Popular 401(k) Providers

By Susan Landis-Steward , last updated January 22, 2012

Choosing a 401k provider for your business is a big responsibility. You want your employees to have the best retirement fund you can provide and it's up to you to choose one. One way to get information is to talk to other businesses and find out who they use for their 401k. You can also go online and read reviews of the various plans. Whatever you choose, make sure the plan is open to full disclosure about how the plan is invested. Also look at fees. If the fees are high, it's likely that the plan has few investors.

One of the best 401k providers for small businesses is the Employee Fiduciary Corp. Designed with the small business owner in mind, this company offers a small company 401k plan that offers a choice of most mutual funds without fee markups. This is something usually found only in the huge 401k funds like Vanguard. As a result, costs to the employees are low and the employer fees are only $1500 a year for record keeping and administration. There is a $500 one-time start up fee and it costs $1000 to modify an existing plan. If the plan reaches $1 million in assets, a .06 percent annual fee is charged for all assets.

If you have a large company, there are many great 401k plans out there. Vanguard is a giant in the industry with a giant mutual fund family. It has low costs and manages to keep them low. Vanguard invests in relatively safe mutual funds. They offer plans for both large and small businesses.

Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) has the potential to outperform Vanguard because it invests in small cap and value investing. This has the potential for greater return in exchange for larger risk exposure. This makes it a better investment when it's a bear market. However, DFA can only be bought through special advisors approved to sell it.

Other top rated 401k providers are Fidelity Investments and The Charles Schwab Corp. Along with the Vanguard Group, they are considered by many to be the best 401k providers. However, they are not highly rated for customer service and support.

Rated highest in customer service and support are Ascensus, Milliman, Affiliated Computer Services, Mercer, and Diversified Investment Advisors.

If you are looking for a socially responsible 401k, the Social(k) program is rated best by Kiplinger's. The fund focuses on clean industries such as software and healthcare and also invests in green products such as renewable energy, hybrid technology, fuel cells, organic foods, and green building. The plan includes over 100 socially responsible funds, making it quite diversified, and it is also cost-effective.

Calvert Funds, a socially responsible investment firm, offers one SRI retirement fund option at this time but plans to add more in the near future.

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