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What the new 401(k) rules mean for you

Wednesday, 8 Feb 2012 | 6:21 AM ET

New 401(k) options and disclosures on related fees are designed to give workers and retirees more control over their retirement savings.

Many 401(k) plans have poor investment choices and very high fees, but new rules from the Department of Labor will now require disclosure of 401(k) fees.

“This will be a very positive thing for consumers,” says Tim Harrington, CEO of FiPath, an independent financial planning site. “When you have this kind of transparency in fees, the transparency will lead to more competitive pricing. The end result will be lower fees that will be passed along to the consumer.”

Full disclosure on 401(k) fees won’t happen immediately. Service providers can wait until July 1 to tell employers the costs of their 401(k) plans. Participants have to wait another few months until they receive their 401(k) statement for the third quarter to see a full comparison of investment and plan fees.

What New 401k Rules Mean for You
New 401K options and greater transparency over fees are designed to give workers and retirees more control over their retirement savings, with CNBC's Sharon Epperson.

But workers and retirees can get a free report now on the fees in many 401(k) plans at Brightscope.com, a leading independent provider of retirement plan ratings and analysis.

Why do you need to know these costs? Well, an extra 0.5 percent in an annual fee can slash your 401(k) savings at retirement by 10 percent, according some estimates.

Other important 401(k) rules from the Treasury Department may have an even greater impact on retirement savings down the road, since they aim to help retirees keep a secure income stream for life.

The new proposals would allow workers to convert a portion of their 401(k) savings into an annuity and also allows for the creation of a “longevity annuity” for retirement savings. With a “longevity annuity,” also known as “deferred fixed annuity,” retirees can take part of a lump sum distribution at age 65 and defer it for 20 years. “That would save them an enormous amount of money,” Harrington says.

How much could you save with this type of annuity? The White House Council for Economic Advisers estimates a $20,000 annuity would cost a 65 year old more than $277,000 if it pays out immediately. If the payouts are delayed until age 85, however, that 65 year old would pay a little over $35,000 for that annuity.

Being able to convert a portion of a 401(k) into an annuity in this way could help prevent many retirees from outliving their savings.

Follow Sharon on Twitter: @sharon_epperson

Featured

  • Patti Domm

    Patti Domm is CNBC Executive Editor, News, responsible for news coverage of the markets and economy.

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

  • Sharon Epperson is CNBC's senior commodities and personal finance correspondent.

  • JeeYeon Park is a writer for CNBC.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC

  • Rick Santelli joined CNBC Business News as an on-air editor in 1999, reporting live from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.

  • Senior Producer at CNBC's Breaking News Desk.

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