views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

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jayk238
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views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by jayk238 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:44 pm

What are your views on Empower Retirement? Is this a good 401k provider? My future employer uses this.
What are the fees?
Have you had issues?
Can I use vanguard funds? Is there variety?

Carter3
Posts: 155
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Location: Western Tennessee

Re: views on empower retirement? fees ease of use etc?

Post by Carter3 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:53 pm

Boy oh boy. Where do I start? My company uses empower. Every quarter the asset based charge (.4%) and the registered advisor fees (.35%) are eating me alive. This is what they say the percentages are it seems to be a lot higher when I calculate on my statements maybe it's something I don't completely understand. And that's the problem. Yes you can use vanguard funds and they have quite a few (er are low) ... it all depends on what your company and advisor picks as investment options. For years I've been trying to get the company to change to fidelity or anywhere else, but they have some love affair with the advisor.
Last edited by Carter3 on Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jayk238
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by jayk238 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:56 pm

can you give me an example of these fees? Like what they actually lead to in expenses through an example?

Suppose I have 100k invested - how much in extra fees will I be paying vs paying in a vanguard account directly for the same thing?

I know I'm stuck with them but at least I have an idea.

Can I escape them at all and still get match?

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whodidntante
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Re: views on empower retirement? fees ease of use etc?

Post by whodidntante » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:00 pm

Empower retirement itself is fine. I have them and my plan includes several low cost funds from Vanguard, State Street, and Dimensional Fund Advisors. This might be the case for you also. However your employer has a lot of leeway in how they setup your plan, and they might have designed a plan that is expensive for you. See if brightscope has information, or wait and see. It sounds like you already accepted the job so it's a bit late.

cherijoh
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Re: views on empower retirement? fees ease of use etc?

Post by cherijoh » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:01 pm

jayk238 wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:44 pm
What are your views on Empower Retirement? Is this a good 401k provider? My future employer uses this.
What are the fees?
Have you had issues?
Can I use vanguard funds? Is there variety?
401k providers generally support numerous retirement plans which each have a different line-up of funds and which may charge different fees. (it depends on the number of participants and how much (if any) of the costs your company is willing to subsidize. Those things are both determined by your specific plan - not the 401k provider. For example my company used to use Fidelity, but the plan didn't offer a single Fidelity fund. Fortunately the line up included several Vanguard funds. In general, larger company plans have better offerings and lower fees.

I have never heard of the Empower Retirement. Even if someone has their 401k plan with them, the only feedback you are likely to receive from forum would be how easy/difficult their website portal is to use - that's about the only thing that different plans under that provider will have in common.

Your employer should make a summary plan document available to all employees. If you read that document it will provide you a list of funds with the accompanying expense ratios. If you post that information, then people can comment on how your company's plan stacks up against the average. But you will have to do some research on your own first.

Jags4186
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by Jags4186 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:20 pm

My wife has Empower. In 2017 she was charged a total of $145.70 in various fees called Fund Expense, Automated Third Party Payment, and Asset Based Charges. This was on an account that ended 2017 with a value of approximately $50,000.

They have a *wide* variety of Vanguard Admiral class funds so it’s not awful.

Carter3
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Location: Western Tennessee

Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by Carter3 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:12 pm

For mine for example at 100k you would pay ~$200 that quarter in fees. Keep in mind each paycheck your balance would increase and therefore the fees $ amount would increase. I've never had any issues. Some companies actually pay those fees, I was with a company that did that two jobs ago. I don't know any way to still get the match without contributing. What's important is that since youre taking the job already contribute Ann's take advantage of what's coming your way. Also find out how soon you are vested.

Plan you get also depends on how big your company is with regard to fees, and how much assets your company has funded with them.

limeyx
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Re: views on empower retirement? fees ease of use etc?

Post by limeyx » Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:33 am

Carter3 wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:53 pm
Boy oh boy. Where do I start? My company uses empower. Every quarter the asset based charge (.4%) and the registered advisor fees (.35%) are eating me alive. This is what they say the percentages are it seems to be a lot higher when I calculate on my statements maybe it's something I don't completely understand. And that's the problem. Yes you can use vanguard funds and they have quite a few (er are low) ... it all depends on what your company and advisor picks as investment options. For years I've been trying to get the company to change to fidelity or anywhere else, but they have some love affair with the advisor.
Ouch. We have Empower and as best I can tell its around 0.75% per year in fees on top of the fund but I need to go back and actually add up all the fees to make sure.

Lou354
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Re: views on empower retirement? fees ease of use etc?

Post by Lou354 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:11 am

cherijoh wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:01 pm
jayk238 wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:44 pm
What are your views on Empower Retirement? Is this a good 401k provider? My future employer uses this.
What are the fees?
Have you had issues?
Can I use vanguard funds? Is there variety?
401k providers generally support numerous retirement plans which each have a different line-up of funds and which may charge different fees. (it depends on the number of participants and how much (if any) of the costs your company is willing to subsidize. Those things are both determined by your specific plan - not the 401k provider. For example my company used to use Fidelity, but the plan didn't offer a single Fidelity fund. Fortunately the line up included several Vanguard funds. In general, larger company plans have better offerings and lower fees.

I have never heard of the Empower Retirement. Even if someone has their 401k plan with them, the only feedback you are likely to receive from forum would be how easy/difficult their website portal is to use - that's about the only thing that different plans under that provider will have in common.

Your employer should make a summary plan document available to all employees. If you read that document it will provide you a list of funds with the accompanying expense ratios. If you post that information, then people can comment on how your company's plan stacks up against the average. But you will have to do some research on your own first.
Empower Retirement’s (f/k/a Great West Retirement) platform is easy to use. I like the rebalancing feature. One thing I find annoying is they recently redesigned the website and app so the first page you see after logging on advertises their advisory service, which is available for an additional fee of course. Once you get past that page it’s fine. I agree with cherijoh.

kenoryan
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by kenoryan » Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:01 am

I’m so glad I came upon this thread. My wife had worked for a company that had empower retirement plan around 10years ago. She was with that company for just a couple of years. We would get statements but there was never a transaction history, just a total account value in that statement. Well, I finally managed to log in to that account after making a login ID etc. guess what, there was $156k in that account now! It had been all invested in SP500 fund and had grown quite a bit. But the real interesting part was the AUM fee of $220 every quarter, which we didn’t know because it never showed up on the quarterly statements! Anyway, after much nagging, I finally managed to get her to make that phone call and they will liquidate the funds and send her a check to be deposited to her current employers retirement fund in fidelity. Thanks again to you guys for the information on empower.

skylar
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by skylar » Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:18 am

My state 457b plan is through Empower. As others have mentioned, the platform is nice, but YMMV with the fees. For this plan, the fees are very low — there's an admin fee of 0.1283% of assets, and then the expense ratios of the funds themselves, which range from 0.13% to 0.25%. Most of the non-target funds are index funds, so it ends up being a very good deal, but it really depends on how your employer sets it up.

indyfish
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by indyfish » Wed Jan 17, 2018 8:43 am

My company has Empower. The asset based charge is 0.33% a year - or 3.30 per 1000.00 of assets - spread out in quarterly increments. There are Vanguard funds, but they also have the TIAA lifecycle index funds at the Institutional net expense ratio of 0.10%, so that is OK. Probably most of my 401ks in the past have been worse.

jayk238
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by jayk238 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:19 am

So looks like there is a range from low cost .12 all the way to .75 and this range may not be the full scope.
Looks like you guys are right that it depends on the individual plan. Ill have to wait to find out

Hoosier
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by Hoosier » Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:05 pm

One more data point...
My wife's employer is now with Empower... they have a flat fee of something like $7.50 per quarter. In our case... with 33 years of contributions, this fee is very reasonable.

airborne
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by airborne » Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:22 pm

I think their online portal is garbage. It's my main complaint with Empower, to the point where I'm tempted to transfer as much as I can to my Self Directed Account at Schwab.

The site doesn't do a very good job of showing your investment's performance. Rate of return is depicted as a line item and there isn't a single chart to be found (except an AA pie chart). If you like playing with the data points and visualizing your investments, you'll be very disappointed.

N10sive
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by N10sive » Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:25 pm

My current company uses this. The website isn't as good as my previous 401k. Funds ER's are a lot lower than my previous. I haven't seen these other fees, ill need to look into them.

Its not bad, it isn't great. You could have a lot worse plan.....

armeliusc
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by armeliusc » Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:32 pm

Here's another data point. My 401K and 457b from previous employer were also with "Empower Retirement". The fee is 0.25% per year, spread out every month. This is shown in the quarterly statement. I checked at the very beginning and seemed that the consensus here was that it's very reasonable (you could do a lot worse). In my fund line up at least there are multiple Vanguard target date funds, Vanguard institutional index (S&P 500) and total bond. Other funds have too high ER so I just use those two. In fact I am starting the process of rolover it to IRA to Vanguard so that I can add Total International and probably Extended market (to make total stock market).

Spin
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by Spin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:19 pm

We have Empower at my Fortune 500. The website is very basic with calculators assuming percentage of income replacement in retirement, social security, etc.

I went looking for fees in my statements. In the last year I only see $0.91 (yes, 91 cents) in fees/expenses on roughly $125,000 in assets. Looking through the benefits section of our employee website, I can't find any information about fees. Empower doesn't list anything either other than the expense ratios.

Could our company be paying the AUM fees? Am I missing something?

jayk238
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by jayk238 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:21 pm

Spin wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:19 pm
We have Empower at my Fortune 500. The website is very basic with calculators assuming percentage of income replacement in retirement, social security, etc.

I went looking for fees in my statements. In the last year I only see $0.91 (yes, 91 cents) in fees/expenses on roughly $125,000 in assets. Looking through the benefits section of our employee website, I can't find any information about fees. Empower doesn't list anything either other than the expense ratios.

Could our company be paying the AUM fees? Am I missing something?
Can you at least see return? I mean how much have you made year over year from it? That seems too basic not to be made available by them.

Spin
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by Spin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:30 pm

Yes, you can. There's a section for statements that includes quarterly statements and statements on demand, where you can enter a date range.

Beginning Balance / Deposits / Change in Value / Transfers / Withdrawals & Expenses / Ending Balance

There's another area that shows breakdown by source: Before Tax / Company Match / Roth Deferrals

Rate of Return: Your entire 401k rate of return, annualized and cumulative.
Estimated contributions and earnings: Each source (Before Tax, Company Match, etc.), then Contributions, Earnings/Losses on those, and Total

There are no single fund performance graphs outside of the prospectus. Speaking with others I believe this is to discourage people from frequent trading.

Crazylegs
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by Crazylegs » Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:34 pm

My state employee Def Comp 457 program is through Empower. I found the fees very reasonable, unless I'm missing something. All the funds are index funds and fees are .01-.02% operating expense on the funds plus a .07% asset based fee. I see that as .08-.09% fees which seem pretty good to me. The Stable Value fund runs a bit higher, 0.30 + .07. And the returns have been solid due to them being index funds.

Spin
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by Spin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:35 pm

Krcameron wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:34 pm
My state employee Def Comp 457 program is through Empower. I found the fees very reasonable, unless I'm missing something. All the funds are index funds and fees are .01-.02% operating expense on the funds plus a .07% asset based fee. I see that as .08-.09% fees which seem pretty good to me. The Stable Value fund runs a bit higher, 0.30 + .07. And the returns have been solid due to them being index funds.
Where on the website did you find the .07% asset-based fee?

ccieemeritus
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by ccieemeritus » Thu Jan 18, 2018 1:23 am

My (now former) employer switched from Schwab to Empower retirement a year ago. I was unhappy with the change because I like Schwab.

Since I left my employer I noticed a $10 quarterly "participant account maintenance" fee. I was not paying that fee while I was employed and doing new payroll contributions.

The ER on my fund (Vanguard institutional 500 index trust) is 0.013%

So overall fees are fine. But I'm unhappy with the empower web interface. I also don't like having an account with a 401k provider I never heard of.

I believe some companies want to pay $0 to the 401k provider so the costs are added to the ER's of the funds. So your ER's may vary. The funds available may vary. Fortunately my former employer is a megacorp and apparently negotiated well.

ccieemeritus
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by ccieemeritus » Thu Jan 18, 2018 1:27 am

Spin wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:35 pm
Krcameron wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:34 pm
My state employee Def Comp 457 program is through Empower. I found the fees very reasonable, unless I'm missing something. All the funds are index funds and fees are .01-.02% operating expense on the funds plus a .07% asset based fee. I see that as .08-.09% fees which seem pretty good to me. The Stable Value fund runs a bit higher, 0.30 + .07. And the returns have been solid due to them being index funds.
Where on the website did you find the .07% asset-based fee?
I'd suggest going to "my accounts -> transaction history" and seeing how much money is going out of your account for "account maintenance" or whatever.

There is also a "my accounts -> fee disclosure notice" (at the bottom). That document is hard to read but I found my $10 quarterly fee was explained there. But it's still easier to see that fee go away in the transaction history.

Pessimist55
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by Pessimist55 » Thu Jan 18, 2018 1:39 am

My multibillion company also uses them.we have very limited choices of very cheap plain vanilla core sga funds along w target dated vg funds. I have not seen any fees yet.
I do not like their interface nor the two step security that is required whenever I want to access my account online

mariezzz
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by mariezzz » Thu Jan 18, 2018 3:20 am

Have a457 account through them. The password can only consist of 8 integers. From a security perspective, that's awful. I assume the password is determined by empower since the URL ends in empower-retirement.com.
Not the best interface. Has some fees but that's because the employers passes them on to employees. Mediocre options for investments but not really bad and again, I suspect the employer determines them. The employer provides quarterly info on performance, etc. A fund's annual fees usually is <0.3% (the ones I use are <.20%) - this is for a large employer. I checked that explicitly based on other comments in this thread - had assumed annual, but made sure of that.
Haven't had any horrendous things happen so far with customer service, etc.

twenty characters
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by twenty characters » Thu Jan 18, 2018 7:58 am

Empower rules the 457 market space, but they also have 401(k) clients.

My employer was naive about the 457 market until we connected with a consultant at NAGDCA who helped us turn things around. Since we began consulting, we tell Empower what we want instead of Empower giving us what it wants. Fees are renegotiated with Empower each time we issue an RFP, and so far, they've worked diligently to hold on to our business.

There may be multiple Empower websites, but on mine, you can self-select a userid for the website (it doesn't have to be numeric). The password has to be numeric, and mine is > 8 numbers long. I think they do this so passwords on the IVR can match the ones on the website. I wonder how much longer IVR will be offered. When it goes, I'd expect password rules to change.

Your employer's 401(k) plan may be listed on Bright Scope, enabling you to get a look at fees before you sign up. 457 plans generally assess those fees explicitly to participants--it may be an ERISA requirement, and if so, you'll find it's true in 401(k) plans. As you've seen, some use capitation and some use an asset-based charge. My plan chose asset-based in order to entice people to start saving since people with high balances pay more.

If you want to protect assets under a qualified plan while minimizing fees, you can first fill an IRA (which we assume you keep at Vanguard and it has an appropriate Boglehead lazy portfolio), then put whatever more you can afford in the 401(k). Be certain to defer as much into the 401(k) as your employer will match, in any case. You'll be paying Empower a premium for recordkeeping in addition to the fees for funds you select. On the other hand, you can shelter more income in an employer sponsored plan than you can in an IRA and you may be entitled to an employer match.

Until your employer takes the reins, Empower will be happy to run your new employer's plan to its own specifications. Once your employer takes the reins, Empower will wish to keep the business and will accommodate your employer's wishes. We immediately banished the (then Great-West) proprietary funds. It took YEARS to get out of a Great-West money market fund, but it was a worthwhile struggle. We've seen a couple of mishaps over the years, and Empower worked hard to calculate the loss to participants and, more importantly, made them whole at its own expense.

There are all kinds and all sizes of employers. Yours may take kindly to a polite suggestion that its 401(k) plan needs attention. You'll want to do your homework first, of course. Amidst running an actual business, details like the office coffee machine and the qualified retirement plan can fall off the radar. You might be the one who makes a difference for everyone at that employer, and an improved 401(k) plan could, depending upon your workplace demographic, be a useful recruiting tool.

KSActuary
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by KSActuary » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:43 am

Empower(Old Great West Life) or your employer should provide you a Participant Fee Disclosure when you join. That should outline all fees. There is no personal information in the document so you could post parts of it and we could react better.

Crazylegs
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by Crazylegs » Thu Jan 18, 2018 5:54 pm

Spin wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:35 pm
Krcameron wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:34 pm
My state employee Def Comp 457 program is through Empower. I found the fees very reasonable, unless I'm missing something. All the funds are index funds and fees are .01-.02% operating expense on the funds plus a .07% asset based fee. I see that as .08-.09% fees which seem pretty good to me. The Stable Value fund runs a bit higher, 0.30 + .07. And the returns have been solid due to them being index funds.
Where on the website did you find the .07% asset-based fee?
It is listed on the quarterly return document. Come to think of it I have not noticed it listed on the fund summaries, only on the two page document under investment returns.

ebrasmus21
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by ebrasmus21 » Thu Jan 18, 2018 5:59 pm

I've been pleased overall with empower. I called to speak to a rep one day and it was easy, the rep helped me no problem. My company has a number of low cost investment options as well. My 401k has a low balance but as far as I can tell my total for all fees in 2017 was less than 10 dollars.

I haven't had to deal with them on anything complicated - it's all be easy so far.

crit
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Re: views on "Empower Retirement" as a 401k provider? fees? ease of use etc?

Post by crit » Thu Jan 18, 2018 6:11 pm

My spouse had empower when we first merged finances. In 2015, I found that the $42k of contributions made between 2005 and 2007 had sat in a money market fund (ok, not their fault) since 2008 and had diminished to $38k through their fees. I did not look deeply into what those fees were exactly, but ... ouch. The funds available were expensive, 0.6 at the least for a 500-index fund, and more than 1 for anything bond.

The company has since moved to Fidelity, with better fund options though still not the cheapest.

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