Transparent 401(k) Costs, Fees and Pricing | Guideline (2023)

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401(k) pricing

Plans that fit your company,
budget, and goals

All Guideline
plans include

  • Payroll integrations with popular payroll providers like Gusto, QuickBooks, and Rippling.

  • Automated plan admin, including recordkeeping, custodial services, compliance testing, and guided employee onboarding.

  • 3(38) and 3(16) fiduciary services, including filing IRS and DOL reports and signing your 5500.

  • Mobile app, which makes it easy for participants to set up and manage their account.

Employer pricing

Get back up to $16,500 in tax credits—see if you're eligible

See full comparison

  • Core

    $49/ month

    + $8/mo per active participant

    A foundational Safe Harbor 401(k) plan with streamlined admin and an employer contribution.

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    • Safe Harbor plan with an employer contribution

    • Must connect with an integrated payroll provider

  • A flexible 401(k) with more plan design options and features.

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    • Safe Harbor or Traditional plan with an optional employer match

    • Additional features like vesting and profit sharing

    • Supports any payroll provider

  • Enterprise

    Starting at

    $129 / month

    Contact sales for pricing

    Our most custom 401(k) with exclusive pricing options and premium support.

    Contact Sales

    • Exclusive pricing options

    • Dedicated, preferred support for plan admin and employees

    • Early access to new features

    • Support for conversion plans and legally-related groups

Employee pricing

Starting at

0.08%/ year

That’s about 67¢ a month for every $10,000 saved

Your employees will get access to educational webinars, live support and more.

See how else you can empower your employees
  • $0 rollover fee
  • $0 loan fee
  • $0 distribution fee
  • $0 plan termination fee
  • $0 5500 prep fee

Refer to Guideline’s Form ADV 2A Brochure for additional information regarding Guideline’s fees.

See the fees you won’t be paying

At Guideline, we don’t charge employers or employees for routine one-time transactions. So you won’t have to pay extra for things like 5500 prep, rollovers, or distributions.

Refer to Guideline’s Form ADV 2A Brochure for additional information regarding Guideline’s fees.

Estimate your 401(k) plan costs with our calculator

Your company could be eligible to receive up to $16,500 in tax credits over the plan’s first three years to help offset initial plan costs.

See a side-by-side comparison of our pricing plans

  • Core

  • Flex

  • Enterprise

  • Mobile app

    Mobile app for all Guideline 401(k) participants who would like to set up and manage their account on their phone.

  • Recordkeeping and custodial services

    We’ll track your 401(k) plan’s balances, transactions, and deferrals. We also handle executing trades, safeguarding plan assets, and more.

  • Government filing

    We prepare standard annual reports, including Forms 5500 and 1099-R.

  • 3(38) fiduciary - investment management

    We are responsible for managing the investment portfolio, and selecting and monitoring funds.

  • 3(16) fiduciary - plan administration

    We take on the responsibility of handling reporting and disclosures to both participants and the IRS. Our 3(16) fiduciary services are only available to clients who utilize an eligible payroll provider.

  • Personalized portfolio options for participants

    Participants can select from Guideline’s curated set of low cost mutual funds across a range of asset classes.

  • Ongoing compliance testing

    We complete necessary annual testing to be compliant with the IRS, including non-discrimination tests and limit tests. Our compliance dashboard monitors in near-real time to resolve any potential compliance issues.

  • Auto-enrollment and auto-escalation services

    We require auto-enrollment in all plans. Additionally, for QACA plan designs, we offer the ability to add auto-escalation.

  • Safe Harbor plan design

    Safe Harbor 401(k) plans automatically satisfy most IRS nondiscrimination testing if certain requirements are met. They require an employer contribution that either immediately vests (traditional) or can be subject to a short vesting schedule (QACA). Learn more

  • Non-Safe Harbor plan design

    A plan design that does not have IRS requirements around employer contributions or vesting schedules.

  • Vesting schedules

    Set a schedule for employer contributions to become vested in participants’ 401(k) accounts.

  • Same dollar profit sharing

    Profit sharing method where every employee receives the same contribution amount.

  • Pro rata profit sharing

    This approach allocates the profit share based on employees’ relative salaries.

  • New comparability profit sharing

    Allows employers to optimize contributions to certain groups of employees over others. Learn more

  • Premium support for you and employees

    Includes a dedicated onboarding specialist and dedicated client relationship manager. Plus, faster response times for you and your team, as requests are prioritized at the top of the queue.

  • Exclusive pricing options

    The ability to choose a price structure that’s best for your growth goals, budget, and team.

  • Support for legally-related groups

    We require all legally related groups to be in Enterprise, as their onboarding and ongoing support is more customized to their specific situation and needs.

  • Support for conversion 401(k) plans

    We require all plan sponsors transferring an existing 401(k) to Guideline to set up and maintain an Enterprise plan for at least one year before becoming eligible to switch to a different pricing plan. This ensures you receive the premium support that you need for a smooth transition.

  • Early access to new features

    Get exclusive access to new features that can improve the employer and employee experience.

Set up an easy, affordable Guideline 401(k) in just 20minutes

Get started

More ways to save for retirement


$8 /month base fee + 0.08% /year

With a Guideline SEP IRA, self-employed individuals and other small business owners can contribute a significant amount towardtheir retirement with minimal paperwork.

Learn more about our SEP IRA
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA

$4 /month base fee + 0.08% /year

$2/month base fee + 0.08%/year if your total account balance is under $10,000

Traditional and Roth IRAs aren’t tied to an employer and withdrawals may be easier. They can be a good option for individual savers who want financial flexibility for today and the future.

Learn more about our IRAs

Frequently asked questions

What fees do employers pay for 401(k) plans?

Employers pay a flat monthly base fee and a flat monthly participant fee based on the number of participants in the plan for plan administration. In addition, if an employer is participating in the plan, his or her account will also be charged, as a 401(k) plan participant, a 0.08% account fee on assets under management. Learn more.

When do employers start getting invoiced?

Monthly payments aren’t due until after your plan is active and the first contributions have been made.

What Guideline fees do individuals pay?

All 401(k) account holders pay an account fee, as chosen by the plan sponsor, between 0.08-0.35% based on their account assets, and the plan tier selected. SEP, Traditional and Roth IRA account holders will pay a 0.08% account fee based on their account assets. Guideline deducts this fee on a monthly basis based on the month-end account balance. This fraction of a percentage on accounts starting at 0.08% comes out to about 67¢ a month for every $10,000 saved.

Is the account fee an ongoing fee?

Yes. We’ve heard from customers that transaction fees are a source of frustration because they often occur at a time of financial hardship. Starting at 0.08%, Guideline’s account fees are up to 10x lower than the industry average.

By charging account fees, we are able to remove transaction fees, including, but not limited to: rollover fees, distribution fees, loan application fees, loan maintenance fees, QDRO fees, check stop payment fees, expedited mail fees, and plan termination fees. Learn more.

What happens when an employee leaves my company?

You only pay for active employees who are currently employed by your company and are participating in the 401(k) plan. When an employee leaves your company, they will be responsible for any charges on the account.

How are former employees’ 401(k) accounts charged?

Former employees who have balances in your 401(k) plan are charged a $4 monthly base fee. This will occur after an initial 90-day grace period following termination of employment, or after the end of the blackout period if the retirement plan was recently transferred to Guideline from another 401(k) provider. The monthly account base fee is deducted from their account for any month during which the month-end account balance is greater than $0. Former employees will continue to pay the applicable account fee (0.08%-0.35%, as chosen by the plan sponsor) based on their account assets and the fund expense ratios by the mutual funds in which they invest. Expense ratios are reflected in the cost of the fund. See all of our fund options.

What kind of customer support and education does Guideline provide?

From opening an account to distributing funds, we support employees and employers via phone and email. We also offer a video library, a detailed knowledge center, and conduct educational participant webinars.

How much does it cost to terminate a 401(k) plan?

We don’t charge a termination fee if you decide to terminate your Guideline 401(k) plan.

Can I use a credit card to pay for the monthly base cost?

Guideline accepts credit cards as a payment method for your monthly plan billing. You can set this up from the Plan Settings page once you’ve logged in to your new account. See our Help Center for more information on how to set this up.

Which payroll providers do I need to use in order to open up a Core plan?

Core plans must be connected with one of our full integration payroll providers:

  • Gusto
  • QuickBooks
  • Square
  • OnPay
  • Paylocity
  • Rippling
  • TriNet Zenefits
  • TriNet
  • Miter
  • ADP Workforce Now
  • RUN Powered by ADP


Transparent 401(k) Costs, Fees and Pricing | Guideline? ›

Some mutual fund companies compensate the 401(k) providers that use their funds. These hidden 401(k) fees are commonly known as revenue sharing. Revenue sharing payments increase investment expense ratios, reducing investor returns.

What are the hidden fees in 401k? ›

Some mutual fund companies compensate the 401(k) providers that use their funds. These hidden 401(k) fees are commonly known as revenue sharing. Revenue sharing payments increase investment expense ratios, reducing investor returns.

What are the expense fees for 401k? ›

The average 401(k) expense ratio is 1%, but it can be higher or lower depending on the size of the plan and the investments offered.

Does Fidelity have hidden fees 401k? ›

In our experience, about 70% of admin fees charged by Fidelity are paid by revenue sharing – “hidden” 401(k) fees that lower the investment returns of plan participants. Not only are plan sponsors or participants often unaware that they're paying them, but they're always charged as a percentage of plan assets.

Is a 1% management fee high? ›

Many financial advisers charge based on how much money they manage on your behalf, and 1% of your total assets under management is a pretty standard fee. But psst: If you have over $1 million, a flat fee might make a lot more financial sense for you, pros say.

What is considered a high management fee? ›

A reasonable expense ratio for an actively managed portfolio is about 0.5% to 0.75%, while an expense ratio greater than 1.5% is typically considered high these days.

What are the three categories of 401k plan fees typically fall into? ›

Step 3 can require the most education due to the confusing array of possible 401(k) fees. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) breaks them into three major categories - Investment Fees, Administration Fees, and Individual Service Fees.

Do companies pay 401k fees? ›

Employees generally pay most 401(k) fees related to investing. Depending on plan design, employers may cover 401(k) administration costs—or, pass them to employees as flat fees or as a percentage of assets in the plan.

Do employer 401k have fees? ›

When you decide to start a 401(k) plan at your company, you'll likely have a one-time initial fee to set it up. This will cover activities like setting up the new plan and educating your employees about the plan. For these services, you can expect to pay anywhere between $500 to $2,000.

Who is the best 401k provider? ›

Compare Best Solo 401(k) Companies
Solo 401(k) ProviderInvestment Specialty401(k) Loans Supported
Fidelity Investments Best OverallGeneralNo
Charles Schwab Best for Low FeesGeneralNo
E*TRADE Best for Account FeaturesGeneralYes
Vanguard Best for Mutual FundsVanguard Mutual FundsNo
2 more rows

Should I use Vanguard or Fidelity? ›

In fact, Fidelity is our overall pick for the best online broker in 2022, so it is very hard to beat. All that said, Vanguard still offers some of the lowest-cost funds in the industry and will appeal to buy-and-hold investors, retirement savers, and investors who want access to professional advice.

How do I avoid Fidelity fees? ›

You can buy shares in a transaction-fee fund from its principal underwriter or distributor without a Fidelity transaction fee. A fund's sales charges may apply. Fidelity does not charge a transaction fee on a load fund. A fund's own redemption fees may apply.

What is the average 401k advisor fee? ›

401(k) Financial Advisor Fees – A Study of 860 Plans
Plan Asset Range$0-$500k (416 plans)$1M-$5M (286 plans)
Range0.02% - 9.36%0.05% - 1.00%
Formulas Used
8 more rows
Feb 13, 2023

How can I avoid 401k withdrawal fees? ›

The IRS dictates you can withdraw funds from your 401(k) account without penalty only after you reach age 59½, become permanently disabled, or are otherwise unable to work.

How can I lower my 401k management fees? ›

How to Lower Your 401(k) Fees as a Plan Sponsor
  1. 1) Check for Lower-Cost Share Classes. ...
  2. 2) Replace Your Funds with Lower-Cost Alternatives. ...
  3. 3) Renegotiate with Your Current Provider. ...
  4. 4) Switch to a New Provider. ...
  5. 1) Replace Your Funds with Index Funds. ...
  6. 2) Lobby Your Employer. ...
  7. 3) Move Your Assets to an IRA.
Jan 13, 2023

What is a commonly undisclosed fee found within many 401 K plans with insurance companies? ›

Indirect fees – these fees are paid by plan investments. They lack the transparency of direct fees. Their dollar amount can be buried in the fund expense ratios of fee disclosures, and not appear at all in participant statements. The two most common forms are revenue sharing and variable annuity “wrap” fees.

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