What does a safe harbor 401(k) cost?

A safe harbor 401(k) is the most popular type of 401(k) plan. They're designed to help your business avoid IRS nondiscrimination testing—and the costly consequences if you were to fail.

Employers must match or contribute to their employees' 401(k) accounts using one of three formulas. Enter your information to find out the costs of a safe harbor plan.

Industry average is 34%; Human Interest typically sees 70% participation in 401(k)s

Match optionsCost to employer
(per year)
Cost to employer
(per pay period)
Basic matching: The company matches 100% of all employee 401(k) contributions, up to 3% of their compensation, plus a 50% match of the next 2% of their compensation.$13,600.00$261.54
Enhanced matching: The company matches at least 100% of all employee 401(k) contributions, up to 4% of their compensation (not to exceed 6% of compensation).$13,600.00$261.54
Non-elective contribution: The company contributes at least 3% of each employee’s compensation, regardless of whether employees make contributions.$30,000.00$576.92


The Safe Harbor Match Calculator and results should not be considered tax or legal advice. The Safe Harbor Match Calculator is intended to illustrate the cost of different employer match options in a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan. The calculator’s results should be considered estimates.

We offer various types of safe harbor 401(k) plans:

  • You can use any of the above matching options on a "per payroll" basis.

  • You can opt for a plan that gives a match only to non-highly compensated employees on an end-of-year basis.

  • Note that a 4% non-elective contribution is also available in addition to the 3% modeled in the calculator above.

How Human Interest can help

Technology has streamlined 401(k) plan administration—which is great news for small business owners. Rather than having to worry about the nuts and bolts of plans, Human Interest can help reduce your administrative burden, driving costs down in the process. That way you can spend less time on back-end work and more time on what matters the most: running your business.

Want to learn more?

  • Learn why many companies choose a safe harbor plan (hint: it's because they fail IRS non-discrimination testing—but if you fail or are worried you might fail, we can help!).

  • Read more about safe harbor plans.

  • Review the deadlines for starting a safe harbor plan this calendar year:

    • Oct. 1 - The deadline to launch a new safe harbor 401(k) plan for the current calendar year

    • Nov. 1 - The deadline to notify your provider regarding changes (so they can prep employee notices)

    • Dec. 1 - The deadline for all safe harbor plans to distribute employee notices (at Human Interest, we take care of this for our clients)



LAST UPDATED 03/09/2021General disclosures Human Interest is a turnkey provider of employee retirement plan services to small and medium-sized businesses. Investment advisory services are provided to employee benefit plan clients by Human Interest Advisors LLC, an SEC-Registered Investment Adviser and a wholly owned subsidiary of Human Interest Inc. SEC Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training.  Human Interest does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. The content on our website has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult with tax, legal and accounting advisors before hiring any providers for your plan. For information about Human Interest’s pricing, please see refer to our Pricing Page.AccoladesHuman Interest received the titles of "Best Places to Work" and "Best Startup Employer" according to third-parties, the San Francisco Business Times (as of 04/24/2020) and Forbes (as of 04/09/2020 and 03/09/2021), respectively using the following methodology:
  • San Francisco Business Times: All Best Places to Work winners are determined exclusively on the basis of their employees' responses to the Best Places to Work Survey. Employee responses from the 30 standard survey questions, along with the number of employees that respond to the survey, are calculated to determine the company’s overall score and ranking.
  • Forbes: 2020 -- Forbes and Statista selected America’s Best Startup Employers from 10,000 companies based on an innovative methodology evaluating employer excellence in three ways: 1) Employee Satisfaction: extensive research was conducted on ‘Average Length of Employment’, ‘Employee Ratings’, and ‘Quantity of Ratings’, 2) Employer Reputation: a measurement of social media success; company specific information was algorithmically extracted from social media channels such as news sites, micro-blogs, blogs and social networks, and 3) Company Growth: extensive metric calculations were evaluated including ‘Website Traffic’, ‘Job Openings’, ‘Headcount Information’, and ‘Funding Information’.
  • Forbes: 2021 -- To determine the list, Statista identified 2,500 American businesses that had been founded between 2011 and 2018 and employ at least 50 people. All companies considered had been started from scratch and not spun out of existing enterprises. Statista evaluated each organization based on three criteria, the first being employer reputation. The firm reviewed articles, blogs and social media posts pertaining to each employer, searching for specific phrases, such as “corporate culture,” “diversity” and “employee engagement.” Statista then assessed employee satisfaction, evaluating online reviews, as well as growth, examining the organizations’ website traffic and headcounts over a two-year period. The final list ranks the 500 employers that boast the best employer reputations, employee satisfaction and growth.