Starter 401(k): Jump start your team's savings

Starter plans come with a low price point and easy administration.

Business owner

Meet Starter, a new type of retirement plan

Starter is our newest pricing tier. It provides an all-in-one 401(k) experience with limited features and flexibility. It was designed to qualify as a Starter 401(k) — a new type of retirement plan introduced by Congress in 2022.

  • Predictable employer costs

  • Exempt from IRS testing

  • State mandate compliant

A simplified benefit at an affordable price

Employer pricing


/ month



/ month per active participant

Starter plans must be connected with one of our eligible payroll providers

What’s included

  • Recordkeeping

    We serve as the recordkeeper to track your 401(k) plan’s balances, transactions, and deferrals. We’ll provide and maintain required plan documents, summary plan descriptions and most regulatory notices.

  • Government filing

    We prepare standard annual reports for no extra fee, including Form 5500 and 1099-R.

  • Investment management

    We manage the investment portfolio, select and monitor funds, and rebalance portfolios automatically. Learn more

  • Low-cost investments

    Combined with our management fees, investing for retirement with Guideline could cost an individual up to 7x less than industry average.

  • Payroll integration

    We integrate with popular payroll providers so businesses can connect their plan and simplify plan administration. Learn more

  • Custodial services

    Through a third party custodian, we’ll process transactions, execute trades, safeguard plan assets and more.

  • Fiduciary responsibilities

    We serve as the ERISA 3(16) and 3(38) plan fiduciaries—which cover plan administration and investment management. This means we are legally (and morally) obligated to work in the plan and participants’ best interest.

  • Mobile app

    Employees can set up and manage their 401(k) account on their phone or desktop.

Set up an easy, affordable Starter plan in as little as 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.

Compare our Starter and Core plans

  • Monthly employer fee


    +$4 per active participant


    +$8 per active participant

  • Maximum employee contributions



  • Optional 401(k) match



  • Payroll provider

    Eligible integrated partners only

    Support for any payroll provider

  • Compliance testing



  • Federal tax credit eligibility

    Yes, up to $16,500

    Yes, up to $16,500

  • Satisfies state mandates



  • Optional eligibility requirements

    No, all employees 18+ are immediately eligible


Want to see the full set of features?

Compare all of our pricing options

Frequently asked questions

What is a Starter 401(k)?

A Starter 401(k) is a simplified employer-sponsored retirement plan with lower saving limits than a standard 401(k). These plans help employers offer a retirement benefit by streamlining two of the most significant barriers when it comes to offering retirement savings plans: cost and ease of administration.

Is my business eligible for Starter?

In general, businesses that already provide a 401(k) can’t open a Starter 401(k). But there are some exceptions:

  • If a company previously offered a 401(k) but they terminated it and have not offered a plan in at least 12 months, they may be eligible for a Starter 401(k).
  • Businesses that previously had an IRA through a mandated state-sponsored retirement program can choose to establish a Starter 401(k) to replace it. Please note that if the assets from the state-sponsored retirement are in Roth IRAs, they cannot be rolled over to a 401(k) plan.

To enroll in Starter at Guideline, you must be using one of the eligible payroll providers.

To learn more about how Starter compares to other 401(k) plan types, review our comparison chart here.

Does Starter qualify for federal tax credits?

Yes, Starter is a qualified employer retirement benefit plan and your company may qualify for up to $16,500 in tax credits for the first 3 years.

Why does Starter have a lower employee contribution limit and not allow employer contributions?

Guideline’s Starter plan is a Starter 401(k), which is a new kind of employer-sponsored retirement savings account announced with the SECURE Act 2.0 at the end of 2022. Lower savings limits and no employer contributions make these plans easier to administer by exempting them from compliance tests typically in place to ensure a plan does not unfairly favor owners and highly-compensated employees.

Can I upgrade from Starter to either Core or Enterprise?

Yes, Guideline Starter plans can be upgraded to either Core or Enterprise. Due to the nature of the plan differences, your company’s new standard 401(k) would go into effect at the beginning of the next calendar year.

Can my team have a personal IRA in addition to a Starter 401(k)?

Yes. Unlike the state-sponsored programs which are typically an IRA, because Starter is a 401(k), it does not affect your or your team’s ability to contribute to an IRA in the same tax year. If eligible for a deductible contribution, this can almost double the amount of tax-advantaged savings potential.

Does Starter satisfy state retirement mandates? 

Yes. Starter checks all the boxes currently required by state-run programs and is an affordable solution for employers looking for easy-to-administer retirement benefit.

Can I switch over my state-sponsored retirement benefit to a Guideline Starter?

Yes. Companies who have set up their state-sponsored program are eligible to set up Starter. Note that because the state-sponsored program may be in an IRA, your employees' assets could remain in their accounts unless they choose to roll these over.

Why should my business consider Starter when the state program is free to offer?

While state-sponsored programs can be free for the employer, they can be complex to manage without integrated payroll. Additionally, the cost for employees to invest can be much higher and may limit your team’s ability to contribute to an IRA in the same tax year should they want to.

If your business is already comfortable with lower employee contribution limits and no employer matching, Guideline’s Starter plan is an affordable alternative to state-sponsored programs that can be easier to manage with integrated payroll, potentially offers your team lower cost funds and managed portfolios to choose from, and makes account setup and management easy from the Guideline mobile app.

Can I be on the Starter tier if I have multiple related businesses?

Yes. If you have more than one legally related entity (sometimes referred to as “legally related groups”), the IRS looks at all your businesses as one employer and therefore, to help keep plans compliant, we require all of your businesses to start a 401(k) at Guideline. Support for legally related groups is available on our Starter and Enterprise tiers. Contact sales to learn more.

Can my employees withdraw funds from their Starter account if needed?

We understand that sometimes people need to access their funds before retirement. Starter supports savers with helping to process a hardship withdrawal, which could be subject to tax penalties. In order for your team to be able to take out a 401(k) loan, you will need to have a Core or Enterprise plan.

How does Starter compare to other popular plan designs?

Starter is a great starting point, but might be too limiting for some businesses. We’ve broken down the differences between Starter, Safe Harbor and Traditional plan designs here.

Get a retirement plan your team will love