The cost of offering and participating in a 401(k) plan continued on a downward trajectory, according to analysis of the most available Form 5500 data by the Investment Company Institute and BrightScope.

For all plan sizes, total plan costs averaged 89 basis points in 2013, down from 102 basis points in 2009.

Of course, larger plans experienced significantly lower costs than the average for all plans.

Plans with more than $1 billion in assets paid 31 basis points on average; plans with $100 million to $250 million paid 54 basis points; smaller plans, with $1 million to $10 million in assets, paid 108 basis points, or 1.08% of all plan assets.

At the end of the second quarter of 2015, 401(k)s held $4.7 trillion in assets, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all retirement assets, according to the study.

In 2013, Form 5500 filings with the Department of Labor showed there were 525,954 total plans.

The majority of those — 302,492, or 57.5% — held less than $1 million in assets. Plans with $10 million or less in assets accounted for nearly 94.5% of all plans.

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Nick Thornton

Nick Thornton is a financial writer covering retirement and health care issues for BenefitsPRO and ALM Media. He greatly enjoys learning from the vast minds in the legal, academic, advisory and money management communities when covering the retirement space. He's also written on international marketing trends, financial institution risk management, defense and energy issues, the restaurant industry in New York City, surfing, cigars, rum, travel, and fishing. When not writing, he's pushing into some land or water.

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