A participant-directed retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan, is an important tool to help your employees achieve a secure retirement. As part of offering this type of program, you or someone you choose must select the investment options from which your employees will choose, select the service providers for the plan, and monitor the performance of the investments and the provision of services. All of these duties require you to consider the costs to the plan. This brochure can help you ask the right questions to better understand and evaluate the fees and expenses related to your plan.
You or the person you select to carry out these responsibilities must comply with the standards provided under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). This federal law protects private-sector pension plans. The law's standards include ensuring that you act prudently and solely in the interest of the plan's participants and beneficiaries.
Understanding fees and expenses is important in providing for the services necessary for your plan's operation. This responsibility is ongoing. After careful evaluation during the initial selection, the plan's fees and expenses should be monitored to determine whether they continue to be reasonable. While ERISA does not set a specific level of fees, it does require that fees charged to a plan be "reasonable."
Of course, the process of selecting a service provider and investment options should address many factors, including those related to fees and expenses. You must consider the plan's performance over time for each investment option. This selection process and continual monitoring will make it possible for your employees to make sound investment decisions. As part of your evaluation process, here are 10 questions to help focus your consideration of fees and expenses:
Provide all prospective service providers with complete and identical information about the plan and what you are looking for so you can make a meaningful comparison. This information includes the number of plan participants and plan assets as of a specified date.
Consider the specific services you would like provided. For example, the types and frequency of reports to employer, communications to participants, educational materials and meetings for participants and the availability and frequency of participant investment transfers, the level of responsibility you want the prospective service provider to assume, what services must be included and what are possible extras or customized services, and optional features such as loans, Internet trading and telephone transfers.