Author Topic: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?  (Read 6652 times)

WorkingToBeFIREd

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Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« on: June 19, 2014, 08:21:13 AM »
After finally hearing The Call of the Mustache, I'm turning over all rocks looking for ways to drop costs in hopes of FIRE.  After reading some 401k posts, I checked the funds in mine (allocated years ago and not really touched since) and was more than a little concerned about the ER on the funds I'm in.  There's not really any huge winners on ER (especially when compared to Vanguard), but I seem to have done a fine job of picking the most expensive ones (facepunch).  I've broken out the total percentage of the 401k to show how it's allocated, and the 401k plan is adminstered by ADP...this appears to be all the options available to me.

Since I am definitely a "set and forget" investor, I was eyeing up the SSgA Index fund - lower expenses, and about the expected rate of return for a fund that tracks the S&P.  That said, in a sheer case of utter luck, a number of the funds I'm in seem to be performing quite a bit better despite having higher expenses.  Is it worthwhile to reallocate for lower expenses if the return is lower, or do I stick with where I'm at?  I haven't been displeased with the growth (and I do max contributions every year), but would like to make sure I'm keeping the dollars at work for me versus paying fund managers.

Any insight from smarter Mustachians than myself would be appreciated.  Thanks!

SymbolInvestment Name% of AssetsRtn Since InceptionExpenses
SSGXXSSgA Cash Series U.S. Government Fund - Class L0.00%0.00%0.00%
PTTAXPIMCO Total Return Fund - Class A0.00%6.42%0.85%
ACCAXAmerican Century Strategic Allocation: Conservative Fund - Class A0.00%6.01%1.25%
ACOAXAmerican Century Strategic Allocation: Moderate Fund - Class A0.00%7.01%1.32%
ACVAXAmerican Century Strategic Allocation: Aggressive Fund - Class A17.64%7.44%1.45%
JABRXJanus Balanced Fund - Class S18.79%12.06%1.08%
SVSPXSSgA S&P 500 Index Securities Lending Series Fund - Class IX0.00%7.39%0.71%
JARTXJanus Forty Fund - Class S18.89%10.52%0.96%
ARGFXAriel Fund3.45%11.69%1.03%
ALMRXAlger Mid Cap Growth Institutional Fund - Class I18.18%12.40%1.29%
PASSXT. Rowe Price Small-Cap Stock Fund - Advisor Class3.13%9.65%1.15%
ALTFXAllianceBernstein Global Thematic Growth Fund - Class A2.00%11.61%1.50%
OPPAXOppenheimer Global Fund - Class A17.9411.69%1.14%

MDM

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2014, 08:41:20 AM »
Careful about "since inception" returns, as they can depend heavily on when "inception" occurred.

E.g., see http://quotes.morningstar.com/fund/ALMRX/f?t=ALMRX for a comparison over various time frames.

You could talk with your company about getting better (i.e., lower fee) options for the entire 401k plan.  As for which specific funds among current options - your guess is as good as mine.


GregO

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2014, 01:17:03 PM »
Well first for the good news.  You are right, SVSPX is a great choice.  And the even better news is that it's expense ratio is 0.17%: which is even better than you listed.  That's where the bulk of your money should go.

The bad news - I looked at the fees for all your funds, especially the front-end loads.  PPTAX, ACCAX, ACOAX, ACVAX, ALTFX, and OPPAX all have front end loads of 3-6%.  That means that for every $100 you invest, they take $3-6 right off the top and invest the remainder.  I would avoid investing in those, that's just highway robbery.

Now there's a lot of questions you have to ask about what you want to invest, the basic being what you want your asset allocation to be.  But assuming you're a long ways from retirement and want to go 100% stocks, here's how I would allocate it:

SVSPX: 55% Large Cap
ARGFX: 15% Mid Cap
PASSX: 15% Small Cap
OPPAX: 15% Int'l     <---Only existing investment, don't add to it

You are missing a good international fund to invest in, since both of the Int'l funds carry large front-end fees.  But since you have already paid those fees for the money you currently have invested in them, I'd leave it invested there.  As you add new money to your 401k, I would invest it 60%/20%/20% in the three funds I listed and let your international exposure slowly dwindle.  It's not worth losing 5% off of the top to get more international exposure. 

There's arguments to be made to tweak those allocations a lot of different ways.  If anything, others would probably suggest you invest more in the S&P 500 fund.  I wouldn't argue with anyone that wanted to go up to 70% or so of their money in SVSPX.  I'm sure there's some people on here who would go close to 100% in it, but I would suggest having more diversity and getting some exposure to small and medium size companies.  Lastly, you are currently invested in JABRX, which invests 40% in bonds.  If you wanted to have bond exposure, you could do it there or in the money you have invested in PPTAX, which is 100% bonds.

WorkingToBeFIREd

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2014, 01:42:01 PM »
Thanks MDM - great callout on the "since inception".  I think at least a few didn't have history up to 10 years, but I should probably look at the 1, 5, and 10 year returns just to get a sense of performance.

GregO, thanks very much for the insight.  I should've put a question mark next to SVSPX - although that appears to be the symbol, perhaps ADP has a different share?  The ER on ADP's website, as well as the link to more info on Morningstar from ADP's website, both show 0.71%.  Still better than the rest, but not as ideal as I'd like.  The link I have is:

http://profile.morningstar.com/Profile/HTMLPage.asp?ClientCode=ADP&ID=SPUSA05CT0

Not sure why it doesn't show the actual symbol, so SVSPX may not be correct.

I was thinking along the same lines - I've already paid the load, I might as well just leave the money in those specific funds and retarget new money to a new allocation.  The only variable I wasn't sure on was the fee savings...based on some of the allocations and a roughly 0.7 point spread between SSgA and the higher ER funds, it might be around $500/year difference.

Anyway, I will plan on repointing new money going forward.  I've also got a cash position that I'm moving to Vanguard next week into a "Core Four"-esque portfolio, which feels like a good mix for me.  For reference, I'm 41 and my wife is 39...we've got a minimum of 4 years left till her pension is locked in (at the most minimum level, but still something) and although we could technically do more years, both of us would ideally love to FIRE in the not too distant future, or at least move to "second act" careers with much lower stress.

Thank you!

GregO

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2014, 02:12:43 PM »
I was thinking along the same lines - I've already paid the load, I might as well just leave the money in those specific funds and retarget new money to a new allocation.  The only variable I wasn't sure on was the fee savings...based on some of the allocations and a roughly 0.7 point spread between SSgA and the higher ER funds, it might be around $500/year difference.
I was only advocating leaving money in the international fund.  You need to compare the performance of the funds in similar categories before you decide if you will leave the money in the fund.  It's not just the ER that you should look at, you can lose a lot more money by owning a sub-par fund.  For example, ACVAX and JARTX are both classified as Large-Cap funds, but they both have under-performed compared to SVSPX (and it appears that you have access to a different class of the fund than SVSPX, but I'm not sure I understand what it going on there).  So I wouldn't invest in funds just because you're money is there.  I only suggested you leave money in that fund so you still had international exposure.

I've also got a cash position that I'm moving to Vanguard next week into a "Core Four"-esque portfolio, which feels like a good mix for me.
If you have money outside of your 401k that you are investing, I would suggest you determine the asset allocation you want across all of your investments and then focus your money in the 401k on your best choices.  That probably means you should invest primarily in SVSPX in your 401k and invest in International and Small Cap funds in your Vanguard fund.  It's a little more complex, but would be a better option.

electriceagle

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2014, 07:13:57 PM »
I, too have crappy options in my 401k.

My approach has been to allocate to low cost funds in my 401k first, and then use my more flexible non-401k money to fill in the blanks. If you have good expense ratios in your S&P fund, you can buy the S&P in the 401k and everything else in accounts that allow you to choose whatever funds are best.

surfhb

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2014, 08:23:43 PM »
Well first for the good news.  You are right, SVSPX is a great choice.  And the even better news is that it's expense ratio is 0.17%: which is even better than you listed.  That's where the bulk of your money should go.

The bad news - I looked at the fees for all your funds, especially the front-end loads.  PPTAX, ACCAX, ACOAX, ACVAX, ALTFX, and OPPAX all have front end loads of 3-6%.  That means that for every $100 you invest, they take $3-6 right off the top and invest the remainder.  I would avoid investing in those, that's just highway robbery.

Now there's a lot of questions you have to ask about what you want to invest, the basic being what you want your asset allocation to be.  But assuming you're a long ways from retirement and want to go 100% stocks, here's how I would allocate it:

SVSPX: 55% Large Cap
ARGFX: 15% Mid Cap
PASSX: 15% Small Cap
OPPAX: 15% Int'l     <---Only existing investment, don't add to it

You are missing a good international fund to invest in, since both of the Int'l funds carry large front-end fees.  But since you have already paid those fees for the money you currently have invested in them, I'd leave it invested there.  As you add new money to your 401k, I would invest it 60%/20%/20% in the three funds I listed and let your international exposure slowly dwindle.  It's not worth losing 5% off of the top to get more international exposure. 

There's arguments to be made to tweak those allocations a lot of different ways.  If anything, others would probably suggest you invest more in the S&P 500 fund.  I wouldn't argue with anyone that wanted to go up to 70% or so of their money in SVSPX.  I'm sure there's some people on here who would go close to 100% in it, but I would suggest having more diversity and getting some exposure to small and medium size companies.  Lastly, you are currently invested in JABRX, which invests 40% in bonds.  If you wanted to have bond exposure, you could do it there or in the money you have invested in PPTAX, which is 100% bonds.

Maybe Im missing a piece of the puzzle but why would you suggest those funds?    Except for the S&P index, they're all super high Expense Ratios.   

I was going to ask the OP how much he made and if he could ditch the tax advantages of this crap 401K.     I wouldn't touch a thing in that expect maybe the S&P or perhaps PIMCO.   All those fees are embarrassing.   Jeez Louise!
« Last Edit: June 19, 2014, 08:31:16 PM by surfhb »

WorkingToBeFIREd

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2014, 07:35:21 AM »
All, thanks for the feedback.  I've been blindly socking away the max in the 401k for years, but facepunches for not examining the ER more closely.  Ah well, better to find it and fix it than continue with my sheep-like ignorance!

@surfhb - My total income at my employer is weighted about 65% fixed / 35% variable and totals about $225K at 100% performance.  Although I contribute the max, each year my company returns contributions at the end of the year because not enough employees participate in the plan.  Previously, I just had to pay tax on the funds and suck it up (usually about $5-7K).  This year, although still taxed, I was able to contribute the amount into a self-employed 401k for a side business to be able to max out my personal 401k contribution of $17,500.  The side business also made a contribution to the plan of approximately $10K to help lower the net income of the business for the year.  I think the tax deferral of the 401k helps at tax time (despite me still paying a veritable mountain of tax this year), as we don't really have any other deductions - no kids, no mortgage interest, etc.

Thanks again!

GregO

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2014, 10:38:24 AM »
Maybe Im missing a piece of the puzzle but why would you suggest those funds?    Except for the S&P index, they're all super high Expense Ratios.   

I was going to ask the OP how much he made and if he could ditch the tax advantages of this crap 401K.     I wouldn't touch a thing in that expect maybe the S&P or perhaps PIMCO.   All those fees are embarrassing.   Jeez Louise!

I suggested those funds based upon what they invest in and their past performance.  Even though they have high expense ratios,  it's important to be well diversified with your investments.  So I picked the best choice for a fund that invests in large companies, mid, small, and international.  I tried to avoid the funds that had front-end loads, but all the expense ratios are similar for the remainder of the funds so you just have to choose the best available.  And we all agree the S&P is the best choice and your Large Company exposure should be the highest, so it should naturally be heavily over-weighted.

As for not contributing to his 401k, that's really probably penny-wise, pound-foolish.  The OP is saving 25%+ on that money in taxes, so even if he has to pay high fees he's still saving money.  And he only has to leave the money in the 401k as long as he's at that job.  When he leaves the company, he can roll it over to a Traditional IRA and invest it in whatever he wants.

GregO

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2014, 10:47:33 AM »
I wouldn't touch a thing in that expect maybe the S&P or perhaps PIMCO.   All those fees are embarrassing.   Jeez Louise!

That PIMCO fund has a lower ER, but has a 3.75% front-end load.  It takes a long time to make back your money paying a front-end load over a higher ER.  Unfortunately, things aren't as simple as just picking the funds with the lowest ERs...

WorkingToBeFIREd

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2014, 02:14:24 PM »
Wow....after updating the table with all the details, the fund situation looks even worse!  It may be worth having a discussion with my benefits folks to see if there are any other options to improve the plan, as this is pretty sad.  Granted, after paying in over the last 15+ years, I've helped defer taxes and socked away a nice stash, but I shudder to think how much healthier it would be if I wasn't writing off such a huge chunk up front and in expenses.

I used the F/E load from Morningstar which I'm assuming is correct, although like the SVSPX different class of shares, perhaps it's different.  Either way, I think I need to cease and desist on funds charging betweeb 4.25% - 5.75% front-end load and 1.1% - 1.5% in annual fees and reallocate new purchases towards the SSgA Index.  Looking at the 10 year return, the F/E load alone eats almost the entire return!

SymbolInvestment Fund% of Assets1 Yr Rtn3 Yr Rtn5 Yr Rtn10 Yr RtnSince InceptionF/E LoadExpenses
SSGXXSSgA Cash Series U.S. Government Fund - Class L0.00%0.00%NANANA0.00%0.00%0.75%
PTTAXPIMCO Total Return Fund - Class A0.00%-1.63%3.74%6.43%5.43%6.42%3.75%0.85%
ACCAXAmerican Century Strategic Allocation: Conservative Fund - Class A0.00%7.62%6.94%10.42%5.30%6.01%5.75%1.25%
ACOAXAmerican Century Strategic Allocation: Moderate Fund - Class A0.00%11.38%8.45%13.65%6.39%7.01%5.75%1.32%
ACVAXAmerican Century Strategic Allocation: Aggressive Fund - Class A17.64%14.30%9.25%15.97%6.95%7.44%5.75%1.45%
JABRXJanus Balanced Fund - Class S18.79%13.38%9.74%NANA12.06%0.00%1.08%
SVSPXSSgA S&P 500 Index Securities Lending Series Fund - Class IX0.00%21.01%13.87%20.37%6.73%7.39%0.00%0.71%
JARTXJanus Forty Fund - Class S18.89%22.01%13.29%17.61%9.09%10.52%0.00%0.96%
ARGFXAriel Fund3.45%23.74%12.02%30.25%7.37%11.69%0.00%1.03%
ALMRXAlger Mid Cap Growth Institutional Fund - Class I18.18%24.56%10.73%21.77%6.83%12.40%0.00%1.29%
PASSXT. Rowe Price Small-Cap Stock Fund - Advisor Class3.13%24.52%14.63%27.11%10.43%9.65%0.00%1.15%
ALTFXAllianceBernstein Global Thematic Growth Fund - Class A2.00%21.48%1.47%14.82%4.51%11.61%4.25%1.50%
OPPAXOppenheimer Global Fund - Class A17.9419.17%10.00%19.97%7.97%11.69%5.75%1.14%


GregO

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2014, 04:11:12 PM »
Either way, I think I need to cease and desist on funds charging betweeb 4.25% - 5.75% front-end load and 1.1% - 1.5% in annual fees and reallocate new purchases towards the SSgA Index.  Looking at the 10 year return, the F/E load alone eats almost the entire return!

Yeah, you multiple your same situation by 100s of millions of Americans and you see why there's so much money in Wall St.  One thing to consider though is that all returns have the ER figured into them, so you can use the historical returns to gauge whether they are 'making up' for their high ERs.  But you're right, the FE load eat up a ton of returns.

I noticed you didn't include PTTAX in your 'cease and desist' list.  That is a bond fund, so the returns are going to inherently be a lot lower.  So a 3.75% load is just as big, if not bigger, than a 5% load on a stock fund because bonds just don't have the same returns as stocks do to make up for a load.  I would add that one to your 'C&D' list, which is unfortunate because it's your only 100% bond option you have.  But JABRX does have some bond exposure, which could be used as a substitute.

Lastly, I hope that also means you are going to take your money out of the American Century fund.  They have already gotten enough of your money and underperformed the market.  You have better options.

surfhb

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2014, 09:58:02 PM »
Maybe Im missing a piece of the puzzle but why would you suggest those funds?    Except for the S&P index, they're all super high Expense Ratios.   

I was going to ask the OP how much he made and if he could ditch the tax advantages of this crap 401K.     I wouldn't touch a thing in that expect maybe the S&P or perhaps PIMCO.   All those fees are embarrassing.   Jeez Louise!

I suggested those funds based upon what they invest in and their past performance.  Even though they have high expense ratios,  it's important to be well diversified with your investments.  So I picked the best choice for a fund that invests in large companies, mid, small, and international.  I tried to avoid the funds that had front-end loads, but all the expense ratios are similar for the remainder of the funds so you just have to choose the best available.  And we all agree the S&P is the best choice and your Large Company exposure should be the highest, so it should naturally be heavily over-weighted.

As for not contributing to his 401k, that's really probably penny-wise, pound-foolish.  The OP is saving 25%+ on that money in taxes, so even if he has to pay high fees he's still saving money.  And he only has to leave the money in the 401k as long as he's at that job.  When he leaves the company, he can roll it over to a Traditional IRA and invest it in whatever he wants.

I take back my question.....I was having a blonde moment

TomTX

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2014, 06:56:35 AM »

Yeah, you multiple your same situation by 100s of millions of Americans and you see why there's so much money in Wall St.  One thing to consider though is that all returns have the ER figured into them, so you can use the historical returns to gauge whether they are 'making up' for their high ERs.  But you're right, the FE load eat up a ton of returns.


Are you absolutely certain? I thought a common trick was to list returns without discounting for the expenses or load.

ZiziPB

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2014, 09:41:21 AM »
Quote
I used the F/E load from Morningstar which I'm assuming is correct, although like the SVSPX different class of shares, perhaps it's different.  Either way, I think I need to cease and desist on funds charging betweeb 4.25% - 5.75% front-end load and 1.1% - 1.5% in annual fees and reallocate new purchases towards the SSgA Index.  Looking at the 10 year return, the F/E load alone eats almost the entire return!

Front end loads are often waived if the fund is in a 401k.  And the expense ratio charged may be different from what Morningstar says.  You should carefully read your actual plan materials and prospectuses provided by your plan administrator to find out the actual costs and fees of the funds in your plan.

Just to give you an example, my 401k offers Vanguard Target Date Retirement Funds at .08 ER, while the same fund bought directly from Vanguard carries .18 ER.

WorkingToBeFIREd

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2014, 08:19:22 AM »
Hi ZiziPB - great thought.  I checked the plan prospectuses available through the ADP website, and it appears we're getting the full sting for F/E loads.  Outside of the pre-tax advantage, this plan doesn't appear to be geared towards Mustachians.  :(  The F/E loads and expenses all line up with what's showing via the plan documents today.

At the very least, I will be allocating new money for TY15 heavily (if not almost 100%) into SVSPX to respin the balance and probably leaving existing money where it is since the load was already paid.  The only one I'm thinking I would flat-out move is American Century ACVAX - the E/R is high, the F/E load is silly, and the 10 year and inception returns are within a tiny margin of SVSPX Class IX with 0% F/E and 0.71% E/R.

After reading the Bogleheads book, they seem to recommend keeping bonds in pre-tax retirement accounts, but given the craptastic nature of offerings in mine, I may have to go taxable there.

Thanks again all for the feedback!

Scandium

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #16 on: July 02, 2014, 08:54:06 AM »
Hi ZiziPB - great thought.  I checked the plan prospectuses available through the ADP website, and it appears we're getting the full sting for F/E loads.  Outside of the pre-tax advantage, this plan doesn't appear to be geared towards Mustachians.  :(  The F/E loads and expenses all line up with what's showing via the plan documents today.

At the very least, I will be allocating new money for TY15 heavily (if not almost 100%) into SVSPX to respin the balance and probably leaving existing money where it is since the load was already paid.  The only one I'm thinking I would flat-out move is American Century ACVAX - the E/R is high, the F/E load is silly, and the 10 year and inception returns are within a tiny margin of SVSPX Class IX with 0% F/E and 0.71% E/R.

After reading the Bogleheads book, they seem to recommend keeping bonds in pre-tax retirement accounts, but given the craptastic nature of offerings in mine, I may have to go taxable there.

Thanks again all for the feedback!

Call your plan contact person. At the investment company, not your company. The fee schedule we were sent had a 5% front-end load listed and I nearly panicked and reallocated all my funds, but called the person administering our 401K and he said the FE load is waived for our plan.

WorkingToBeFIREd

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2014, 07:41:30 AM »
@Scandium - Great tip!  All the plan documents and info on the site didn't confirm either way on front end loads, so I called ADP directly.  After bouncing through a couple of different reps, I finally got to a licensed rep that stated our plan waives front-end load fees.  Net-net, the expense ratios are still high, but they are the only expenses associated with the plan...no monster front end loads.

I also checked with the rep and the SSgA Index fund I have access to is not SVSPX (although it's pretty close).  Comparing the 1, 3, 5, and 10 year returns to SVSPX on Morningstar shows slight differences (about 1 point less on my plan fund), and the difference of the ER.  Apparently it is not a publically traded fund so I'm not how I can easily track it in Mint or Personal Capital, but we'll see.  I will probably move $1,000 to the SSgA Index as a test to see what happens before moving the whole smash out of American Century.  The more I look at the fund (even without the F/E load), the less impressed I am.

Thanks again!

Scandium

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Re: Reallocate my 401k for lower expenses?
« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2014, 08:22:14 AM »
@Scandium - Great tip!  All the plan documents and info on the site didn't confirm either way on front end loads, so I called ADP directly.  After bouncing through a couple of different reps, I finally got to a licensed rep that stated our plan waives front-end load fees.  Net-net, the expense ratios are still high, but they are the only expenses associated with the plan...no monster front end loads.

I also checked with the rep and the SSgA Index fund I have access to is not SVSPX (although it's pretty close).  Comparing the 1, 3, 5, and 10 year returns to SVSPX on Morningstar shows slight differences (about 1 point less on my plan fund), and the difference of the ER.  Apparently it is not a publically traded fund so I'm not how I can easily track it in Mint or Personal Capital, but we'll see.  I will probably move $1,000 to the SSgA Index as a test to see what happens before moving the whole smash out of American Century.  The more I look at the fund (even without the F/E load), the less impressed I am.

Thanks again!

hurray! that's something at least. Your ERs are just a bit higher than what I have to deal with. I found couple funds with ~0.60% and put everything there (S&P and a managed international) and a bond fund. Try to make up the gaps with my Roth and taxable, mainly small cap and more international.

To me your best option looks like the S&P fund and all your bond allocation in PTTAX. Everything else is pretty bad. Then like me you'll have to add international and SC in Roth/taxable. Maybe some in OPPAX if you need more international? Er 1.14% is pretty ugly, but at least for me my 401k is such a large part of my total investment it was hard to hit 30% international outside it.