Skip to main content

Private Pensions: Information That Sponsors and Participants Need to Understand 401(k) Plan Fees

GAO-08-222T Published: Oct 30, 2007. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 2007.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights


Employers are increasingly moving away from traditional pension plans to what has become the most dominant and fastest growing type of plan, the 401(k). For 401(k) plan sponsors, understanding the fees being charged helps fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of plan participants. Participants should consider fees as well as the historical performance and investment risk for each plan option when investing in a 401(k) plan because fees can significantly decrease retirement savings over the course of a career. GAO's prior work found that information on 401(k) fees is limited. GAO previously made recommendations to both Congress and the Department of Labor (Labor) on ways to improve the disclosure of fee information to plan participants and sponsors and reporting of fee information by sponsors to Labor. Both Labor and Congress now have efforts under way to ensure that both participants and sponsors receive the necessary fee information to make informed decisions. These efforts on the subject have generated significant debate. This testimony provides information on 401(k) plan fees that (1) sponsors need to carry out their responsibilities to the plan and (2) plan participants need to make informed investment decisions. To complete this statement, GAO relied on previous work and additional information from Labor and industry professionals regarding information about plan fees.

Full Report

GAO Contacts

Office of Public Affairs


FeesGovernment information disseminationInformation disclosureInformation managementInvestment planningPension plan cost controlPensionsRetirement income401(k) plans401(k) plans