Too many 401(k) providers make it harder than necessary for employers to total and evaluate their 401(k) plan fees for ”reasonableness” – an important fiduciary responsibility - by not charging simple fees. One of these 401(k) providers is the payroll company ADP. Two weeks ago, I described my process for totaling ADP’s 401(k) fees using their DOL-mandated 408b-2 fee disclosure. Now, I’d like to do the same thing for Paychex - ADP’s largest payroll competitor.
One of the largest small business 401(k) providers in the country is the payroll company ADP. Due to my firm’s fee comparison service, I get the opportunity to evaluate ADP’s 401(k) fees regularly. As a result, I’ve become very familiar with their DOL-mandated 408b-2 disclosure – which describes the company’s services and fees. While its generally clearer than insurance company 408b-2 disclosures, it can hardly be called intuitive.
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In a recent study, we found 79% of our small business clients pay 100% of their 401(k) administration fees from a corporate bank account – not plan assets. This approach is popular because it can mutually benefit plan sponsors and participants. While the plan sponsor can deduct these fees as a business expense, plan participants can keep their amount invested – where they can grow until retirement.
The use of revenue sharing by 401(k) plans has declined sharply over the past five years. That means more 401(k) plans are paying “direct” fees – which are deducted from participant accounts – to their 401(k) provider instead. That’s good news because direct fees are more transparent and fair than revenue sharing payments – making it easier for 401(k) plan sponsors to keep their 401(k) fees in check.
I meet a lot of 401(k) plan sponsors unsure they’re paying “reasonable” fees to their 401(k) provider for ”necessary” services – an important 401(k) fiduciary responsibility. I can hardly blame them when I consider the broad range of fees charged by 401(k) providers today.
In a small business 401(k) fee study, we found that 7 of the top 10 most expensive 401(k) providers were insurance companies. I can’t say I was too surprised by this finding due to the complex web of 401(k) fees charged by these companies – which can include hidden 401(k) fees that other 401(k) providers can’t charge legally and additional fees for unrelated service partners. So how do insurance companies with high 401(k) fees get away with it?