Benefits of Offering a 401(k) For Your Dental Practice

There are many reasons why you may not already offer a 401(k) plan through your dental practice; concerns about cost and complexity of running a plan, questions regarding whether your practice is even big enough to need a 401(k), and worries about fiduciary responsibilities are all common reasons employers cite when asked why they don’t offer a retirement benefit to employees [1]. But here’s the reality: there are 401(k) providers in the market that specialize in operating small business plans and design their services around alleviating the concerns small business owners have. Whether you have one employee in your practice or 100, there are cost-efficient 401(k) plan options out there that can be customized to fit your business needs, help minimize your administrative duties, and limit your fiduciary responsibilities.

Not to mention, as the head of your practice, your employees are counting on you to help them financially prepare for the future. You’re also going to need to replace some—if not most of—your own pre-retirement income when you reach retirement age, and offering a 401(k) plan for your practice is one of the most advantageous ways to do that.

Top three reasons employers don’t offer a 401(k) plan statistic
  • Think company is not big enough (54%)
  • Concerns about cost (42%)
  • Employees not interested (18%)
401(k) plan access for employees of small businesses

Only 60% of small businesses offer a 401(k) or similar retirement plan to employees, yet 81% of workers agree that retirement benefits offered by a prospective employer are a major factor in their final decision when job hunting.

  • Tax deductions for the employer

There are a variety of tax deductions and credits dentists can take advantage of when starting up a 401(k) plan for their practice. If your practice hasn’t had any type of retirement plan for at least three years or you are starting a 401(k) plan for the first time, your practice may be eligible to receive a tax credit that covers up to 50 percent of the startup and administrative costs, up to $5,000 per year, for the first three years of the plan.* Plus, any matching contributions made to employees on behalf of the business are a deductible expense, up to 25 percent of total participant compensation. 

  • Attract and retain top talent

It’s no secret that many American workers expect to be offered a retirement plan to save in as part of their comprehensive benefits package. In fact, doctors may be missing out on top talent by not offering some type of retirement benefit to employees of their practice; more than 8 in 10 workers agree that retirement benefits offered by a prospective employer are a major factor in their final decision while job hunting [1].

  • Plan design options allow for flexibility to fit business needs

A 401(k) plan offers added flexibility in plan design compared to other retirement plan options, allowing employers to add Safe Harbor provisions, profit sharing options, etc. Plus, 401(k)’s offer enhanced contribution options for owners and other highly compensated employees—which may be especially intriguing for dentists who run their own practice—as well as payroll integration options to help streamline benefits processes. 

  • Help your staff (and yourself) financially prepare for retirement

Experts recommend saving 10-15 percent of gross income for retirement, but that can be hard to do in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or other types of retirement plans that have low contribution maximums. One major benefit of 401(k) plans is that they boost the highest contribution limit among any type of retirement plan, allowing plan participants to save up to $19,500 in 2021, plus an extra $6,500 in catch-up contributions if they’re age 50 or older. 

Learn more about the hidden benefits of 401(k) plans

Five things to look for in your practice’s 401(k) provider

Dental practices can vary in size quite drastically, which may leave some doctors feeling like they aren’t qualified to run a retirement plan for their employees. But studies show that most 401(k) plans for dental practices actually contain fewer than 25 participants—and even further, about two-thirds of those plans contain ten or fewer [2]. Clearly, practices of any size can offer a 401(k) plan for employees, but it’s important to find a provider who specializes in small plans and can help take some of the responsibilities of being a plan sponsor off of your plate. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Flexibility in plan design

We’ve already mentioned how 401(k) plans allow for maximum flexibility in plan design, so make sure you choose a 401(k) provider that offers the features you’re looking for. Whether you want to add Safe Harbor provisions or are considering various matching contribution options, your 401(k) provider should be flexible in helping you design a plan that fits your practice’s needs.

2. Upfront pricing

You and your employees should feel comfortable while investing in your future—and hidden fees can make participants and plan sponsors alike uneasy. Your 401(k) record keeper should provide completely transparent and upfront pricing, so you and your employees know exactly what the plan’s fee structure is before any contributions are processed. 

3. Easy-to-use website

One of the most important parts of a successful retirement plan is participation, so your 401(k) provider should make it as easy as possible for participants to get enrolled and start contributing. Participants should be able to sign up and manage their account online, and the website should be easy-to-navigate so participants and plan sponsors can find necessary forms and account information.

4. Knowledgeable and helpful Customer Care team

Chances are you’re not a retirement professional—and certainly, you aren’t solely focused on running your practice’s retirement plan. Your 401(k) provider should offer access to a Customer Care team that’s available to help you and plan participants navigate the path to retirement readiness. Some providers, like PAi Retirement Services, will even go as far as offering first year end plan support and perform applicable non-discrimination testing on behalf of the plan sponsor.

5. Financial education available

Investing and financial jargon can be overwhelming, so many employees in your practice may not know where to start when it comes to investing and saving for their future. Choose a provider that offers robust financial education and support for both plan sponsors and plan participants—and a plan, like PAi’s CoPilot Prime 401(k), that includes personalized education, fast setup, and easy plan management. With CoPilot Prime, you can focus on running your business while PAi focuses on running the retirement plan, giving you more time to do what you do best: take care of your patients and grow your practice.

With actively managed accounts, fiduciary protections, and access to an award-winning Customer Care team, CoPilot Prime offers a viable option to dentists considering starting a 401(k) plan for their practice. To learn more about CoPilot Prime or the other CoPilot retirement plan options available, contact PAi Retirement Services at 800.236.7400, Option 1.


[1]19th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey, Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 2019.

[2] 401(k) Benchmark Report, ALM Intelligence, 2018.

* Requirements for this credit include:
– Has less than 100 employees
– At least one non-highly compensated employee must be participating
– Employer must not have sponsored a qualified plan in the last three years

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