by Hollee Vance
on December 26, 2019
Are you a public education employee in the state of California and interested in contributing to a 403(b) Plan, but unsure where to begin?
CalSTRS created 403bcompare.com as a resource for the state of California public education employees so they can make “better informed investment decisions”. All investment providers who are listed on 403bcompare.com have registered with the State of California in compliance with Education Code Section 25100-25115.
This tool is powerful, but very underutilized. Here is how you can take advantage of this tool:
Start by registering your personal profile, which allows you to link to your employer profile and save comparisons you have completed. Select the white “Register” button on the upper right-hand menu on the homepage. Once you have created your profile, you will want to select your employer.
Please note, registration is not required to view the approved investment providers or to compare products.
Set up your Employer Profile
Select the “Find Employer” option on the top menu and either type in the name of your employer or search for your employer alphabetically. Once on the Employer Detail page, select “Set as Employer” to link your profile under your employers. The Employer Detail page reflects plan details, contact information for your employer payroll office, and the Approved Vendor List for your employer. Each employer has their own Approved Vendor list. This list contains vendors which have established agreements with your employer. To ensure you are comparing vendors who are approved under your employer’s plan, you must only select vendors from this Approved Vendor List.
View Vendor Profiles
There are numerous different investment companies (also known as vendors) approved to provide 403(b) products in the state of California. From the Approved Vendor List on your employer profile, select a company you are interested in. This will direct you to the Vendor Profile, which includes vendor details, contact information and their product list. Select “Product List” to view the product names and types that are offered/available from the vendor. To view fees, investment options and to save the vendor for a comparison, select the product name which will take you to the product details page.
From the product details page, you can research the features, fees, available investment options and the minimum rate of return. Once you find a company that you feel may provide you with the services and options you are looking for, select the “+Add to Compare” option. You will see this vendor added to right side of your screen under the Compare option. Find other vendors that have piqued your interest and add them to your individualized compare list.
Perform thorough Product Comparison
There are 4 areas of comparison:
o Product Type, Credit Rating, Experience and Range or Services
o Features and details regarding the different options allowed/offered
o Surrender Charges, Fees and Commissions
o Fixed and Variable Investment Options
Select a Vendor/Investment Product that suits your needs
Once you have reviewed your individualized comparison and determined which vendor is the best fit for you, select “Set as my product”. This will direct you to the Enrollment and Contribution Information. Some vendors have the ability for participants to enroll online by selecting the “Visit Website” link. Otherwise, you will have to contact the vendor by the phone number provided in order to obtain the enrollment information.
After the enrollment process has been finalized, you will need to complete a Salary Reduction Agreement (SRA). This authorizes your employer to deduct a specified amount from your pay to defer into your newly established 403(b) account. National Benefit Services has a designated team of specialists available to assist you with completing the SRA. If NBS is not the TPA for your employer, please contact your district Payroll/Benefits office to obtain a Salary Reduction Agreement and verify where to submit the completed form.
NBS is unable to provide financial guidance or assist with selecting funds. Please consult with a certified financial advisor.