I love my BigMegaCorp employer's 401k plan, where I invest in Vanguard Institutional
Index funds with expense ratios of 0.05% and 0.06%. My overall 401k/IRA/taxable portfolio's average expense ratio is 0.13% according to Morningstar's portfolio X-ray tools.
Just before the crash last fall, my wife decided to follow her heart, and went to work for the local Humane Society. They have a "grandfathered 401k" plan offered through an insurance company. The good news is they offer a 3% match, she can contribute up to 100% of salary subject only to the federal annual limit, and she has now been there long enough to participate.
The bad news is the insurance company charges a 1.25% variable annuity wrap fee on all the fund options, and the funds are all managed funds with 12b-1 fees. Once you add it all up the expense ratios range from a low of 2.01% on a high-yield bond fund, to 3.47% on a managed mid-cap fund. The problem seems to be the Humane Society only has about 9 employees who qualify for the 401k, and my wife doubts all of them even participate. The Humane Society wants to minimize its expenses, so the employees end up with a high fee plan.
I will certainly have her contribute 3% to capture the match. Before I knew the expense ratios, I planned to have her contribute to the federal limit. Eventually, once she retires in 1,2,5,10,20,30... years, I expected to roll the 401k into a Vanguard IRA, and slowly convert the IRA to a Roth IRA.
Now that I've seen those expense ratios I'm torn between wanting to stuff as much money as possible into a Roth, despite the high fees on the 401k conduit we'll have to use to get there, and total disgust at the fees.
There is also an automatic investment issue. Our cash flow has declined because of her job change. If we max out her 401k it will be even more pinched. While not entirely pleasant, that will probably push us towards greater frugality.
We already max out our non-deductible IRA accounts with Vanguard and my 401k. The majority of our assets are in taxable accounts. Neither I nor my wife expect any pension or health-care benefits when we eventually FIRE.
Any suggestions, or forumulas
I can use to decide how much she should contribute?
Thanks in advance.