Investors seem less worried than Congress when it comes to the opacity of management fees, according to Spectrem Group’s latest Retirement Market Insights report.

As of May, while 29% of advisors’ clients said fees were neither open nor transparent, 43% of clients said their advisor’s fee structure was very clear to them. The same number of clients say they don’t think Congress should meddle with the client-advisor relationship, while 33% felt otherwise. However, investors are split over whether legislation is needed to hold advisors to a fiduciary standard: 42% of investors support legislation that forces advisors to act in their best interests; 40% don’t.

In other findings, Spectrem found that just under one-fourth (24%) of people with defined-contribution pension plans also own 529 college savings plans. While the market has certainly taken its toll on those college savings, 80% of 529 plan participants saw their balances increase in the past year. While no one likes downside volatility, most investors (63%) say their advisor explained clearly that there are risks as well as rewards in 529 plans, although 13% of people feel otherwise. More than half of plan participants are satisfied with their 529 plan.

“The perception in the marketplace is that people don’t get good explanations, but investors themselves think they do, so that’s a positive,” says Cathy McBreen, managing director at Spectrem and author of the report. “There’s a little disagreement as to whether they truly understand, but at least they feel they do.”

The message for advisors, though, is not to drop the educational ball. “You have to keep educating clients about how things really work and where on the statement fees are disclosed so they truly understand,” McBreen says.


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