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American 401k Review

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Editor’s Score: 9.14/10

Transparent pricing  10/10
Low employee investment fees 8.7/10
Mobile and online access 10/10
No sign-up or administration fees 8/10
Variety of plans 9/10

Why We Chose American 401k as Best for Transparency

Small business owners have barely enough time in the day to run operations, let alone call plan sponsors to find out how much an employee retirement plan costs. They want a plan sponsor that lays it all out online, empowering them to decide on the spot if it is right for them rather than wait for a callback. The latter method is common in the employee retirement plan industry, which is why American 401k stands out. 

When you visit the American 401k website, you know exactly how much it will cost each month to offer employees a retirement plan. American 401k lists everything, including its one-time installation fee, annual fee, per-employee participant fee, and the annualized investment fee total for employees who participate in the plan. The company even tells you which of its two plans are best for your business size, which we found quite helpful.

FYI: We also like that American 401k is clear about what it doesn’t charge employers and employees, including sales load, 12b-1 fees, exchange fees, and minimum balance fees. All of those investment fees eat away at returns.

Beyond its transparency about its fees, we were impressed with all of American 401k’s investment options. It offers participants more than 15,000 funds and 1,000 ETFs to select from. Additionally, there are options to customize the plan with active and passive investments, no restrictions on the number of investment slots, and a self-directed brokerage account option. The latter, which will appeal to more active investors in your company, includes online access and investment research and tools. 

American 401k also makes enrollment easy by offering a mobile app, onsite training and webinars, one-on-one financial reviews and investment advice, and concierge-level customer service. In a nod to its focus on transparency, employees’ 401(k) account statements update daily online, showing total lifetime returns. 

What We Like About American 401k

  • American 401k lays it all out for you online. You know precisely how much the plan will cost you and your employees from the start. 
  • American 401k keeps investment fees low and offers a wide range of investment choices from quality fund companies, including Fidelity, Charles Schwab, T. Rowe Price, and JPMorgan. 
  • This plan sponsor provides concierge-level customer support, giving you access to a dedicated team of retirement specialists.

What We Don’t Like About American 401k

  • American 401k requires you to have at least one employee to use its 401(k) plans. If you are a solo entrepreneur looking for a plan, this vendor is not a viable choice. 
  • This plan sponsor charges a one-time and annual fee, which may not fit in all businesses’ budgets. 

FYI: American 401k provides concierge-level support, which should appeal to business owners looking for some extra guidance. If you prefer a more DIY approach, check out our review of Paychex.

Ease of Use 

American 401k makes selecting, signing up, and enrolling employees in the retirement plan an easy process. You go in knowing how much the plan costs everyone. From there, you work with the company’s support specialist to design a custom plan for you and your employees. We like the one-on-one support, as not all small business owners have a DIY mentality. Some need help throughout the process, and American 401k provides that. 

It’s also easy for you and your employees to enroll in the plan, thanks to the mobile app, online dashboard, and onsite enrollment meetings and webinars, all administered by American 401k. We like that American 401k provides a lot of investor education and concierge-level customer service. This level of support is similar to what we found in our review of Human Interest.

Bottom Line: The easier it is to get on board with your small business 401(k) plan, the more employees are likely to participate. American 401k makes it easy for you and your employees to enroll in a plan, offering mobile enrollment and hands-on support.

American 401k has a three-step process to get your plan up and running.

Source: American 401k

Features and Services 

American 401k is a full-service 401(k) plan provider. We were impressed with the full suite of features and services it offers. 

Fiduciary Support 

American 401k acts as the plan administrator, custodian, recordkeeper and ERISA 3(38) investment manager. We like how it takes all of this responsibility off of your plate.

Payroll Integration 

American 401k offers integration with top online payroll systems and live support.  

Investment Options 

American 401k offers access to more than 15,000 funds and over 1,000 ETFs, including ones from Fidelity, Charles Schwab, T. Rowe Price, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, and BlackRock. 

Advisory Services and Fund Research Tools  

This plan sponsor provides mobile and online access for enrollment, account management, and investment research and tools. These tools include Morningstar Principia Pro Snapshot reports, asset allocation models, savings calculators and risk comfort profiling. You can also offer your employees a self-directed brokerage option, allowing them to select the brokerage and create their own portfolio online. This is an excellent value-add that not all retirement plan providers offer.

Reporting 

American 401k prepares all the necessary forms and disclosures for you. 

Loans 

American 401k plans have loan and hardship withdrawal options

Mobile App 

American 401k offers a mobile app to make enrollment easy and boost enrollment rates. Not all of the retirement plan sponsors we researched offer access to a mobile app.

Pricing 

American 401k offers two pricing plans, based on the size of your business. 

Plan One-time installation fee Annual fee Employee investment fee Best suited for
Premier $250 $500 + $20 per participant 0.65% Business owners starting a new 401(k) plan who want access to funds and ETFs, and have fewer than 100 employees
Elite $250 $500 + $20 per participant Custom based on investments Companies that already have a 401(k) and want access to funds, ETFs, and stocks, and prefer a custom option
American 401k offers two pricing tiers.

Source: American 401k

Customer Service 

American 401k provides concierge-level customer service, assigning your business a dedicated team of retirement specialists. This team provides ongoing support to you and your employees online, in person, and over the phone. 

Limitations

Before you select American 401k, you should consider the annual fee. Some small businesses may not feel it’s worth it to pay a fee each year for the plan. If that’s your case, Human Interest, our best pick for affordability, may be a better option for you. 

What Are Employee Retirement Savings Plans? 

An employee retirement savings plan is a pooled investment account sponsored by employers that lets employees set aside a portion of their pretax income for retirement. The best employee retirement plans are designed to encourage small business owners and their employees to save for retirement. 

Methodology

When selecting the best provider for transparency, we scoured the internet to find the plan providers that laid it all out upfront and online. Small business owners often don’t have time to call a vendor to find out how much a plan will cost. They want to know right away if they can afford it. That’s why we included transparency as a use case. We further narrowed our search by only researching the plan providers that also offered a detailed breakdown of the investment fees employees pay. Approximate ranges are OK if you aren’t on a budget, but the exact amount is much better to know upfront. The plan sponsors that go into detail about their fees and costs stood out to us. 

To land our pick for transparency, the vendor also had to be clear about the plan types and investment choices it offers and provide top-notch customer service. American 401k checked off all these boxes for transparency.

American 401k FAQs

What is concierge-level customer support, and why does American 401k provide it? 

With this type of customer service, your business is assigned a dedicated team of retirement specialists who help you create a plan, enroll employees in it, and provide ongoing support. Personalized support is only a phone call away. 

What are some of the investment fees American 401k doesn’t charge?  

Investment fees eat away at your returns. Over your lifetime, they can mean thousands of dollars in lost savings potential. To mitigate that, American 401k doesn’t charge sales loads, 12b-1 fees, exchange fees, or minimum balance fees. Employees participating in American 401k plans pay investment fees of 0.65%.  

Bottom Line

We recommend American 401k for …

  • Small business owners who want to know upfront how much the plan will cost the company and employees. 
  • Business owners who like the idea of support from a dedicated team of retirement specialists. 

We don’t recommend American 401k for …

  • Small business owners who don’t want or can’t afford to pay an annual fee. 
  • Business owners who prefer more of a DIY approach to creating and rolling out an employee retirement savings plan. 
  • Budget-conscious small business owners who want the lowest-cost provider.