Wall Street Fees Draining Retirement Savings Of American Families: Frontline

Wall Street has made it far more likely that you will spend at least some of your golden years eating Fancy Feast.

A new Frontline documentary, "The Retirement Gamble," which first aired Tuesday night and is now available online, highlights how Wall Street is stripping our already dwindling retirement funds clean with fees and bad performance. It's something that we just let happen because we usually don't know any better, and the legwork of figuring out our fees and investments is hard, because the industry has made it that way. We often don't realize that we would be far better off simply putting our money into low-cost index funds and forgetting about it.

The documentary spends a lot of time on a 2012 research paper by Robert Hiltonsmith of the think tank Demos, which found that a median-income, two-earner family will pay a staggering $155,000, all told, in 401(k) fees. That cash represents about 30 percent of the total retirement savings this hypothetical family would have had, if it had paid no fees.

"Asking struggling American households to pay these prices to save for retirement is more than patently unfair, it’s immoral," Hilsonsmith wrote in the report.