While researching companies for possible career moves — an occasional hobby of mine before all of my extracurricular time was spent working on Consumerism Commentary — it has been difficult to find reliable information about one of the biggest benefits companies can offer, the 401(k) retirement plan. As an outsider to the company, you cannot access juicy benefits information. You can find out whether a company offers a 401(k), but some plans are decidedly worse than others.
The information I’d like to see available includes a list of available investment options. If my 401(k) contributions are locked into only expensive managed mutual funds, I would prefer to know this before applying for a position. No company match? That’s a deal-breaker. If the company requires an excessive portion of the contributions to be invested in company stock without a reasonable choice to sell, I would have doubts about the company’s future.
The 401(k) may not be the biggest driver in the decision to apply for or accept a position at a company, but this is an example where more information results in more informed applicants and a better chance of finding a mutually-beneficial employment match.
BrightScope is one website that approaches the kind of functionality I am searching for. It allows each visitor to provide limited information about his or her company’s 401(k) plan in order to develop a variety of ratings. Thanks to other employees who have uploaded plan information, BrightScope was able to evaluate my employer. The company I work for scores a 72 overall out of 100, better than average for my industry and only a few points away from the highest score.
In addition to the overall rating, BrightScope evaluates plan cost (like expense ratios and fees), company generosity (quality of the employer match), and investment menu quality.
How does your company’s 401(k) plan stack up against the competition?
Published or updated May 21, 2009.