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401(k)plans

A Look at 401(k) Plan Fees for Employers

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:

§ Have you given each of your prospective service providers complete and identical information with regard to your plan?

§ Do you know what features you want to provide (e.g., loans, number of investment options, types of investments, Internet trading)?

§ Have you decided which fees and expenses you, as plan sponsor, will pay, which your employees will pay, and/or which you will share?

§ Do you know which fees and expenses are charged directly to the plan and which are deducted from investment returns?

§ Do you know what services are covered under the base fee and what services incur an extra charge? Do you know what the fees are for extra or customized services?

§ Do you understand that some investment options have higher fees than others because of the nature of the investment?

§ Does the prospective service arrangement have any restrictions, such as charges for early termination of your relationship with the provider?

§ Does the prospective arrangement assist your employees in making informed investment decisions for their individual accounts (e.g., providing investment education, information on fees, and the like) and how are you charged for this service?

§ Have you considered asking potential providers to present uniform fee information that includes all fees charged?

§ What information will you receive on a regular basis from the prospective provider so that you can monitor the provision of services and the investments that you select and make changes, if necessary?

Remember...

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.

§ Make informed decisions in selecting and monitoring your plan service providers and investments.

§ Fees are just one of several factors you need to consider in your decision making.

§ All services have costs. Compare all services to be provided with the total cost for each prospective provider.

§ Consider obtaining estimates from more than one service provider before making your decision.

§ Cheaper is not necessarily better.

§ Ask each prospective provider to be specific about which services are covered for the estimated fees and which are not. To help in gathering this information and in making equivalent comparisons, you may want to use the same format for each prospective provider. See EBSA's Web site for an example of a uniform fee disclosure format to assist in your selection and monitoring process.

§ Fees and expenses can have a significant impact on your employees' retirement savings.

In the 401(k) provider industry, expense fee disclosure, whether to plan participants or plan sponsors, has been a notoriously murky affair. The impact of excessive hidden fees on plan participants' retirement accounts is very significant over time. As example, consider a hypothetical 401(k) investment, such as a mutual fund, with deducted fees of 1.3 percent versus one with fees of just .02 percent. Applied to an initial $25,000 investment returning 10 percent, and compounded over 20 years, the difference between the "low-fee" investment and the excessively "high-fee" investment adds up to $31, 701

Policymakers and plan sponsors seeking to structure well managed 401(k)s for their aging workforces are beginning to acknowledge the negative impact significant hidden fees has on eroding pension accumulations for retirement. What might appear to be a small difference in pension management fees can result in substantial differences in eventual retirement benefits.

The number of companies without 401(k) plans is growing, too - due to a less-than-traditional force: vendors who in the past have serviced smaller businesses are finding it unprofitable and are abandoning these clients. According to an article by Harris Collingwood and Janice Koch ("Squeezed Out," in Worth Magazine, Dec/Jan 1999), "All over the country, 401(k) vendors - the companies that perform investment management, record keeping, employee education, and regulatory-compliance testing - are firing their customers. . What this means is that small and midsize companies are being forced, like it or not, back into the 401(k) marketplace." These companies feel betrayed by the large 401(k) vendors and are frustrated in their search for a 401(k) plan that their employees will like and that they can afford.

Mutual fund companies make their money by acquiring, holding, and managing inevitable assets in their various fund portfolios. In some cases, the bundled 401(k) administration may offer to small businesses at a loss as a device for attracting and holding new assets, on the assumption that 401(k) investing tends to be long-term, giving the mutual fund company many years to collect management fees

According to HR Investment Consultants in Towson, MD, publisher of the "401k Provider Directory, "the cost of running a 401k plan with 25 participants and $750,000 in assets can range from as little as $6,750 per year to as much as $20,000, depending on which 401k vendor you select. (Sources: Nation's Business, September 1998, Myers, Randy "Your 401k Plan May Cost You Too Much." Business Week Online, July 2000, Brenner, Lynn "A Wealth of Choices."). By comparison, a 401(k) Easy or Easy Online system costs only $995 pear year for a 25-person plan---a savings of between 60% and 80% in plan administration fees

According to HR Investment Consultants in Towson, MD, publisher of the "401k Provider Directory, "the cost of running a 401k plan with 25 participants and $750,000 in assets can range from as little as $6,750 per year to as much as $20,000, depending on which 401k vendor you select. (Sources: Nation's Business, September 1998, Myers, Randy "Your 401k Plan May Cost You Too Much." Business Week Online, July 2000, Brenner, Lynn "A Wealth of Choices."). By comparison, a 401(k) Easy or Easy Online system costs only $995 pear year for a 25-person plan---a savings of between 60% and 80% in plan administration fees

In the 401(k) provider industry, expense fee disclosure, whether to plan participants or plan sponsors, has been a notoriously murky affair. The impact of excessive hidden fees on plan participants' retirement accounts is very significant over time. As example, consider a hypothetical 401(k) investment, such as a mutual fund, with deducted fees of 1.3 percent versus one with fees of just .02 percent. Applied to an initial $25,000 investment returning 10 percent, and compounded over 20 years, the difference between the "low-fee" investment and the excessively "high-fee" investment adds up to $31, 701

ABC Plan

401(k) Plan Fee Disclosure Form
For Services Provided by [Company Name][1]

Overview

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA) requires employee benefit plan fiduciaries to act solely in the interests of, and for the exclusive benefit of, plan participants and beneficiaries. As part of that obligation, plan fiduciaries should consider cost, among other things, when choosing investment options for the plan and selecting plan service providers.

This 401(k) plan fee disclosure form may assist you in making informed cost-benefit decisions with respect to your plan. The purpose of this form is to help you determine the total cost of the plan. It is also intended to provide you with a means to compare investment product fees and plan administration expenses charged by competing service providers, regardless of how a particular service provider structures its fees.

The 401(k) plan fees included in this disclosure form represent the following: _____ actual 401(k) plan expenses for the period [date] through [date] or _____ estimated 401(k) plan expenses(2) for the period [date] through [date]. Additional investment product information regarding fees may be obtained from the product prospectus, annuity contract or other similar documents. Additional information relating to plan administration services and expenses is contained in documentation provided by the service provider, including the contract for plan services. Other plan expenses may include legal fees for initial plan design and ongoing amendments resulting from changes in pension law or plan design and the cost of a mandatory annual audit. You need to contact your legal advisor or accountant to determine these charges.

Selecting a service provider requires that you evaluate and differentiate services offered by competing companies. Cost is one of the criteria, but not the only criterion, for making this evaluation. Other factors of equal or greater importance to consider include the quality and type of services provided, the anticipated performance of competing providers and their investment products and other factors specific to your plan's needs. The service provider offering the lowest cost services is not necessarily the best choice for your plan.

Calculation Of Fees

In general, fees are calculated in four ways:

  • Asset-Based: expenses are based on the amount of assets in the plan and generally are expressed as percentages or basis points.
  • Per-Person: expenses are based upon the number of eligible employees or actual participants in the plan.
  • Transaction-Based: expenses are based on the execution of a particular plan service or transaction.
  • Flat Rate: fixed charge that does not vary, regardless of plan size.

Fees may be calculated using one or any combination of these methods. Plan administration-related expenses can also be charged as one-time fees or ongoing expenses. One-time fees are typically related to start-ups, conversions (moving from one provider to another) and terminations of service. Ongoing fees are recurring expenses relating to continuing plan operation.



ABC Plan

401(k) Plan Fee Disclosure Form
For Services Provided By [Company Name]
Total Plan Expenses

Contact Name

Institution

Telephone


I.

Investment Product Fees (See Schedule A)

Amount/Estimate(3)

 

A.  Collective Investment Fund(s)

$

 

B.  Insurance/Annuity Product(s)

$

 

C.  Mutual Fund(s)

$

 

D.  Individually Managed Account(s)

$

 

E.  Brokerage Window

$

 

F.  Other Product(s) (Specify)

$

 

Total Investment Product Fees

$

II.

Plan Administration Expenses (See Schedule B)

 

 

Total Plan Administration Expenses

$

III.

Plan Start-Up or Conversion Related Charges (See Schedule C)

 

 

One Time Start-Up/Conversion expenses

$

IV.

Service Provider Termination Related Charges (See Schedule D)

 

 

Service Provider Termination expenses

$

 

Total Plan Expenses

$

 

For definitions of terms used throughout this disclosure form, see Schedule E.


ABC Plan

401(k) Plan Fee Disclosure Form
For Services Provided by [Company Name]

Schedule A

Investment Product Fees/Estimates

Collective Investment Fund

Assets
[Date]

Management Fee

Other(4)
(Specify)

Total
Cost

Fund 1

 

 

 

 

Fund 2

 

 

 

 

Fund 3

 

 

 

 

Fund 4

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

 

 

Insurance/Annuity Product

Assets
[Date]

Management Fee

Mortality Risk and Administrative Expense

Other(4)
(Specify)

Total Cost

Fund 1

 

 

 

 

 

Fund 2

 

 

 

 

 

Separate Account 1

 

 

 

 

 

Separate Account 2

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

 

 

 

Mutual Fund

Assets
[Date]

Expense Ratio(5)

Front-end Load

Other(4)
(Specify)

Total Cost

Fund 1

 

 

 

 

 

Fund 2

 

 

 

 

 

Fund 3

 

 

 

 

 

Fund 4

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

 

 

 

Individually-Managed Account

Assets
[Date]

Management Fee

Other(4)
(Specify)

Total Cost

Product 1

 

 

 

 

Product 2

 

 

 

 

Product 3

 

 

 

 

Product 4

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

 

 

Brokerage Window(6)

Assets
[Date]

Commission
(Range)

Transaction Fee
(Range)

Other(7)
(Specify)

Total Cost

Total Transactions

 

 

 

 

 

Other Product(8)

Assets
[Date]

Management Fee

Other(7)
(Specify)

Total
Cost

Product 1

 

 

 

 

Product 2

 

 

 

 

Product 3

 

 

 

 

Product 4

 

 

 

 


Total Investment Product Fees

$


ABC Plan

401(k) Plan Fee Disclosure Form
For Services Provided by [Company Name]

Schedule B

Plan Administration Expenses

Expense Type

Rate/Estimate(9)

Bundled Service Arrangement(10)

Total Cost(11)

Administration/Recordkeeping Fees

Daily valuation

$

$

Payroll processing

$

$

Balance inquiry

$

$

Investment transfer

$

$

Contract administration charge

$

$

Distribution processing

$

$

QDRO processing

$

$

Participant statements

$

$

Plan sponsor reports

$

$

VRU/Internet services

$

$

Other (Specify)

$

$

Subtotal

$

Participant Education/Advice

Participant education materials/distribution

$

$

Education meetings [frequency]

$

$

Investment advice programs

$

$

Other (Specify)

$

$

Subtotal

$

Trustee/Custodial Services

Certified annual trust statement

$

$

Safekeeping of plan assets

$

$

Other (Specify)

$

$

Subtotal

$

Compliance Services

Nondiscrimination testing

$

$

Signature ready form 5500

$

$

Annual audit

$

$

Other (Specify)

$

$

Subtotal

$

Plan Amendment Fee

Plan amendment fee

$

$

Plan document
determination letter fee

$

$

Other (Specify)

$

$

Subtotal

$

Loan Administration

Loan origination fee

$

$

Loan processing fee

$

$

Loan maintenance and repayment tracking fee

$

$

Other (Specify)

$

$

Subtotal

$

Total Separate Charges

$

Total Bundled Services

$

Less Offsets/Credits Paid To Plan

$

Total Plan Administration Expenses

$



ABC Plan

401(k) Plan Fee Disclosure Form
For Services Provided by [Company Name]

Schedule C

One Time Start-Up/Conversion Expenses

Expense Type

Rate/Estimate(12)

Total Cost(13)

Start-up/conversion education program

$

$

Start-up/conversion enrollment expense

$

$

Installation fee

$

$

Start-up/conversion plan document fee/filing fee

$

$

Other (Specify)

$

$

Total Start-Up/Conversion Expenses

$

$


ABC Plan

401(k) Plan Fee Disclosure Form
For Services Provided by [Company Name]

Schedule D

Service Provider Termination Expenses

                                        Expense Type      

Rate/Estimate(14)

Total Cost(15)

Investment Product Expenses

Contract termination charges

$

$

Back-end load

$

$

Product termination fee

$

$

Other (Specify)

$

$

Total

$

Plan Administration Expenses

Service provider termination charge

$

$

Service contract termination charge

$

$

Other (Specify)

$

$

Total Termination Expenses

$

 

ABC Plan

401(k) Plan Fee Disclosure Form
For Services Provided by [Company Name]

Schedule E

Definition Of Terms

Administration/Recordkeeping Fee: Fee for providing recordkeeping and other plan participant administrative type services. For start-up or takeover plans, these fees typically include charges for contacting and processing information from the prior service provider and "matching up" or mapping participant information. Use of this term is not meant to identify any ERISA Section 3(16)(A) obligations.

Annual Audit: Federal law requires that all ERISA-covered plans with more than 100 participants be audited by an independent auditor. It is also common to refer to a DOL or IRS examination of a plan as a plan audit. Any charge imposed by a service provider in connection with this audit is reflected on Schedule B.

Back-End Load: Sales charges due upon the sale or transfer of mutual funds, insurance/annuity products or other investments, which may be reduced and/or eliminated over time.

Balance Inquiry: Fee that may be charged each time a participant inquires about his or her balance.

Brokerage Commission: A fee paid to a broker or other intermediary for executing a trade.

Brokerage Window: A plan investment option allowing a participant to establish a self-directed brokerage account.

Bundled Services: Arrangements whereby plan service providers offer 401(k) plan establishment, investment services and administration for an all-inclusive fee. Bundled services by their nature are priced as a package and cannot be priced on a per service basis.

Collective Investment Fund: A tax-exempt pooled fund operated by a bank or trust company that commingles the assets of trust accounts for which the bank provides fiduciary services.

Contract Administration Charge: An omnibus charge for costs of administering the insurance/annuity contract, including costs associated with the maintenance of participant accounts and all investment-related transactions initiated by participants.

Contract Termination Charge: A charge to the plan for "surrendering" or "terminating" its insurance/annuity contract prior to the end of a stated time period. The charge typically decreases over time.

Conversion: The process of changing from one service provider to another.

Distribution Expense: The costs typically associated with processing paperwork and issuing a check for a distribution of plan assets to a participant. May include the generation of IRS Form 1099R. This fee may apply to hardship and other in-service withdrawals as well as to separation-from-service or retirement distributions.

Eligible Employee: Any employee who is eligible to participate in and receive benefits from a plan.

Expense Ratio: The cost of investing and administering assets, including management fees, in a mutual fund or other collective fund expressed as a percentage of total assets.

Front-End Load: Sales charges incurred when an investment in a mutual fund is made.

Individually Managed Account: An investment account managed for a single plan.

Installation Fee: One-time fee for initiating a new plan or initiating new services.

Investment Transfer Expense: Fee associated with a participant changing his or her investment allocation, or making transfers among funding accounts under the plan.

Loan Maintenance and Repayment Tracking Fee: Fee charged to monitor outstanding loans and repayment schedule.

Loan Origination Fee: Fee charged when a plan loan is originally taken.

Loan Processing Fee: Fee charged to process a plan loan application.

Management Fee: Fee charged for the management of pooled investments such as collective investment funds, insurance/annuity products, mutual funds and individually managed accounts.

Mortality Risk and Administrative Expense (M&E Fee): Fee charged by an insurance company to cover the cost of the insurance features of an annuity contract, including the guarantee of a lifetime income payment, interest and expense guarantees, and any death benefit provided during the accumulation period.

Nondiscrimination Testing Expense: Tax qualified retirement plans must be administered in compliance with several regulations requiring numerical measurements. The fee charged for the process of determining whether the plan is in compliance is collectively called nondiscrimination testing expense.

Participant: Person who has an account in the plan.

Participant Education Materials/Distribution Expenses: All costs (including travel expenses) associated with providing print, video, software and/or live instruction to educate employees about how the plan works, the plan investment funds, and asset allocation strategies. There may be a one-time cost associated with implementing a new plan, as well as ongoing costs for an existing program.

Plan Document/Determination Letter Fee (Filing Fee): Fee charged for a written plan document. Fee can also include the costs associated with preparing and filing IRS required documentation, including the request for a determination letter (document issued by the IRS stating whether the plan meets the qualifications for tax-advantaged treatment).

Plan Loan: The law allows participants to borrow from their accounts up to prescribed limits. This is an optional plan feature.

Product Termination Fee: Investment-product charges associated with terminating one or all of a service provider's investment products.

QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order): A judgment, decree or order that creates or recognizes an alternate payee's (such as former spouse, child, etc.) right to receive all or a portion of a participant's retirement plan benefits.

Separate Account: An asset account established by a life insurance company, separate from other funds of the life insurance company, offering investment funding options for pension plans.

Service Provider Termination Charge: Plan administrative costs associated with terminating a relationship with a service provider, with the permanent termination of a plan, or with the termination of specific plan services. These may be termed "surrender" or "transfer" charges.

Signature Ready Form 5500: Fee to prepare Form 5500, a form which all qualified retirement plans (excluding SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs) must file annually with the IRS.

Start-up/Enrollment Expense: Costs associated with providing materials to educate employees about the plan, and enrolling employees in the plan. This may be part of, or included in, the education programs. There may be a one-time cost associated with implementing a new plan, as well as ongoing enrollment costs.

Trustee Services: Fees charged by the individual, bank or trust company with fiduciary responsibility for holding plan assets.

Additional non-profit websites that include relevant unbiased information about 401k plans include: www.cpas-401k.com and www.open-architecture-401k.com.

VRU: Voice Response Unit.

Wrap Fee: An inclusive fee generally based on the percentage of assets in an investment program, which typically provides asset allocation, execution of transactions and other administrative services.

12b-1 Fee: A charge to shareholders to cover a mutual fund's shareholder servicing, distribution and marketing costs.

Footnotes

1. There may be plan expenses incurred by other providers, other than the company completing this form. For a complete list of expenses charged to your plan, please contact all plan service providers with whom you contract or may contract and request fee information with respect to their services.

2. If you are considering a conversion from an existing plan service provider to a new service provider, you will need to provide the service provider(s) with certain information about the plan, including the number of plan participants, the number of eligible participants and the amount of plan assets in order for the service provider(s) to be able to complete this form. Similarly, if you are considering starting a plan, you will need to provide the service provider(s) with estimates of plan participants and plan assets. When providing potential service providers with information regarding your plan, it is critical that you provide identical information to all of the competing companies in order to ensure equivalent comparisons.

3. Amounts are calculated based on rates charged, which are identified in attached schedules as applied to relevant information (for example amount of assets or number of participants). Certain calculations may be estimates based on information provided by you, the plan sponsor, and may vary as circumstances change.

4. Fees represent product-related charges paid by the plan. Fees associated with participants' transfer of account balances between investment options, including investment transfer expenses and any contingent back-end loads, redemption fees and surrender charges should be included in "other" expenses. In addition, any wrap fees or pricing charges for non-publicly traded assets should be included in the "other" expenses column. For investment product termination fees associated with plan termination or conversion, see Schedule D. Insurance companies incur marketing and distribution costs, which are recouped through charges assessed against the plan.

5. Includes 12b-1 fee and management fee. (See the fee table in the fund prospectus).

6. When providing potential service providers with information/assumptions regarding the brokerage window plan feature, it is critical that you provide identical information to all of the competing companies in order to ensure equivalent comparisons.

7. Fees associated with participants' transfer of account balances between investment options, including investment transfer expenses and any contingent back-end loads, redemption fees and surrender charges should be included in "other" expenses. In addition, any wrap fees or pricing charges for non-publicly traded assets should be included in the "other" expenses column. For investment product termination fees associated with plan termination or conversion, see Schedule D. Insurance companies incur marketing and distribution costs, which are recouped through charges assessed against the plan.

8. Other products could include investment vehicles such as REITs and limited partnerships.

9. Amounts represent the method by which the fee is calculated, for example as a percentage of plan assets under management, based upon number of participants or based upon number of transactions. For start-up or take-over situations, fees are based upon estimates and/or certain assumptions, i.e., regarding assets under management and number of participants. When providing potential service providers with information/assumptions regarding your plan, it is critical that you provide identical information to all of the competing companies in order to ensure equivalent comparisons. Without a standardized set of assumptions, service providers will certainly use differing assumptions, defeating the intended purpose of clarifying fee comparisons among service providers.

10. Services provided under a bundled services arrangement are indicated by a check mark next to the specific service.

11. Amounts represent flat dollar amount charges or total charges based upon the particular method of calculation. In some instances, these amounts represent estimates based on assumptions provided by you, the plan sponsor.

12. Amounts represent the method by which the fee is calculated, for example as a percentage of plan assets under management, based upon number of participants or based upon number of transactions. For start-up or take-over situations, fees are based upon estimates and/or certain assumptions, i.e., regarding assets under management and number of participants. When providing potential service providers with information/assumptions regarding your plan, it is critical that you provide identical information to all of the competing companies in order to ensure equivalent comparisons. Without a standardized set of assumptions, service providers will certainly use differing assumptions, defeating the intended purpose of clarifying fee comparisons among service providers.

13. Amounts represent flat dollar amount charges or total charges based upon the particular method of calculation. In some instances, these amounts represent estimates based on assumptions provided by you, the plan sponsor.

14. Amounts represent the method by which the fee is calculated, for example as a percentage of plan assets under management, based upon number of participants or based upon number of transactions. For start-up or take-over situations, fees are based upon estimates and/or certain assumptions, i.e., regarding assets under management and number of participants. When providing potential service providers with information/assumptions regarding your plan, it is critical that you provide identical information to all of the competing companies in order to ensure equivalent comparisons. Without a standardized set of assumptions, service providers will certainly use differing assumptions, defeating the intended purpose of clarifying fee comparisons among service providers.

15. Amounts represent flat dollar amount charges or total charges based upon the particular method of calculation. In some instances, these amounts represent estimates based on assumptions provided by you, the plan sponsor.


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