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A boutique third party administrator makes a plan sponsor’s life easier through competent administration, efficient plan design, and administrative expertise. They also ensure plan sponsors submit accurate data for their annual compliance testing so the plan remains qualified (tax deferred).
Other than salary deferrals and W-2 compensation, 401(k) plan administration has little to do with payroll. Payroll providers that get into retirement plan administration often add investment advisory, insurance, and legal documentation services to support plan administration business. This “synergy” can lead to average or poor plan administration and investment returns as well as conflicts of interest.
In a one-stop shopping arrangement, a single firm provides all the services and investment advice—advice that might be less than objective since it can benefit the firm’s bottom line. With no objective party watching over, a plan sponsor can’t be sure that the third party administration (TPA) firm is putting the sponsor’s interests above its own.
A traditional 401(k) plan is a defined contribution plan, which allows employees to make contributions, to a 401 (k) account, most often from his or her paycheck, before taxes are taken out. With a 401 (k) contributions and earnings are taxed when the money is withdrawn. Often, employers will match up to a certain amount per dollar, for a certain percentage of employee contributions to a 401 (k).
Roth 401 (k) Plan combines the features of a traditional 401(k) with those of a Roth IRA. A Roth 401 (k) is offered by employers (similar to a 401(k)), but like a Roth IRA, contributions are made with after-tax dollars rather than pre-tax dollars. However, at retirement contributions and any earnings are tax-free. A Roth 401(k) cannot stand alone as a retirement plan, it must be added to an existing 40 (k) plan.
Combination Plan marries features from Defined Contribution Plans, (such as profit sharing and 401 (k) plans), and a Defined Benefit Pension Plan. This hybrid retirement plan design can substantially increase the annual maximum dollar amount allocated to an individual compared to a stand-alone profit sharing plan. Combining these plans also allows businesses to maximize the benefits for owners and highly compensated employees and provides a minimum type of benefit formula to younger employees.
With a SEP, the employer makes contributions on a tax-favored basis to individual retirement accounts (IRAs) owned by the employees. If certain conditions are met, the employer is not subject to the reporting and disclosure requirements of most retirement plans. The SEP is a great choice for self-employed people or owner/spouse businesses that want to contribute up to 25% of their earnings or 20% of net income up to the contribution limit.
401(k) Profit Sharing Plan allows the employer each year to determine how much to contribute to the plan (out of profits or otherwise) in cash or employer stock. The plan contains a formula for allocating the annual contribution among the participants. Among other advantages, a 401 (k) Profit Sharing Plan allows for potentially greater retirement contributions than a SEP at the same income level and tax-free loans are permitted up to $50,000.
Open Architecture plans allow retirement plans to invest in funds from a wide variety of mutual fund families. In an Open Architecture fund inclusion is based on the individual merits of each fund.
With an Open Architecture 401(k) platform, all fees are transparent. In addition, the Plan Sponsor (the business owner) can select from the entire mutual fund marketplace, including many institutional class funds.
Revenue sharing refers collectively to fees that service providers (insurance companies, payroll providers, banks, brokerage houses, mutual funds) charge to plan sponsors and participants. Sometimes these fees are referred to as “hidden fees” other times “indirect payments”. For good reason, these fees can be so complex and “under the radar” that many retirement plan sponsors are either unaware of their existence or don’t have a sense of their real cost.
An IPS is a written document that provides guidance for a retirement plan’s trustees and investment professionals regarding the selection and management of investment assets based on established and documented investment goals and objectives. When used properly, this document can limit liability, provide consistency, and set expectations for investment performance.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act, (ERISA), is a Federal law that sets standards of protection for individuals in most voluntarily established, private-sector retirement plans.