If you're starting to get the nagging feeling you should pay more attention to your 401(k) plan, do.
In the past five years, worries about Americans' preparation for retirement have resulted in more people looking critically at the plans that have become the bulwark of American's retirement system. There have been headlines, as employees have sued their companies over which mutual funds are included in the plans, and more disclosure, as the Labor Department tries to use sunshine to shrink the sometimes-high fees.
About 61 million people participate in the almost 514,000 401(k)-type plans, according to the department. There's now close to $4 trillion in 401(k) plans specifically, according to recent Investment Company Institute data. Yet all participation isn't created equal.
"401(k)s are a real bear trap for millions of Americans," said Charley Ellis, consultant to large institutional investors and governments and a former chairman of Yale University's investment committee. Participating in a 401(k) may lull people into a false sense of security—once they start contributing, they think they've got it covered. Yet some plans offer very little support to help people decide how much they need to save, or what their goals are. "Rather than continuing to invest, people look at the money they've got and think, 'It's got to be enough,'" Ellis added.
(Read more: The most widely held stock in 401(k) plans is ...)
A small percentage of plans are actually fraudulent. The Department of Labor offers a list of 10 signs of 401(k) misuse. But most Americans probably should worry more about whether their plans are mediocre—in terms of the support offered, the investment choices and the fees. Here are six signs that that you should not sit back and be satisfied with what your company is offering as a retirement plan.