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Exchange Traded Funds

ETFs are a great fit for 401(k) plans

Our goal at ShareBuilder 401k is to empower 401(k) savers with the right fund options at the least amount of expense. We believe this gives participants more control in reaching their financial goals.

Our fund line-up

The core fundamentals that drive our fund line-up selection are straightforward:

  • Costs matter: low-expense funds can help your money work harder
  • Diversification of your money (assets) is critical: having all your eggs in one basket is a bad call
  • It's a long-term proposition: following short-term trends is not an investment strategy

This is what led us to creating an all-ETF based offering for ShareBuilder 401k. And as we're not a fund provider, it gave us free reign to handpick the fund line-up without bias.


Strong historical performance and low expenses

ETFs offer low-expenses, a broad array of asset categories, and fee transparency. ETFs are like index mutual funds in that they track the make-up of a market index like the S&P 500 but can be traded throughout the day like a stock. When you consider the following, you can see why ETFs are a great fit for retirement plans.

Across major asset categories, the benchmark indices have historically beaten 70%+ of actively managed mutual funds —

Strong historical performance and low expenses
Fund category Comparison index Funds underperforming the index1
Large-cap core S&P 500 71.37%
Mid-cap core S&P MidCap 400 88.35%
Small-cap core S&P SmallCap 600 80.18%
International S&P 700 International 73.65%


ETF expense ratios are typically lower than even index mutual funds expense ratios —

Expense Ratios of Comparable Investments

ETFs cover major market indices as you might expect. They also cover many specialty categories not typically in retirement plans like Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPs), a bond fund —

ETF Market Indices
Equity Fixed Income / Money Market Specialty
Vanguard S&P 500 ETF Vanguard Short-Term Inflation Protected Securities Index Fund ETF Vanguard REIT ETF
Vanguard Growth Index Fund ETF Schwab Short-Term U.S. Treasury iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets
Powershares QQQ iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF
SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF Vanguard Total Bond Market  


The impact of fund costs can be dramatic

Just 1% of additional fees can take a big chunk from your nest egg. Consider a hypothetical situation of two investors, John and Alan. Both have $50,000 in a 401(k) plan and never contribute to it again. They are fortunate to both achieve 8% fixed returns each year. However, Alan's funds have an average of 2% in fees and John's only 1%.

As you can see the effect of the higher costs compounds and becomes profound over time. John has $98K more in 30 Years and a whopping $242K more in 40 years!

This hypothetical presentation is based on a fixed annual 8% return with no distributions or tax considerations, and does not imply future returns.

No transaction or commission fees

More good news. While charging a transaction fee for ETF trades is common at most any retail brokerage firm, we have eliminated this cost to 401(k) participants by offering once a day trading. To learn more about why indexing, and in particular, ETFs make sense for long-term investing, give our guide a read: Indexing: A Smarter Way. To get the full scoop on 401(k) business and participant costs, try Understanding 401(k) Costs.

Next Steps

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Monday - Friday, 9am - 8pm EST
800-943-6108 x1