The Missing Piece of Your 401(k) Pie

Congressman says Wall Street gets 28 percent of your retirement savings.

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Rep. George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, had a pie delivered to each Senator on the Finance Committee yesterday. Each apple and blueberry pie had a piece missing. In its place was a note reading, “Wall Street’s cut of your 401(k) pie.”

[See 5 Ways 401(k) Fee Disclosure Impacts Savers.]

A note accompanying the pies read, “The attached pie chart (which is delicious!) represents Americans’ 401(k) retirement savings. Yet, nearly a third of the pie is missing. This missing slice represents what Wall Street takes from many 401(k) account holders in hidden and excessive fees.”

The House of Representatives approved legislation requiring 401(k) fees to be disclosed in May. But Senate lawmakers dropped the 401(k) fee disclosure provisions of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act last week.

“28 percent of that pie will be gone because that represents what Wall Street is taking away from these American families,” said Miller in advance of the pie delivery. That percentage is from a Department of Labor estimate that a 1 percentage point difference in fees can reduce retirement income by up to 28 percent after a lifetime of saving.

[See The Future of 401(k) Fee Disclosure.]

Miller scooped out a slice of pie at a pre-delivery press conference and was joined by supporters from AARP, the Pension Rights Center, and the Center for American Progress in flinging pie-related puns. “We think that those who oppose our ideas have a lot of crust,” said Rep. Rob Andrews. “And their opposition is just another half-baked scheme by the Senate to subvert American workers.” Karen Friedman, director of the Pension Rights Center, said the Senate not including 401(k) fee disclosure in the jobs bill was equivalent to “giving Wall Street the pie and telling workers, ‘Let them eat cake.’”.

[See 7 Ways Money Leaks Out of Your 401(k).]

A Senate Finance Committee aide says Chairman Max Baucus agrees that better disclosure in 401(k) plans is needed, but prefers to give the Department of Labor time to develop meaningful regulations to increase transparency in 401(k) plans. The Department of Labor is expected to issue 401(k) fee disclosure regulations this month. AARP says the legislation would support the Department of Labor’s efforts and give them increased authority to protect employees and retirees in 401(k) plans.

The removed pie slices were served to media and staff. None of the Senate offices refused the pie delivery.