Small business owners have historically stayed away from offering their employees 401(k) plans. Why? Because they believe the administrative costs to be too high and frankly, they see the process as too complicated to get started.
Luckily more and more 401(k) companies are using technology to provide more cost effective, easier plans to attract smaller businesses and allow them to provide valuable retirement benefits to their staff members.
First, it’s important to have an understanding of what criteria you should be using to compare companies and determine which plan is best for you and your business. Let’s take a look at what you need to evaluate:
What kind of small business fees is the provider charging?
A study by BrightScope found that small businesses are paying 401(k) fees at a rate five times higher than large enterprise companies. Sounds pretty nuts, right?
Going with a low-cost plan is key to your plan’s success. Even the smallest increase in a fee (such as a few tenths of a percent higher than it needs to be) can highly decrease how much you and your employees end up with in your account when it comes time to retire. Make sure you’re getting charged the lowest fee possible.
Which provider is offering the easiest plan?
As mentioned before, many business owners avoid offering 401(k) plans because they’re simply too complicated. However it’s hard to get around the complexity of retirement accounts because of how strictly they’re regulated and how important it is to run them properly to stay compliant.
Reduce your own personal headache by finding a company that takes on the complex and tedious obligations and assumes legal responsibility for your investment fund lineup.
Here are a few financial service companies that are leading the pack by only providing great, affordable retirement plans, but also leading in customer service by taking on obligations that would normally fall on you such as administrative services and investment fiduciary duties.
How flexible is the plan?
Your 401(k) plan should have flexibility in:
- Investment options: With the tens of thousands of investment products such as mutual funds and index funds out there, savvier small business owners and employees may want to expand outside of the simple index funds lineup. It’s important that they have access to the plethora of investment options so they can reach their portfolio goals.
- Plan design: Your plan design consists of the type of plan you’re getting (such as Traditional, Simple IRAs, etc.), eligibility, employer contributions, vesting, and more. If your plan has too many limitations in these categories, it might decrease employee participation or even increase your costs.
What is the employee experience within the 401(k) plan like?
You should evaluate the employee experience of a provider’s retirement plan by looking at how they help with:
- Participation and savings rates: Your retirement plan will undergo compliance testing every year (as required by the IRS) to ensure that it’s not just your highest-earning employees that are reaping the benefits in their accounts. You’ll have to refund your highest-earning staff members their contributions if your plan fails the test, and they won’t be able to max out their contributions. Your provider should make sure this doesn’t happen by maximizing participation and employee contributions.
- Financial wellness: Your plan should (at the very least) make employees feel like they’re on the right track to saving enough for retirement. While your provider should offer services including investment advice, they should also be able to assist in other personal finance areas to increase the success of your retirement plan.
Now let’s take a look at a few small business 401(k) providers and see what their plans include and how they compare when it comes to the above criteria.
Employer pricing: $1,200+$48/employee/year
Advisory fee: 0.35% annually
ForUsAll’s automated compliance and administration software aim to almost entirely reduce the headache of running a 401(k). The company offers help in areas ranging from enrolling new employees and depositing contributions to large plan audits.
The software runs 44 unique validation checks when you use your payroll service to make sure no errors have occurred, and the company’s team of administrators will work to resolve any errors that do arise. You’ll be notified of these occurrences and more on your fiduciary dashboard.
ForUsAll also comes with a virtual advisor named DAVE, who gives advice and offers easy-to-understand education on the plans in both English and Spanish. Your employees will also be communicated with frequently in an effort to increase participation and savings. The company’s website claims their plans have an average participation rate of 85.89%.
Employer pricing: $39/month or $99/month + $8/employee/month
Advisory fee: None
Guideline is a startup that describes itself as the “modern 401(k) built for startups and small businesses.” Instead of paying separate charges 401(k) providers often require for record-keeping and administration services, employers are only required to pay a monthly fee per employee.
Guideline tailors your plan design to fit your needs. You can choose from a Traditional, Roth or Safe Harbor 401(k) and even set up profit-sharing options that allow you to make discretionary year-end contributions (as tax-deferred bonuses) to your employees’ accounts, as well as matching options to increase participation.
Both employers and employees will get a dashboard that makes managing 401(k)s even easier. As an employer, you’ll be able to view your employee roster, conduct non-discrimination testing, view your document library, and get support from a team of administrators. Employees will be able to use the dashboard to check their balance, contribution rate, recent activity and get important notifications.
Employer pricing: $120/month + $4/employee/month/
Advisory fee: 0.50% annually
Human Interest’s website says they “cost less than a single employee’s health insurance.” The San Francisco-based company helps small-to-mid-sized businesses set up 401(k) plans for their employees. The founders said they came up with the idea for the business after realizing how frustrating it was to actually set up a retirement plan.
Human Interest offers automated administration, payroll sync and record-keeping, as well as automated signup and onboarding for all employees. They also handle all of the document preparation and filing with the IRS so you can stay compliant, as well as participant disclosures, annual plan notifications, as well as non-discrimination testing and monitoring.
You will also receive full account support and customization with a dedicated account manager. Your manager will provide a flexible plan design as well as an easy conversion process for employees who already have existing plans.
Employer pricing: $1,500/year
Advisory fee: .08%
Employee Fiduciary works to “offer small businesses the same low fees, quality service, and investment choice as plans sponsored by our country’s largest organizations,” according to their website.
Employee Fiduciary offers comprehensive setup services and works to get your plan tailored to your goals with a plan design consultation. This consists of matching a plan to your company’s goals, preparing all of the necessary documents, and training you on the website and payroll upload. Employees’ existing plans will also be transferred as part of the setup process.
You will be assigned a “dedicated relationship manager” that will help you with anything you need so you don’t have to stay on hold while waiting for someone at a call center to assist you. Your manager will help with administration duties such as maintaining compliance, completing non-discrimination testing, and calculating year-end contribution allocations.
You will also be provided with record-keeping services such as updating share prices and account balances daily, processing plan trades, preparing benefit statements, maintaining participant loans, and providing fee disclosure notices.
Employer pricing: $1,380/year
Advisory fee: None
Ubiquity offers uncomplicated, easy 401(k) plans for a flat fee. The company works to help their clients “take advantage of programs like Safe Harbor, 401k match, Roth and pre-tax contributions, and automatic enrollment,” according to their website.
Instead of simply providing investment choices in which they have a vested interest like many companies do, the company prides itself on its ability to provide investment flexibility if you want it, and strategy guidance if you need a little more structure.
Ubiquity calls itself a “retirement concierge.” They aim to make compliance as easy as possible with electronic statements, tax filing and plan document preparation, participant disclosures, annual plan notifications, IRS testing and monitoring, and eligibility notices. You will also have access to intuitive technology that will protect you against errors.