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Add a Friendly Face to Your Employees’ 401(k)sAdd a Friendly Face to Your Employees’ 401(k)s Why some of your 401(k) plan’s participants may need a little extra advice—and how to give it to them. Before our arrival more than a decade ago, the finance world typically worked one way for everyday investors: you had a “guy.” In rare cases—much too rare—it was a “gal,” but that’s a story for another day. This advisor may or may not have been a fiduciary, meaning someone legally obligated to act in your best interest. But if you wanted to invest, you had to go through them. And they likely charged a hefty sum for their services, given that today’s average fees for a traditional financial advisor are still more expensive than alternatives like Betterment. Something about this dynamic didn’t sit well with us, so we flipped the relationship on its head. We put our team of experts to work behind the scenes. Traders and tax experts, behavioral scientists and “quants,” they all worked together to infuse technology with their investing insights, leading to a piece of software that served up personalized advice and automated features at scale and for a fraction of the cost of what most investment firms charged. While plenty of investors—730,000 and counting—utilize our approach to automated investing, some still prefer to add a human advisor to that experience, someone to coach them through their money moves face-to-face. And you know what? We not only think that arrangement is okay, it sums up our investing philosophy well: automate what you can, and leave the rest to humans. The implications for your company’s 401(k) plan All of the above holds true for your employees and their 401(k)s. You can give them an intuitive platform to automate their retirement savings. You can match a percentage of their contributions as an incentive. You can share a robust library of educational resources to help explain investing. Some will thrive in this scenario, some will struggle, and some may not bother to sign up at all. So what are you, the plan sponsor, to do? Well, you can add Certified Coaching to your Betterment at Work 401(k), giving your employees access to professional financial advice from our team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals. These experts—all fiduciaries, by the way—add a warm touch to the cold arithmetic of retirement saving. They can help your employees not only maximize their 401(k)s, but sort through the rest of their financial lives. “You know, the biggest emotion I sense from clients after a session isn’t excitement; it’s a sense of relief,” says Corbin Blackwell, one of our advisors. “They’re smart people, but investing is scary. Sometimes you just need reassurance that you’re on the right track.” Or sometimes, your employees really do have unusual life circumstances that make for complicated financial decisions. The sort of scenarios that aren’t easy to automate. Maybe they’re high earners, for example, trying to weigh the pros and cons of a Roth IRA conversion. In any case, it’s helpful to have a CFP® professional like Corbin available to talk with. Giving your employees this premium resource can help boost your plan’s participation rate and may improve their financial wellbeing. It can also elevate your 401(k) above your competitors. Retirement saving’s role in the recruiting arms race So far we’ve focused on the benefits of Certified Coaching to your existing employees. We haven’t touched on the appeal to prospective employees, the people you’re hoping fill your talent pipeline for years to come. To some of these workers, a 401(k) is an expectation and neither a surprise nor a delight. They’ve seen plenty of cookie cutter retirement benefits in past jobs and none stood out, at least for the right reasons. While some companies consider this business as usual, another box to check in their benefits package, others see an advantage just waiting to be taken. Because let’s be real, what actually stands out: a piece of paper in your benefits packet, or real-time access to an expert like Corbin? Don’t take our word for it, listen to the recruits. We surveyed workers—and 1-in-5 said access to a live financial advisor could entice them to leave their current job. Whether you’re already a Betterment at Work customer or considering becoming one, Certified Coaching carries the potential to differentiate not only your 401(k) plan but your company. It’s a straightforward way to show you care about the financial well-being of recruits and current employees alike.
Getting Started with Betterment at WorkGetting Started with Betterment at Work Welcome! Here’s your step-by-step guide to getting your 401(k) up and running. You’ve done the due diligence. You’ve picked us as your 401(k) plan provider. You’ve signed a services agreement. Now what? Before we share the steps needed on your part to get your plan up and running, here’s another heartfelt thank you from us to you. Sponsoring a 401(k) plan is a big commitment on your part—the fiduciary responsibilities alone make it one. You’ve placed your trust in us as your plan provider, and we don’t take that lightly. It’s why we stay by your side every step of the way. Speaking of those steps, here are the first ones you’ll take after signing a services agreement: Step 1: Complete a questionnaire One business day after signing a services agreement, you’ll receive an email with a link to a questionnaire that confirms some basic information about your organization and sets up your plan in our system. This questionnaire can only be sent to one person at your organization, typically the person who’s been in contact with our Sales team. Step 2: Log in to your plan sponsor dashboard After completing the questionnaire, you’ll receive an email with a personalized link to your Betterment at Work plan sponsor dashboard, your home for ongoing plan management. After logging in, you’ll see a series of onboarding tasks to complete so we can finish setting up your organization’s plan. Let’s break down some of these tasks below. Step 3: Review and acknowledge the Investment Policy Statement (IPS) This outlines our general investing rules and can be found in your onboarding hub. Step 4: Purchase a fidelity bond Before your first payroll with Betterment at Work, you’ll need to purchase a fidelity bond. This is a form of insurance required of 401(k) plans that protects against acts of fraud or dishonesty. The bond must come from an insurance company certified by the Department of Treasury. While you’re completing steps 1-4, by the way, we’ll be simultaneously drafting your plan document and disclosure notices. Step 5: Review and sign your plan document Once your plan document is ready, you’ll receive an email to review and sign it. After you’ve signed the plan document, we’ll build out your plan on our platform. This can take up to two weeks to get all the details just right. Step 6: Tell your team about their new 401(k) provider! Right after you sign your plan document is a great time to let your team know about your company’s new 401(k) provider: Betterment! This gives employees ample time to get familiar with us before we email them directly with invitations to claim their accounts. It also helps ensure you give this notice the required 30 days or more before your first payroll with us. Not sure what to say? A suggested announcement message is available in your onboarding hub, and includes a link for your employees to register for our recurring Getting Started with your Betterment 401(k) webinar as well as select articles from our employee resource hub (betterment.com/my401k). Step 7: Add employees to your plan Once your plan is built out on our platform, the party really gets started. How employees are added to your plan depends on whether or not your payroll provider integrates with our platform: If your payroll provider is integrated with our platform, we’ll automatically sync employees. You’ll need to review and confirm the list is correct at least 30 days before payroll launch. If your payroll provider is *not* integrated with our platform, you’ll be asked to bulk upload a list of employees at least 30 days before payroll launch, then we’ll generate their accounts. Once your employees’ accounts have been created, we’ll send an email to each employee’s work email inviting them to claim their account and, in the process, create a login. If an employee already has a Betterment account via one of our individual products like an IRA, the claim email will go to their personal email address. Either way, they’ll need to use the unique link in this email to access their account the first time. Step 8: Prepare for your first payroll Check out your onboarding task hub for details on handling your first payroll. Step 9: Celebrate! Congratulations on uploading your first payroll with Betterment at Work! Your employees are now taking advantage of our clean design and straightforward tools to get more out of their 401(k)s. Their accounts will be funded once the ACH deposit is confirmed, which typically takes 1–3 business days depending on your bank. Once your onboarding process is complete, our Onboarding team will send you an email introducing you to our Plan Support team, who can help with all things related to your ongoing plan administration. To access your plan sponsor dashboard, log in here or by clicking "Log in" at the top of the page while visiting betterment.com/work.
Betterment 401(k) – Bulk Upload Tutorial for Plan SponsorsBetterment 401(k) – Bulk Upload Tutorial for Plan Sponsors Betterment’s bulk upload tool allows you to add multiple employees to your plan quickly. This tutorial outlines best practices and shares helpful tips for using our bulk upload tool effectively. Step-by-step Tutorial Log in to the employer dashboard Navigate to: employees → add employees → add multiple employees Download the CSV template Open the CSV template using a program like Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, or Google Sheets Fill out one row for each employee you want to upload. Use the table below to understand the columns in the template: Column Description First Name The employee’s legal first name No special characters accepted Last Name The employee’s legal last name No special characters accepted Middle Initial Leave blank if the employee doesn’t have a legal middle name Social Security Number The employee’s government-issued Social Security Number If the employee is not a US Citizen, a Social Security Number still needs to be provided Social Security Numbers should be formatted with hyphens, e.g.: 123-45-6789 Email Betterment uses email to complete the employee sign-up process and to send employees important plan notifications and updates Date of Birth Date should be formatted as MM/DD/YYYY Employment Status This field accepts the following inputs: active (currently employed) terminated (formerly employed) deceased (deceased) disabled (on disability leave) unpaid_leave (unpaid leave) retired (retired former employee) Date of Hire Date of hire can be up to one year in the future Date should be formatted as MM/DD/YYYY Date of Termination This field is required if Employment Status is terminated, deceased, disabled or retired This field can be left blank for employees who are active or who are on unpaid leave Date of termination can be up to one year in the future Date should be formatted as MM/DD/YYYY Date of Rehire This field is required if Employment Status is active and Date of Termination is set Address Line 1 This field is required for all employees The employee’s residential address cannot be a PO Box If the employee’s address includes a comma, you must put that address within quotation marks Address Line 2 This field can be left blank if the employee’s residential address is only one line City Part of the employee’s residential address State Part of the employee’s residential address State should be written using the official two-letter postal abbreviation Examples: NY, FL, CA, TX 5 Digit ZIP Code Part of the employee’s residential address Eligible This field accepts an input of Y or N If an employee will be hired in the future, you must enter N for Eligible, and enter a date in the Entry on column. This indicates that the employee will become eligible for the plan on the future date you’ve specified. Entry on This field defines the date on which an employee will become eligible for the 401(k) plan This date can be in the past or the future Date should be formatted as MM/DD/YYYY Electronic Access This field accepts an input of Y or N Can this employee receive emails and access Betterment’s website at a computer they use regularly as part of their job? Union Member This field accepts an input of Y or N Is this employee a member of a union? Date Joined Union Required if the employee is a member of a union Date should be formatted as MM/DD/YYYY Can be left blank for non-union employees Participant Type This field accepts the following inputs: primary (all participants who are currently in the plan, whether active, terminated, deceased, disabled, retired, or on leave) beneficiary (beneficiary of a deceased participant) alternate_payee (a person who will be the payee of a divorce or other legal settlement) Deferral Rate If an employee was participating in a 401(k) plan you had with a previous provider, please indicate their contribution rate from that provider. This will be used as their new default rate at Betterment. The employee will be able to log into their account to change this prior to their first contribution with Betterment. Traditional deferral amount and percent cannot both be present. Roth deferral amount and percent cannot both be present. If you’re not switching to Betterment from a previous provider, you can leave this field blank. After you’re done filling out the document, export the file as a CSV. Upload your CSV file to Betterment. If you receive any errors after uploading your file, review the errors and make changes to your CSV file. Re-upload the file to Betterment after making changes. Once your file is accepted without any errors, you’ll be asked to review the names of the newly created employees. This helps ensure that you’re uploading the correct file to your plan. When you’re done reviewing, click the ‘add employees’ button. Next, the upload process will begin. Once your employees have been uploaded, they’ll receive an email inviting them to complete the sign-up process. Finally, check the employees page to make sure there are no outstanding errors that occurred during the employee creation process. Address any errors that may have occurred. You’re all set! All new participant profiles will be visible on the employees page. You can return to the employees page to make changes to an employee’s profile at any time. Frequently Asked Questions Do I have to do anything else? Nope! You’re all set. Betterment will email all required disclosures to your new plan participants. Do I have to send any notices to my employees? No, Betterment will send all notices to your employees automatically via email. When will my employees be alerted? Employees will be notified by email as soon as their account is created. How can my employees join the plan after I upload their information to Betterment? Employees can check their email for an invite from Betterment to complete the sign-up process. My employee has a P.O. Box as their address. Can I use that address with Betterment? No. To comply with regulations for opening accounts, we require a physical address to verify an employee's identity. Betterment will not send physical mail to an employee’s address (unless they opt into paper statements, which is rare); we will otherwise only use their physical address for account verification. Questions? Contact us.
Betterment’s 401(k) Investment ApproachBetterment’s 401(k) Investment Approach Helping employees make better decisions and providing choice to those who want it. Dan Egan, Betterment’s VP of Behavioral Finance and Investing, explains why Betterment’s investment approach is effective for all 401(k) participants Investment Approach Q&A Betterment’s 401(k) investment approach differs from that of traditional providers, but can you give us a little history about the 401(k) environment pre-Betterment? If I go back to the first job where I had a 401(k) probably about 20 years ago, there was a lineup of funds, and it was up to me as a 401(k) participant to figure out which funds to pick and in what ratios, how much to save and so on. The research coming from that period showed that people often ended up in an analysis paralysis state, where there was so much choice and so many things to consider. It was very difficult for people to know whether they were investing at the appropriate risk level, how much they were paying and so on. Many people were so overloaded that they decided to forego saving for retirement rather than risk making a “bad” decision. But as the industry matured, and everyone realized that more choice does not necessarily lead to better decision-making, the Pension Protection Act (PPA) was passed in 2006. The idea here was not to eliminate choice, but to encourage good defaults that would encourage 401(k) plan participation. How exactly did the PPA encourage more 401(k) participation? For one thing, it allowed for safe harbor investments in the form of QDIAs, or qualified default investment alternatives. The most popular QDIAs were target date funds, which are linked to an individual’s age so if you're 40, it’s assumed that you will be investing for the next 25 years and retiring at 65. Target dates have a glidepath so that the stock allocation becomes more conservative over time, so the employee doesn't have to do anything like managing a portfolio or rebalancing. After the PPA, it became much more common for employees to be auto-enrolled using a target date fund or something like it, and all of sudden, they no longer had to make choices. People were no longer worried about picking and choosing from a whole bunch of individual funds or even individual stocks. And the plan designs promoted by the PPA really worked: plan participation rates that had been languishing saw rates increase to more than 90% after implementing auto-enrollment. By the time Betterment started its 401(k) platform, the changes brought about by the PPA were already well established. So talk a little bit now about how Betterment's 401(k) investment approach differs from that of traditional 401(k) providers. Betterment takes and builds upon a lot of the ideas in a target date fund and goes further. Number one, we are not a fund provider. We are independent from fund companies. So part of our job as a 3(38) investment fiduciary is to be an investment advisor and financial advisor, and do the due diligence on all of the funds that we make available. If you're picking from amongst eight large-cap US stock funds, there's not a lot of variation in what their returns are going to look like and you can generally predict performance versus a benchmark knowing the fund costs. So part of our job is to actually do the work on the behalf of participants, to narrow down the field of funds towards just the ones that stand out within a given asset class and that are cost-effective. We then ask more specific questions including not just how old someone is, but also more personalized questions like when someone plans on retiring. Some people want to retire as early as possible. That might be 55, 57, 62 (which is the earliest possible age you can start collecting Social Security). Other people want to keep working as late as possible, which is 70 or 72. Those are extremely different retirement plans that should have different portfolios based upon those hugely different time horizons. So unlike a target date fund, which says, this is your age and you're done, Betterment is going to ask about your age, but also things like, when do you want to retire? Putting together a retirement plan might also involve your spouse or significant others, retirement assets, and even doing tax optimization across the account types that you have available to you. And how does that help the employee? A lot of it is about making it easy for consumers to make better decisions, not imposing a bunch of choices on them. You have to remember, the vast majority of people are not frequently thinking about stocks and investing. They don't want to have to look up prospectuses and put together a risk managed portfolio. So Betterment does the work for them to make it easy for them to understand how to get to where they want to be. I want to be clear that that's not necessarily about removing choice, it's about making it easy to get to a solution quickly. It’s also about minimizing the number of unnecessary choices for most people while maintaining choice for people who want it. At Betterment, 401(k) investors can still modify your risk level. You can say, "Yeah, maybe it makes sense for me to be at 90% stocks, but I'm not comfortable with it. I want to be at 30% stocks." Or they can modify their allocations using our flexible portfolio strategy, so that they can come in and say, "Actually I don't like international [investments] as much." So it's not about removing choice. And we let them see the consequences of that in terms of risk and return. So employees in Betterment 401(k)s have choice, but how do you respond to people who might already have a 401(k) or are already invested in funds outside of their 401(k), and have a favorite fund that they feel is an absolute must have? I’m not necessarily against people who have put time and effort into researching something and wanting to invest in it. But I think it is focusing on the wrong thing. When you look at long-run research statistics on funds, the predictability of fund success within a category is low. A fund that outperformed last quarter is unlikely to continue to outperform this quarter. So I would say that the fund is very rarely the most important aspect of the 401(k) plan or decision. And I’d guess most participants don't have a favorite fund. Again, going back to research we've looked at across a wide array of companies, most people are looking to minimize how much burden is imposed upon them in making decisions about what they should do for their retirement. There is generally a very small minority who have very strong views about what the right investments are. And that trade-off shows up in that we will generally look at low-cost funds, well-diversified funds. We do offer a range of choice in terms of portfolio strategy: do you want a factor-tilted portfolio or a socially-responsible portfolio or an income portfolio? Without necessarily saying that you're responsible for doing the fund due diligence yourself. It is true that we offer a trade-off: we're not the wild west where you can go out and get anything you want. And that is because that level of discretion is rarely used by plan participants. There's a lot of potential to do the wrong thing when somebody has a completely open access plan. Not to mention, all plan fiduciaries have an obligation to act in the best interests of their plan participants as a whole. So they have to evaluate what makes the most sense for the majority of plan participants, not a small, vocal minority. Somewhat related, what is your response to people who argue that Betterment’s all-ETF fund line-up is too limited? A 401(k) plan made up exclusively of ETFs is no less limiting than a 401(k) plan made up exclusively of mutual funds. Because mutual funds have been around much longer, it’s true that their universe is larger, but I think anyone would be hard pressed to argue that our expert-built and third-party portfolios are not enough to choose from. ETFs are critical to Betterment’s investment approach and a better alternative for 401(k) plans, in large part because mutual funds have complex fee structures and are typically more expensive than ETFs which have transparent and low costs. So why do so many plans still use mutual funds? We believe it’s not despite these issues but because of them, since fees embedded in mutual fund expense ratios are often used to offset the costs of 401(k) vendors servicing the plan. In addition, many legacy recordkeeping systems do not have the technology to handle ETF intraday trading and must restrict their clients to using funds that are only valued at the end of the day. Betterment’s 401(k) plan comes with a 0.25% investment advisory fee. What do employers and employees get for that? I think there's actually two levels to this. The first is “does this actually cost me more?” It’s definitely more transparent in its cost, but most 401(k) plans charge more via higher fund fees. The fund fees may even include embedded fees that go to pay for other plan services. In these more traditional models, the fees are hidden from you, the consumer. But trust me: everybody is getting paid. It's just a matter of whether or not you're aware how much and who you're paying. That also sets up the very important second aspect which is: what is this investment manager responsible for and what are they incentivized to do well? What does Betterment do for 25 basis points? Well, number one, that's how we make sure that we're independent from the fund companies; we don’t get paid by them. Every quarter, we go out and we look at all of the funds that are available in the market. We review them, independent of who provides them, looking at cost, liquidity, tax burdens, and more. And if we find a better fund, because we take no money from fund companies, we're going to move to that better fund. So one thing that you're paying for is, in effect, not only ongoing due diligence and checking, but you're paying for independence, which means that you know we’re unbiased when changes are made inside of your portfolio. The other thing you get is that we want to earn that 25 basis points by serving clients better. So we want to invest in things like personalized retirement portfolios (available to every 401(k) participant) where we are actually able to give better retirement advice that takes into account you, your partner, all the various kinds of retirement accounts you have: Roth, IRA, taxable, trust, and more. Or asset location, for example, which works across tax-advantaged retirement accounts so that employees can keep more of their money and enjoy higher levels of spending in retirement. Employees with a Betterment 401(k) can learn more about our investment options here; plan sponsors can explore them here.