard to pull back the curtain on what has been an incredibly lucrative space--often at the expense of the 90 million Americans who participate in 401(k) plans. The fees in retirement plans, especially those for small to midsize businesses, are not only substantial but often cleverly disguised or even hidden. An AARP study showed that 71% of Americans (incorrectly) assume they pay no fees whatsoever.
Taking on a $5 trillion industry takes some intestinal fortitude, but Tom Zgainer pulls no punches in telling people how badly they are being ripped off and that they don't need to settle for the old-school 401(k) model, which is riddled with conflicts of interest and unnecessary middlemen.
Calculating the Losses
In 2015, the White House and Department of Labor estimated that Americans lose $17 billion in hidden fees each year. "That doesn't include the excessive fees that are hidden in plain sight!" exclaimed Tom Zgainer. The Department of Labor is now delaying implementation of new rules to protect investors due to immense pressure from the financial services lobby. In a twist of irony, many providers have been sued by their own employees, mainly for "self-dealing" their own funds and profiting off of their corporate retirement plans.
Insult to Injury: Your Employees Could Sue You
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, American Airlines, and Caterpillar have all been smeared in the headlines due to 401(k) lawsuits, and many more suits have ended in significant settlements. And although big companies are easy targets, small businesses are not immune to liability. It might not be an employee-led lawsuit, but it could very well be a Department of Labor audit, since audit rates are on the rise and the average fine for a non-compliant plan is over $600,000.
Here's What You Can Do To Protect Yourself, Your Company & Employees
Getting business owners to pay attention is always difficult. As Tom Zgainer explained to Jeff Barrett in a related article, Have a Plan for When You Succeed, Not For When You Fail:
"The reality is that business owners are busy trying to run their business. Most have absolutely no idea that they are legally on the hook to make sure the plan is set up for the sole benefit of their employees. A big part is the responsibility to make sure the fees are reasonable, and minimized, when possible. But don't think that your broker is going to call you up and tell you that you should reduce your fees."
Tony Robbins' latest book, "UNSHAKEABLE: Your Financial Freedom Playbook," mentions America's Best 401k and drives business owners to ShowMeTheFees.com, a website that provides a free snapshot of every 401(k) plan in the country and the steps needed to fix any issues.
And, according to UNSHAKEABLE, as of 2012 business owners are legally required to have your plan "benchmarked" periodically against other plans. America's Best 401(k) will not only provide you with a free fee analysis but also provide this complimentary benchmark.