The top 25 401(k) plans

The country’s largest retirement plans have a lot of things in common. A high percentage of employees participating. A robust match. A well-integrated financial wellness program. A large number of assets under management. The latter factor, in particular, gives businesses a leg up in negotiating fees and setting the terms of the relationship with their plan provider.

Indeed, General Motors’ Bill Grotz says of his company’s plan, “The investment menu includes fund options with competitive fees based on our large plan size.”

Listed here in descending order, Employee Benefit News, in partnership with business intelligence data analytics firm miEdge, presents the top 25 401(k) plans in the United States based on plan-year-end net assets as of April 9, 2018. Plan sponsors include this information in Form 5500 Schedule A data submitted annually to the Department of Labor.

Lynn Dudley, senior vice president of global retirement and compensation policy at American Benefits Council in Washington, D.C., says businesses with high-ranked retirement plans are savvy about fee disclosure and management.

“Companies have gotten much better at … negotiating the lowest fees they can for their employees,” says Dudley. “If you have more money, you’re going to have more negotiating power.”

Smaller businesses also look to larger plans to monitor trends in savings management. Other trends seen in the large employer market include custom-designed benefits and services that employees are not likely to receive with a small company, Dudley adds, including individual help with asset management.

“You’re seeing financial literacy broaden out to encompass a broader swath of an individual’s financial circumstances,” she says. “It’s not uncommon to have somebody come in and talk to employees, but also to invite spouses.”

There continues to be a steady increase in automatic enrollment and automatic escalation. For example, Dudley points to a proposal in Congress now that would allow plan sponsors to continue to escalate their employees’ contributions beyond the current law’s 10% cap.

Editor’s note: As EBN fact-checked the data that follow, some companies submitted more updated numbers that would shift their place in the ranking. In order to maintain consistency, as not all companies replied to multiple fact-check requests, this listing reflects the latest official data in the federal government’s Form 5500 database. Because business plan years start at different times, some company data are from 2016 and others are from 2017. All listings reflect the most recent government records as of April 9, 2018. Those that did provide updated numbers that are not yet in the federal government’s database are indicated by an asterisk, with the updated data at the bottom.

25. Costco Wholesale

Location: Issaquah, Wash.
Begin year net assets: $11,328,895,969
End year net assets: $12,192,532,404*
Participants with balances: 151,231*
Participant loans: $454,622,483

*As of Dec. 31, 2017, plan assets totaled $14,484,582,311. And the number of participants with a balance was 159,969.

Costco’s plan participation rate exceeds 90%, according to Patrick Callans, senior vice president, HR and risk management. The plan includes auto-enrollment and auto-increase features. “We offer a matching contribution (the lesser of $500 or 50% of an employee's deferral), and a more significant discretionary contribution of 3%-9% of total compensation, depending on the employee's years of service,” Callans says.

24. Citigroup

Location: Stamford, Conn.
Begin year net assets: $11,436,037,587
End year net assets: $12,343,944,178
Participants with balances: 136,072
Participant loans: $225,768,994

Citigroup’s 401(k) plan encourages employees to save through automatic payroll deductions. Once plan participants are eligible for company matching contributions, Citi will match dollar-for-dollar up to the first 6% of eligible pay. The plan’s investment options include a choice of: pre-diversified funds that shift in investment mix, according to age; indexed funds; actively managed funds; and/or The Citigroup Common Stock Fund. The plan also includes an automatic feature that increases employee contributions yearly until participants reach the plan’s preset savings goal.

23. General Motors

Location: Detroit
Begin year net assets: $11,860,641,869
End year net assets: $12,855,385,613
Participants with balances: 62,350
Participant loans: $176,725,967

Employees are automatically enrolled in GM’s 401(k) plan upon joining the company. GM also offers the Annual Increase Program to help grow contribution amounts over time, according to Bill Grotz
manager, internal communications and employee engagement.

“GM offers financial educational workshops and pre-retirement one-on-one consultations. There is also a GM-provided Retirement Contribution in addition to the GM Company Match on employee contributions. We currently have a 98% participation rate in the plan,” says Grotz.

22. Oracle Corporation

Location: Redwood Shores, Calif.
Begin year net assets: $11,991,945,576
End year net assets: $13,014,873,222
Participants with balances: 70,353
Participant loans: $90,469,449

Oracle’s 401(k) plan has a BrightScope rating of 83 out of 100. It is in the top 15% of plans for salary deferral and total plan cost. Participation rates are average, but salary deferrals and account balances are great, according to BrightScope. The plan has 38 investment options, nearly twice the average of 20.

21. Honeywell International

Location: Morris Plains, N.J.
Begin year net assets: $12,831,387,169
End year net assets: $13,296,382,723
Participants with balances: 79,001
Participant loans: $15,000,000

Honeywell’s 401(k) plan has a BrightScope rating of 80 out of 100. Participation rates are average, but the company generosity is rated as above average and both salary deferrals and account balances are great.

In January, the company increased its 401(k) match. “Our strong performance in 2017, together with the enactment of new U.S. tax legislation, has enabled us to increase our 401(k) match in the U.S. This is a sustained, annual benefit that will provide a more secure retirement for our employees. We believe that enhancing this benefit is extremely valuable and important to our employees over the long term,” Darius Adamczyk, president and CEO, said at the time of the announcement.

20. Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)

Location: Nashville
Begin year net assets: $12,729,599,397
End year net assets: $14,002,383,663
Participants with balances: 265,040
Participant loans: $394,690,197

HCA’s plan provides a 100% match for employee contributions, from 3%-9% of pay, based on years of vested service. Employees are automatically enrolled in the 401(k) plan on the first day following two months of service. The contribution rate begins at 3% of pay and increases by 1% in January of each year until it reaches 15%, or the plan participant actively chooses another rate, or opts out of the plan, according to the company’s website.

19. Johnson & Johnson

Location: New Brunswick, N.J.
Begin year net assets: $13,113,143,474
End year net assets: $14,349,853,964
Participants with balances: 64,855
Participant loans: $105,792,212

Johnson & Johnson’s 401(k) plan is rated an 87 out of 100 by BrightScope. It is in the top 15% of plans for account balances, company generosity, salary deferral and total plan cost. The company offers 12 investment options.

18. FedEx Corporation

Location: Memphis, Tenn.
Begin year net assets: $13,260,615,840
End year net assets: $14,720,273,154
Participants with balances: 229,598
Participant loans: $309,222,572

The FedEx 401(k) plan has a 70 out of 100 rating on BrightScope. Company generosity and salary deferrals are average, while participation rates and account balances are above average. The company offers 27 investment options.

17. Fidelity Investments

Location: Boston
Begin year net assets: $13,599,102,611*
End year net assets: $14,730,835,962*
Participants with balances: 57,658*
Participant loans: $132,211,935*

*As of Dec. 31, 2017, Fidelity’s plan had 57,422 enrolled plan participants. End year net assets were $16.7 billion and participants had $110 million in plan loans.

“Fidelity is sharply focused on providing a benefits package to our employees that is not just competitive, but differentiating. Through our 401(k)/profit sharing plan, employees can make pre-tax and/or Roth after-tax contributions and Fidelity will match them, dollar-for-dollar, up to 7% per pay period,” says Michael Aalto, vice president, public relations.

Employees can invest in nearly 200 Fidelity mutual funds, as well as a wide array of non-Fidelity funds, says Aalto. As of December 2017, 95% of match-eligible employees contributed to the plan at average rates of more than 10%. “Increasing the retirement readiness of American investors is a key part of Fidelity’s mission as a company,” he adds. “Going above and beyond to do so for our own employees is a crucial part of how we view our role as an employer.”

16. Microsoft Corporation

Location: Redmond, Wash.
Begin year net assets: $13,695,612,842
End year net assets: $15,632,570,354
Participants with balances: 91,641
Participant loans: $114,393,990

In 2016, Microsoft boosted its employer match to 50% of employees’ regular pre-tax and Roth deferrals, up to a maximum of $9,000. Previously, its employer match was 50% of the first 6% employees deferred, to a maximum of 3% of pay. The company has a BrightScope rating of 88 out of 100 and offers plan participants 25 investment options.

15. Raytheon Company

Location: Waltham, Mass.
Begin year net assets: $14,862,472,595
End year net assets: $16,142,754,786
Participants with balances: 77,828
Participant loans: $216,286,658

Raytheon matches a portion of employee contributions dollar-for-dollar, up to the first 3% of eligible compensation and up to the first 4% of eligible compensation after five years of continuous employment with the company, according to Raytheon’s website. Employees are immediately 100% vested in the company match.

14. Chevron Corporation

Location: San Ramon, Calif.
Begin year net assets: $17,088,316,508
End year net assets: $19,382,469,310
Participants with balances: 38,113
Participant loans: $135,115,786

U.S. employees are immediately vested in Chevron’s matching contributions. For those who contribute 2% of regular pay, Chevron contributes an amount equal to 8% of regular pay. The Chevron contributed amount is equal to 4% of pay for employees who contribute 1% of regular pay, according to Braden Reddall, a senior external affairs advisor.

There is a 97% participation rate for the plan, which includes enhanced planning tools, technology and educational resources for participants either developed in-house or through Chevron’s vendor, according to Reddall.

13. United Technologies

Location: Farmington, Conn.
Begin year net assets: $19,281,263,000
End year net assets: $20,237,210,000
Participants with balances: 91,412
Participant loans: $156,794,000

“The UTC Employees Savings Plan offers participants all the features expected in large, well-run 401(k) plans. This includes a well-thought-out investment lineup with the lowest available fees, a high-yielding stable value fund, automatic enrollment and automatic escalation of employee contributions, age 50 catch-up contributions and Roth contributions — to name a few. What really sets UTC’s 401(k) plan apart from other large employers’ plans is the unique Lifetime Income Strategy — an in-plan solution for providing guaranteed lifetime income to participants,” the company says in a statement.

Additionally, the company notes that UTC is the only large employer to make an in-plan guaranteed lifetime income solution the default investment option. “[F]rom the time our new hires reach their fourth anniversary of employment until they leave UTC, annual contributions of between 16.6% and 19.1% of pay will be accumulating in their 401(k) accounts, and will provide guaranteed income throughout their retirement,” the company says.

12. Northrop Grumman

Location: Falls Church, Va.
Begin year net assets: $19,343,455,501
End year net assets: $20,866,567,177
Participants with balances: 103,692
Participant loans: $218,466,620

Northrop Grumman has an 84 out of 100 ranking on BrightScope. The company has a great rating for salary deferrals, account balances and company generosity. Employees have 21 investment options to choose from.

11) ExxonMobil Corporation

Location: Spring, Texas
Begin year net assets: $19,718,000,000
End year net assets: $21,426,000,000
Participants with balances: 42,546
Participant loans: $192,000,000

ExxonMobil offers company matching and employee education programs, including its Financial Fitness program. The total package offered to eligible employees includes a defined benefit plan as well as the 401(k). “These plans are a valuable employee benefit and a competitive advantage, helping us meet our business objectives by attracting highly skilled employees and retaining them over the course of a career,” says Rebecca Arnold, corporate media relations adviser.

10. Verizon Communications

Location: Basking Ridge, N.J.
Begin year net assets: $20,133,535,109
End year net assets: $21,865,058,119
Participants with balances: 156,890
Participant loans: $532,011,358

“Features include our 100%, dollar-for-dollar company match up to the first 6% of eligible pay deferred, along with up to an annual profit-sharing award of up to 3% of eligible pay (for up to a total 9% total company contribution),” says Jonathan Hayes, director of benefits.

The company also offers plan participants an institutional investment fund lineup managed through its in-house investment management firm, Verizon Investment Management Corp. “We are also proud of our overall 96% participant rate and an average deferral rate of over 6%,” Hayes says.

9. Bank of America

Location: Charlotte, N.C.
Begin year net assets: $19,758,274,228
End year net assets: $22,117,821,268
Participants with balances: 243,075
Participant loans: $449,793,562

Notable elements of Bank of America’s plan include a company matching contribution of up to 5% of eligible play, an annual company contribution of 2% of eligible play — 3% after 10 years with the company — unlimited free financial counseling and access to videos and other information from Better Money Habits, according to a company spokesperson.

8. JPMorgan Chase Bank

Location: Jersey City, N.J.
Begin year net assets: $21,200,339,877
End year net assets: $23,758,898,917
Participants with balances: 275,509
Participant loans: $506,583,334

JPMorgan Chase offers plan participants a dollar-for-dollar match on up to 5% of pay for all employees with at least one year of service, excluding those earning more than $250,000 a year. For the past several years, an additional “special award” has been credited to the accounts of employees earning less than $60,000, according to Bernadette Branosky, global benefits manager. In 2017, it was $750. Thanks to the company’s automatic enrollment feature, more than 90% of employees participate in the plan.

“In addition to the employer contributions, JPMorgan Chase provides pay credits of 3%-5% of pay (pay capped at $100,000) each year, in a separate retirement plan,” Branosky adds. “In a, that is 8%-10% of pay, which is market leading — in particular for our lower-paid employees. It all adds up and allows us to offer a competitive, comprehensive benefits package to our employees, in addition to their annual compensation.”

7. Walmart

Location: Bentonville, Ark.
Begin year net assets: $20,793,579,908
End year net assets: $24,185,192,771
Participants with balances: 1,006,227
Participant loans: $952,901,404

Walmart’s 401(k) plan offers matching contributions of up to 6% for eligible employees, according to the company’s website. The company has a BrightScope rating of 56 out of 100. Participation rates, salary deferrals and account balances are below average, and company generosity is average.

6. General Electric Company

Location: Boston
Begin year net assets: $28,644,090,113
End year net assets: $29,555,945,175
Participants with balances: 228,873
Participant loans: $394,972,228

GE’s 401(k) plan has an 83 out of 100 rating on BrightScope. Company generosity, salary deferrals and account balances all rate as great, and participation rates are above average. GE offers plan participants 16 investment options.

5. Lockheed Martin Corporation

Location: Bethesda, Md.
Begin year net assets: $29,384,645,702
End year net assets: $30,899,980,211
Participants with balances: 125,385
Participant loans: $202,269,996

Lockheed Martin’s 401(k) plan has an 86 out of 100 rating on BrightScope. It has an above-average participation rate, and company generosity, salary deferrals and account balances are all rated as great.

4) AT&T Inc.

Location: Dallas
Begin year net assets: $29,469,686,000
End year net assets: $34,786,285,000
Participants with balances: 260,254
Participant loans: $694,508,000

AT&T’s employer match for most employees is equal to 80% of the first 6% of salary contributed by the employee. Employees that are not accruing a pension with AT&T generally receive a higher match of 100% of the first 6% they contribute, according to John Phipps, assistant vice president, retirement design and operations. In 2015, the company added investment advice services from Financial Engines. Since implementation, 69,000 participants have used the service.

Additionally, AT&T has a financial wellness program called Your Money Matters that offers a variety of programs and resources that cover a wide spectrum of topics, from preparing for retirement to making the most of a 401(k). “Your Money Matters leverages AT&T’s internal social media to allow employees to share experiences, ask questions and offer their own tips to their colleagues across the business,” says Phipps. “It’s an informal way to engage in the space of financial wellness. Since YMM started in 2011, we’ve seen 401(k) participation rates rise from 82% to 91% and an increase in those maxing out the company matching going from 49% to 79%.”

3. Wells Fargo & Company

Location: Minneapolis
Begin year net assets: $35,786,151,009*
End year net assets: $38,240,089,080*
Participants with balances: 327,513
Participant loans: $1,020,030,226

*For the plan year ending in 2017, Wells Fargo had 238,419 eligible employees with 198,770 contributing. Begin-year net assets were approximately $37 billion, and end-year net assets were approximately $43 billion.

The voluntary participation rate for all eligible employees is 83%; for match-eligible employees it is 87%, without automatic enrollment. The average account balance among employees is $145,982, and average participant contribution rate is approximately 9%, according to Diana Rodriguez, senior vice president of corporate communications.

Additionally, Wells Fargo makes quarterly employer-matching contributions dollar for dollar up to 6% of eligible compensation after completing one year of employment. The company funded around $1 billion in employer matching contributions in 2017.

“Wells Fargo pays all of the Wells Fargo 401(k) Plan's administration expenses on behalf of participating employees, which, when coupled with the plan's low investment expenses, makes it a great value and top tool for our employees to save for their financial future,” says Rodriguez.

2. International Business Machines (IBM)

Location: Armonk, N.Y.
Begin year net assets: $45,928,701,192
End year net assets: $48,431,129,208
Participants with balances: 186,290
Participant loans: $250,068,415

IBM lets plan participants defer up to 80% of eligible compensation on a before-tax or Roth 401(k) basis, according to the company’s website. Employees can also save up to 10% of eligible pay on an after-tax basis. For regular full-time and part-time employees hired or rehired after Jan. 1, 2005, the company offers a 1% automatic company contribution and a dollar-for-dollar company match on up to 5% of eligible pay. Employees become eligible for IBM contributions after completing one year. IBM contributions are immediately vested.

1. The Boeing Company

Location: Seattle
Begin year net assets: $47,130,387,730
End year net assets: $50,391,350,564
Participants with balances: 203,053
Participant loans: $713,495,086

Boeing provides a 75% match on the first 8% of base pay that most nonunion employees save in their VIP accounts, in addition to age-based company contributions, according to the company’s website. Additionally, new hires are automatically enrolled at 4% of base pay. If they do not opt out or change the contribution rate, it automatically increases by 1% each April until reaching 8% of base pay and receiving the full Boeing match.

“Most newly hired nonunion and certain union-represented employees receive automatic company contributions into the company’s 401(k) plan (regardless of whether the employee saves part of his or her pay into the plan),” the company says. “Employees are 100% vested in both their savings and the company contributions at all times. The plan offers a variety of investment funds that employees can use to diversify their account, as well as lifecycle funds targeted to specific retirement dates. Risk levels range from conservative to aggressive.”