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The 401(k) checklist: how to choose the best 401(k) provider
401(k) Starting a 401(k) for your business

The 401(k) checklist: how to choose the best 401(k) provider

Nicolle Willson, J.D., CFP®, C(k)P®

Before we dive in, give yourself a pat on the back. Shopping for a 401(k) provider means you’re thinking about your employees and securing their financial future. Recent research shows that less than half of American families have any retirement savings at all, and only 45% of small businesses offer employees a retirement plan.

By offering a great 401(k) plan, you’ll help your employees — and yourself — save more for retirement. But giving employees this benefit does mean you’ll have a few extra responsibilities:

Plan design and setup: Document your plan, coordinate contributions with your payroll provider and custodian, and act as a fiduciary.

Enrollment and education: Explain your plan to employees, educate them on investment options and give them timely notice of plan changes.

Administration and recordkeeping: Deduct contributions from payroll and deposit them with the custodian. Make employer contributions, and keep track of transactions.

Compliance and reporting: File IRS Form 5500 and complete compliance testing annually.

Investment management: Choose a provider and a selection of investments. Ensure investments are chosen and maintained with the best interests of employees in mind.

Getting help from a 401(k) provider

The list of responsibilities is pretty long, which is where 401(k) companies come in. They can help with a lot of the heavy lifting. And the very best 401(k) providers can take most (or all) of these responsibilities off your to-do list.


When shopping for a 401(k) company provider, there are a lot of little details to consider. At a high level, these are some key questions you should keep in mind when looking for the best 401(k) provider for your business:

  • What services do they offer?
  • Which services are included in the basic fee? Which services are extra? And are there any additional fees that come up annually, in addition to the base fees?
  • What fees are employees expected to pay?
  • Are there diversified investment options?
  • Do they have good customer service to help employees set up their plan?

The 401(k) provider checklist

To help you find the best 401(k) provider we’ve put together a detailed checklist of specific questions to ask the 401(k) providers you’re considering. To help you get started, we’ve already filled out Guideline’s answers.

Want to see how Guideline can help you take better care of your team? Check us out.

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