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What to expect when setting up your Guideline 401(k)
401(k) Plan administration

What to expect when setting up your Guideline 401(k)

Nicolle Willson, J.D., CFP®, C(k)P®

We know there’s a lot to consider when researching 401(k) plans. We’re excited to show you how Guideline can help your business set up a 401(k) and help you and your employees save for retirement.

Here’s a quick overview of what the setup process with Guideline looks like.

Step 1: Schedule a demo OR get started directly from one of our payroll partners
Demos typically take 15-30 minutes and provide a high-level company and product overview, including:

We’ll send you some follow up information to review and share with your team as you consider your options.

If you use one of our integrated payroll partners—Gusto, Square, Zenefits, Rippling, or OnPay, you can start setting up your Guideline 401(k) directly from the administrator dashboard of your payroll provider, no demo required! And if you need help during setup, one of our representatives will reach out to answer your questions.


Step 2: Set up your account
To set up an account, we’ll ask you to provide some basic information about your company, payroll provider and your desired plan settings. You can expedite the process by having some of the following information on hand:

Company information:

  • Legal company name and address associated with EIN
  • Name and email of the main point of contact for setup
  • Related Entities: If your company is related to any other companies by ownership or service, Guideline will need to know about it. We are required to disclose these relationships in order to comply with 401(k) regulation. You can read more about it in our Support Center.

Payroll information:

  • Payroll provider
  • A detailed pay schedule so we can see when employees are paid, and when payroll is processed.
  • Self-employment income: If any owners take income outside of W-2 income, we can help determine if this income will be eligible for contributions to the plan.
  • Preferred first contribution date: Which payday would you like to start your plan? The setup process is extremely quick (you could be done today!), but Guideline is an Automatic Enrollment provider, and we are required by law to provide 30 days notice to employees before the plan can begin. So the onboarding timeline is usually about 40 days.

Plan design:
One of the benefits of 401(k) plans over other retirement options is the level of customization available. This means there are a few decisions to make as you think about what’s best for you and your employees. If you are unsure about anything below, you can review this helpful guide or schedule some time with us. We’ll be happy to walk you through everything and answer any questions!

Plan design settings you’ll need to select include:

  • A default deferral rate (must be between 1%-10%)
  • Eligibility parameters: Age, months of service
  • Employer contributions and matching, including whether you'll have a safe harbor match
  • Profit sharing: an optional, after-end-of-year lump sum contribution to employee’s accounts. Profit sharing contributions can be made in addition to or instead of matching contributions. Read about the different types here!
  • Vesting schedule: Immediate (default), 1-3 year cliff, 2-6 year graded
If you want to read about popular 401(k) plan designs, be sure to check out this article!

Step 3: Finalize your account
In order to invite your employees, you’ll need to complete these steps:

  • E-sign your Service Agreement and Plan Document
  • Connect and verify your bank account (for contribution and billing)
  • Connect your payroll account

Service Agreement and Plan Document:
We will automatically generate a Service Agreement and Plan Document after plan features are confirmed. Once generated, you may view online and e-sign, and download for your records. A copy will also be included in your dashboard.

If you have a Board of Directors you will also need to sign a Board Resolution, which effectively states that the Board approves of the appointed plan Trustee. Depending on your company bylaws, the Trustee will either be authorized to sign on behalf of the Board, or in some cases, the Trustee will need a signature from the Board Secretary.

Connect and verify your bank account:
You will need to connect a bank account for both contributions and billing purposes, even if you are not offering any match.

You have the ability to connect up to two bank accounts to your plan if you want the monthly administrative fees pulled from one account and the plan contributions pulled from another account.

Connect payroll: The process of connecting your payroll with Guideline depends on your payroll provider.

360 integration partners: With these payroll providers, we automatically sync your data daily, often in real time. Just confirm your pay schedule and click the “Connect Payroll” button to finalize the connection.

180 integration providers: With these payroll providers, you’ll need to ensure your payroll information is accurate and up to date and grant Guideline third-party access to your payroll account. In order to seamlessly operate your 401(k) plan we will need access to employee information, the ability to set up 401(k) deductions and the ability to pull payroll reports.

Self-service integration: If you work with a payroll provider that Guideline does not integrate with, you can still open up a Guideline 401(k). You will need to provide your employee census and a payroll report every pay period once your plan starts. This document provides further details on the steps required for this setup.

Guideline is integrated with 20 different payroll providers. See if your provider is on our list.