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401(k)plans

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401k Fact To Consider:

According to Southern California-based (401k) Enginuity (www.401kenginuity.com), twenty-year veteran in developing and running 401(k) administration and 401(k) software and recordkeeping systems, the Internet will be the primary delivery system for 401(k)s by 2007. Many web-based 401(k) plans will run on administration and recordkeeping platforms that plan providers will outsource to 401k specialists and 401k Application Service Providers (ASP).

The advantages of web-based online 401(k) plans are obvious to today's workers, and include use conveniences, real-time monitoring and reporting, and instant re-allocation of their retirement assets. The internet has also dramatically reduce the cost of 401(k) plan administration, saving plan sponsor 50% or more in ongoing fees and costs when compared to the older traditional labor-intensive plans. Outsourcing of 401(k) functions by plan providers will extend the trend towards lower cost, high-quality 401(k) products.

401(k) plan providers of all types, financial institutions including banks, insurance companies, brokerages, mutual fund companies, credit unions, and third-party administrators, are now actively outsourcing 401(k) administration and recordkeeping tasks to 401(k) ASPs --- vendors such as 401k Enginuity, whose sole function is to maintain, updated and supervise software-based 401(k) administration and recordkeeping systems on behalf of plan providers. 401(k) ASP vendors are responsible for all routine day-to-day 401(k) recordkeeping and administration functions, thus allowing the plan providers to reduce internal staff, eliminate the expense and complications of licensing, housing and running hardware and 401(k) administration software in-house. Plan providers can refocus and concentrate their efforts on to the needs of their plan sponsors and plan participants, and rely upon the outsourced ASP 401(k) vendor for the recordkeeping and technical "backbone" supporting providers' Internet-based plans. It is inevitable that some of this 401(k) outsourcing to ASPs will include secondary outsourcing of certain non-critical low-level routine day-to-day tasks to non-US locations, where labor costs are less yet the expertise is abundant.

SEC Mutual Fund Cost Calculator:

A Tool for Comparing Mutual Funds

The Mutual Fund Cost Calculator enables investors to easily estimate and compare the costs of owning mutual funds. The Cost Calculator takes the mystery and math out of the cost equation, revealing how costs add up over time.

Mutual fund costs take a big chunk out of any investor's return. That's why it's important for investors to know what costs they are paying, and which cost structure is best for them. By using the Cost Calculator investors will find answers quickly to questions like this: Which is better, a no-load fund with yearly expenses of 1.75% , or a fund with a front-end sales charge of 3.5% with yearly expenses of 0.90% ?

The Cost Calculator is great for understanding costs, but costs aren't the only thing that should be considered when investing in a mutual fund. Other things to assess include:

  • the number of years needed to reach an investment goal,
  • the type of stocks, bonds, or other securities that the fund buys,
  • the risk of the fund,
  • the fit between the fund and the investor's portfolio (diversification),
  • the fund company or portfolio manager who runs the fund,
  • the fund's track record or performance over time, and
  • the types of services offered by the fund company.
You can learn what factors to consider before investing in a mutual fund by reading Mutual Fund Investing: Look at More Than a Mutual Fund's Past Performance.

Please review the frequently asked questions before beginning. This page provides answers and an e-mail address for comments. The FAQ page will be updated from time to time, so be sure to check back often.

Run the _JavaScript SEC Cost Calculator (requires a _JavaScript-enabled browser, such as Netscape NavigatorTM 2.0 or higher, or Microsoft® Internet Explorer 3.0 or higher.)

The Investment Company Institute (ICI), the trade association of the mutual fund industry, estimates that at the end of 1998 assets in 401(k) plans stood at $1.41 trillion. These plan assets grew at an average rate of 18% per year during the 1990s. Plansponsor.com reports that they rose nearly 22% in the final year of the decade, from $1.7 trillion in 1999 to $2.1 trillion in 2000. Average salary deferral rates of plan participants have also been on an exponential rise. The Profit Sharing 401(k) Council of America (PSCA) reports that the average salary deferral rate grew from 4.2% in 1991 to 5.4% by 1999, an increase of more than 28%

Mutual Fund Investment Companies have provided the best 401(k) option for small and medium-sized businesses. Plans offered by mutual fund companies tend to be tightly bundled, meaning the administration and administrative functions (which may be subcontracted out or conducted in-house by the mutual fund company) are designed to work exclusively with the mutual fund's proprietary investments.

Mutual fund 401(k) plans have been aggressively promoted to the small business communities both by no-load fund companies (e.g., Fidelity Funds, Vanguard Funds) and load fund companies (e.g., MFS, John Hancock, Putnam). Recent news articles, however, have reported a trend among many of these plan vendors to abandon the very small plans because the costs of providing 401(k) services for such plans versus the revenue generated from them has proved to be a losing proposition. For economic reasons, the sales target for mutual fund bundled plans has been raised, and now companies with fewer than 100 employees are not being actively solicited by most of these vendor.

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.

401(k) plans are arguably the best government-sanctioned, tax-deferred retirement savings opportunities in the United States; their numbers have grown commensurably since their institution by Congress in 1978. One estimate, by CHALK 401(k) Advisory Board, Inc., places the number of qualified 401(k) plans in 1997 (the last year surveyed) at 225,000, and the number of participants in those plans at approximately 28 million; the Investment Company Institute (ICI) estimates 36.7 million participants in 1998. New plans continue to grow in number at an annual rate of more than 14% (U.S. Department of Labor).

401(k) plans must be sponsored by an employer. Millions of American workers can't take advantage of the 401(k)'s many attractive attributes because, for one reason or another - typically high plan costs, plan inflexibility, and/or prohibitive minimum participation standards - their employers do not sponsor a plan. In particular, very small, small, and medium-sized companies have found sponsorship difficult if not impossible. Some 89% of very small companies (10-50 employees), 72% of small companies (50 - 100 employees), and 66% of medium-sized companies (100 - 250 employees) do not have 401(k) plans (Census Bureau figures). These figures do not include the companies that have fewer than 10 employees, what might be called "micro" companies.

The Investment Company Institute (ICI), the trade association of the mutual fund industry, estimates that at the end of 1998 assets in 401(k) plans stood at $1.41 trillion. These plan assets grew at an average rate of 18% per year during the 1990s. Plansponsor.com reports that they rose nearly 22% in the final year of the decade, from $1.7 trillion in 1999 to $2.1 trillion in 2000. Average salary deferral rates of plan participants have also been on an exponential rise. The Profit Sharing 401(k) Council of America (PSCA) reports that the average salary deferral rate grew from 4.2% in 1991 to 5.4% by 1999, an increase of more than 28%.

The Labor Department is currently auditing 401(k) plans of all sizes because of a trend they think may violate current pension laws. Many companies, especially smaller businesses, are knowingly or unknowingly shifting plan administrative expenses to plan participants. This shift of plan expenses come in the form of excessive "hidden fees" that are deducted directly from participants' savings by certain plan providers and investment providers. Because of lax reporting requirements, no one really knows how much money changes hands behind the scenes, but it is estimated that excessive fees may be as much as $1.5 billion per year, and growing. 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 401(k) plans have been aggressively promoted to the small business communities both by no-load fund companies (e.g., Fidelity Funds, Vanguard Funds) and load fund companies (e.g., MFS, John Hancock, Putnam). Recent news articles, however, have reported a trend among many of these plan vendors to abandon the very small plans because the costs of providing 401(k) services for such plans versus the revenue generated from them has proved to be a losing proposition. For economic reasons, the sales target for mutual fund bundled plans has been raised, and now companies with fewer than 100 employees are not being actively solicited by most of these vendors.

Insurance companies lost their marketing advantage many years ago in the 401(k) Arena by not moving quickly enough to counter the offerings of the mutual fund bundled 401(k) programs. Insurance companies have traditionally clung to the business model of inserting various insurance products, including life insurance, inside the 401(k) plans they offer. This has not been a popular decision with plan participants, especially those of smaller company plans. Participants learned that they could purchase better life insurance protection, at lower rates, with after-tax dollars, and that they were losing some of their 401(k) asset growth potential by selecting insurance products within their 401(k), primarily because of the insurance premium costs.

The three primary reasons why 80% of America's small businesses do not offer 401(k) plans to their employees are: (a) perceived cost of employer-sponsored retirement plans, (b) perceived complexity of company-sponsored retirement plans, and (c) limited investment options. Mutual fund companies offering 401(k) plans to small businesses do so by pre-packaging administration with their proprietary fund investments; this pre-packaged approach, called "bundled 401(k)" tends to be pricey for small companies, limited features and limited investment options. Employees who participate in bundled 401(k) plans typically do not have access to investments not offered by the mutual fund company, and do not have access to the most popular investment option today-the individual self-directed discount brokerage account.

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.

401(k) plans are arguably the best government-sanctioned, tax-deferred retirement savings opportunities in the United States; their numbers have grown commensurably since their institution by Congress in 1978. One estimate, by CHALK 401(k) Advisory Board, Inc., places the number of qualified 401(k) plans in 1997 (the last year surveyed) at 225,000, and the number of participants in those plans at approximately 28 million; the Investment Company Institute (ICI) estimates 36.7 million participants in 1998. New plans continue to grow in number at an annual rate of more than 14% (U.S. Department of Labor).

Employees rank 401(k) plans second only to health benefits when it comes to employer-offered benefits they desire. 401(k)s offer employees an unmatched long-term savings potential, primarily because neither 401(k) contributions nor their earnings are subject to income tax during all the years plan participants contribute before retirement.

401(k) plans have the highest annual contribution ceiling of any of the tax-deferred defined contribution savings programs (IRAs, SEPs, etc.). More money contributed equals more money earning money, equals more money in the account 20 years later. Add to this earning potential the convenience of contributions made through automatic payroll deductions and it's easy to see why 401(k)s are so popular

The average 401K account balance at the end of 1998 was $47,000 per participant, up 26% from 1996, according to the ICI and the Employee Benefit Research Institute. On average, 78% of eligible employees will participate in a 401(k) plan if one is made available, with the number of participants growing from 19.5 million in 1990 to 53.2 million in 2000. Some of the increase in participation rates is due to the introduction of "negative election," which allows an employer to automatically enroll employees into the 401(k) when they meet the plan's eligibility requirements. The negative election deferral rate and investment(s) must be defined ahead of time, and the employee must be immediately notified of his or her participation status. Automatic enrollment programs are sanctioned by the IRS under ERISA as long as the employee has ample ability to cease enrollment at will.

Many small and medium-sized companies that have 401(k)s have a bleak future: many are being canceled because they are not profitable enough a service for vendors to maintain; in other cases, service is not being canceled but the level of service is so disproportionate to the high fees being charged that employers themselves must pull out or endure the aggravation of continually feeling they are being overcharged. The company estimates there are more than 400,000 very small, small, and medium-sized companies that (a) have no plan, (b) have had their plan canceled or have canceled their plan, or (c) have a plan they are unsatisfied with.

Internet penetration and usage by small businesses is a key component of 401(k). According to a survey conducted by IDC, Internet usage by small businesses reached 62% in 1998. Total small business spending on Internet related applications is expected to increase from $6.6 billion in 1998 to 418.2 billion by 2002, yielding an annual growth rate of 45%.

Recordkeeping firms represent a small and possibly decreasing fraction of the available market. These firms tend to be local and regional, and although they can maintain the "human touch," they cannot compete effectively with the bundled plans offered by mutual fund companies.

The three primary reasons why 80% of America's small businesses do not offer 401(k) plans to their employees are: (a) perceived cost of employer-sponsored retirement plans, (b) perceived complexity of company-sponsored retirement plans, and (c) limited investment options. Mutual fund companies offering 401(k) plans to small businesses do so by pre-packaging administration with their proprietary fund investments; this pre-packaged approach, called "bundled 401(k)" tends to be pricey for small companies, limited features and limited investment options. Employees who participate in bundled 401(k) plans typically do not have access to investments not offered by the mutual fund company, and do not have access to the most popular investment option today?the individual self-directed discount brokerage account

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

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.


401(k)plans
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