Many Americans just aren’t prepared for retirement. Two-thirds of families fall short of conservative retirement savings targets to retire at age 67, according to a 2015 study by the National Institute on Retirement Security.
The median retirement account balance — including money in a 401(k) retirement account — is $2,500 for working-age households, and $14,500 for near-retirement households, the study found.
Even for workers who contribute to their employer’s 401(k) plan, they may not be saving enough money to get them to the often recommended retirement income goal of having 70 – 80 percent of their pre-retirement income, or they may be in a 401(k) that isn’t doing a good job of making money for them.
Here are some signs that you may be in a lousy 401(k) retirement plan:
Low results: Poor performance is an easy indicator to spot, and it doesn’t mean you have to stay with that 401(k). Moving to another retirement plan may be as easy as setting up a rollover account at a different financial institution. But be careful. If the funds are tied up in an annuity plan, there may be a penalty for withdrawals made during the first five years of the plan’s formation.
Hidden fees: Along with poor investments, the performance of a 401(k) can be dragged down by hidden fees such as administrative charges and index funds with high expense ratios.
Company stock diving: If your retirement plan is with a former employer and contains company stock that isn’t performing well, you may also want to change plans. Keep in mind that it’s not a good idea to have too much company stock in your retirement plan.
Lawsuits: If there are class-action lawsuits against your retirement plan sponsor, that can be a sign to leave, or stay and hope participants win the lawsuit. Every 401(k) plan must have a named fiduciary or a responsible fiduciary, and often, the plan sponsor is listed. They have the fiduciary duty to pick investments that are in the best interest of plan participants, otherwise, they open themselves to a lot of risk.
Plan participants can sue their employer if they think the fiduciary duties weren’t carried out properly, or if participants aren’t being compensated reasonably.
What to do? You can contribute more money to your spouse’s retirement plan if it’s a better one, or move your retirement plan from your employer to a Roth IRA. Or, stick with your 401(k) and ask your advisor to move your investments within the current plan, if there are good options available. At the minimum, get the company match if it’s available, then invest elsewhere.