All in, 401(k) fees can range from 50 basis points up to 3 percent, said David Walters, a CPA and certified financial planner with Palisades Hudson Financial Group. Any plan charging more than 1 percent, Walters insisted, should be seen as suspect.
"Taken over an employee's lifetime, that can make a huge difference in what [workers] get to spend in retirement," Walters said.
According to a report from the liberal think tank Demos, a married heterosexual couple who have invested consistently during their careers and never made any withdrawals — what Demos calls "ideal" savers — would have given up $154,000 to fees. That's about 33 percent of the worth of their entire nest egg.