CalSavers vs. a Guideline 401(k)

Meet California’s state retirement mandate with a simple, powerful Guideline 401(k).

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The mandate in a nutshell

CalSavers was established in 2016. It requires California employers with at least one employee to offer the state-sponsored plan or a qualified alternative like a Guideline 401(k) by December 31st of the year in which you become eligible. Compare your options

  • 5+ employees

    December 31, 2024

  • 1-4 employees

    December 31, 2025

Meet the mandate and more with a Guideline 401(k)

  • Simple setup

    Get started in 20 minutes. We’ll help you choose a plan that meets the mandate and your business’s goals.

  • Automated busywork

    Integrations with payroll providers means no need to maintain deductions or manually re-enter payroll data.

  • Live support

    You and your team get access to live support, guided employee onboarding, a mobile app, and more.

Compare CalSavers with Guideline Starter

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CalSavers
  • Retirement plan type

    Starter 401(k)

    Roth IRA

  • Maximum employee contributions for 2024

    $6,000

    $7,000

  • Employee asset-based fee

    0.15%

    ($15 for every $10,000)

    0.30%

    ($30 for every $10,000)

  • Additional active employee fees

    None

    $18/year account fee

    (charged quarterly at $4.50 each quarter)

  • Monthly employer fee

    $39 + $4 per participant

    None

  • Investment options

    40

    17

    (Including Target Date Funds)

  • Professionally managed portfolios

    6

    0

  • Employer match

    No

    No

  • Profit Sharing

    No

    No

Keep your business in compliance. Set up a Guideline 401(k) in just 20 minutes.

Looking for a more robust plan? Look no further.

Starter 401(k) plans do have limitations like lower contribution limits and no employer contributions. If you’d like to set up a plan with more options and flexibility, you may want to consider Core or Enterprise.

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Cliff JNorth Valley Counseling
It was clear that there was also going to be a lot of paperwork and compliance stress. I really did not want to do that. It was worth it to me to find an alternative to the state programClient of Guideline. Views may not be representative of other clients.

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CalSavers FAQs

What is the mandate?

The CalSavers Program was created to encourage more people to save for retirement. It requires California employers with at least 1 employee to provide access to a retirement plan. The plan can either be a private plan like a 401(k) or the state-sponsored plan.

When does the mandate take effect?

For businesses with 5+ employees, the initial deadline has already passed. For newly established businesses or businesses that hire their 5th employee, the deadline is December 31st each year. For companies with 1-4 employees, the deadline is December 31, 2025.

Which employers are impacted by the retirement mandate?

You are eligible to participate in the CalSavers Program if:

  • Your business is registered to conduct business in the state of California
  • You have at least five California based employees
  • Your employees must be 18 years old to enroll in CalSavers
  • You don’t currently offer a qualified retirement savings program to your employees

Are there penalties for not offering a retirement benefit?

Yes. Employers will be subject to a penalty equal to:

  • $250 per eligible employee if noncompliance extends 90 days or more after being served a notice of failure to comply
  • Additional $500 per eligible employee if noncompliance extends 180 days or more after the notice

Does Guideline satisfy the retirement mandate?

Yes. All of Guideline's 401(k) plans are designed to satisfy state program requirements and are priced to be affordable for businesses of all sizes.

Can I move from Guideline Starter to a standard 401(k)?

While it is possible for a plan to convert from a Starter 401(k) to a standard 401(k) plan at Guideline, the transition cannot take place until the beginning of the next calendar year. Learn more here.