401k fee disclosure question

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harveyclayton
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Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:57 pm

401k fee disclosure question

Post by harveyclayton » Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:58 pm

I asked my wife’s 401k plan to disclose fee information and this is a part of the response I received.

"Any fee questions you have can be handled through your HR department. They will be able to give you the detail about different types of fees charged and the amounts or percentages they charge."

Besides making me angry because they said my wife’s HR department charges 401k fees which to my knowledge is untrue, I’m irritated that this was referred to my wife’s HR department to answer.

Does my wife’s plan have to provide the information directly to the individual participants or can the 401k provider refer the individual to the HR department? I do not want to ask my wife to go to HR because, unfortunately, she does not have much interest in anything having to do with finance and she definitely does not understand the impact of these fees.

Thanks

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LadyGeek
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Re: 401k fee disclosure question

Post by LadyGeek » Thu Jul 11, 2019 9:17 pm

Welcome! I moved your post to the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum which is more appropriate for employer retirement plans.

My guess is that the 401(k) provider is referring your wife to the HR department because that's how they interface with the employer. The HR department then contacts the plan provider for guidance.

Actually, my current employer does it this way. Why? I have no idea, but it must be based on a work-share agreement with the plan provider.

Fees must be disclosed in the 401(k) plan's Summary Plan Description document, which must be made available to all plan participants. There might be a separate document regarding fee disclosure.

I'm betting your wife's employer has a website for benefits, such as medical insurance, HSA, life insurance, and 401(k) plans. The HR department should point her to the plan document location on the website. All she needs to do is ask HR for the location of the 401(k) plan documents on the website. She doesn't need to go into any more detail than that.
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dbr
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Re: 401k fee disclosure question

Post by dbr » Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:56 am

At my company the 401k administrator maintains a website where everything regarding the plan is available. Among other things is a PDF file which is the fee disclosure. If the administrator does not supply you with such a website then HR must have one. Where do you go when you want to specify deductions and where they are to be invested? That must be on-line and if your wife looks around there I bet the documents must be there.

ERISA Stone
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Re: 401k fee disclosure question

Post by ERISA Stone » Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:52 am

harveyclayton wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:58 pm
I asked my wife’s 401k plan to disclose fee information and this is a part of the response I received.

"Any fee questions you have can be handled through your HR department. They will be able to give you the detail about different types of fees charged and the amounts or percentages they charge."

Besides making me angry because they said my wife’s HR department charges 401k fees which to my knowledge is untrue, I’m irritated that this was referred to my wife’s HR department to answer.

Does my wife’s plan have to provide the information directly to the individual participants or can the 401k provider refer the individual to the HR department? I do not want to ask my wife to go to HR because, unfortunately, she does not have much interest in anything having to do with finance and she definitely does not understand the impact of these fees.

Thanks
Depending on which relationship you are referring to when you say "401k plan", they may not have the authority to speak with plan participants. In some of my roles, I was only allowed to speak directly with the plan sponsor. I certainly wouldn't disclose anything to the spouse of a participant, unless I had specific instruction from the plan sponsor.

dbr
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Re: 401k fee disclosure question

Post by dbr » Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:56 am

PS You are not supposed to have access to your wife's plan information unless you are listed with authority to have such or have a POA that they honor.

autolycus
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Re: 401k fee disclosure question

Post by autolycus » Mon Jul 15, 2019 2:53 pm

harveyclayton wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:58 pm
I asked my wife’s 401k plan to disclose fee information and this is a part of the response I received.

"Any fee questions you have can be handled through your HR department. They will be able to give you the detail about different types of fees charged and the amounts or percentages they charge."

Besides making me angry because they said my wife’s HR department charges 401k fees which to my knowledge is untrue, I’m irritated that this was referred to my wife’s HR department to answer.

Does my wife’s plan have to provide the information directly to the individual participants or can the 401k provider refer the individual to the HR department? I do not want to ask my wife to go to HR because, unfortunately, she does not have much interest in anything having to do with finance and she definitely does not understand the impact of these fees.

Thanks
Is your wife in a union plan or other type of plan that involves more than one employer/company (e.g. a MEP, PEO, or similar)? Or possibly in a 403b? If not, I think your use of the word "plan" is based on some incorrect assumptions. I think you're thinking of someone like Vanguard or Fidelity as "the plan". They're not. They're simply a service provider to the plan.

The Summary Plan Description should name a Plan Administrator. It almost certainly names your wife's employer, a specific individual at your wife's employer (e.g. Director of Human Resources, Director of Benefits, Controller, Chief Financial Officer, etc.), or a committee as the Plan Administrator. The named Plan Administrator has to provide certain information to participants. If that is your wife's employer, then the company's HR department is likely acting for the company in its capacity as Plan Administrator.

Service providers do not have any obligation to provide anything to participants except as what is specified in their contract with the plan/Plan Administrator.

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Stinky
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Re: 401k fee disclosure question

Post by Stinky » Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:44 am

harveyclayton wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:58 pm

Does my wife’s plan have to provide the information directly to the individual participants or can the 401k provider refer the individual to the HR department? I do not want to ask my wife to go to HR because, unfortunately, she does not have much interest in anything having to do with finance and she definitely does not understand the impact of these fees.
I expect that you'll figure out some way to get the information. Maybe unfortunately, your wife will need to be involved in some capacity, because it's her 401(k), not yours.

When faced with similar situations concerning DW's personal matters, DW and I have gotten on the phone together with the information provider. Once she gives the go-ahead that the provider can talk with me about her business, then I can ask the questions that need to be answered.
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