First...read a book or even the news...we have not been in a recession in years. Second, the market is at its highest level ever. Yes, some people did lose lots of money - but those that followed a sound strategy of buy an dhold are now way much better than those who tried to time the market or chase the market. Yes, some funds charge fees - they have to declare all these fees which is why a simple and cheap strategy is to buy no load or low load finds that mirror a market (we have one fantastic with our SPY fund).
As a=for a future crash, it is not inevitable. Expect,however, market corrections from time to time that will drop the broad market 5 - 10%. If history tells us anything, these corrections are short-lived and the only people that get hurt are the ones that panic and sell. In reality, the best time to buy is during a market correction since stock prices are down and you can ride the stock back up when the market corrects up as it always has. The 401(k) and IRA itself is not a scam - they are solid places to put retiorement funds. The problem is not the plan itself, but where the investor chooses to invest his or her money. Two people can have the same amount of money in an IRA on teh same day 10 years later, one could have tripled his money and the other could have just tread water...same IRA, different results because the investors chose the internal investments differently.