Van Slyke serves as his small business clients' investment expert, manages investments for them and develops an investment policy that clearly lays out responsibilities for the plan and in what it will and won't invest. "Owners can't totally delegate the responsibility for a plan, but they can share it with an investment expert. The upshot is they're not going to get into trouble for losing money when investments go down, but they have to have an identifiable process that is always followed," he says. Currently, Van Slyke favors the funds of Los Angeles-based Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) as his no-load investments for plans.

When it comes to business owners unknowingly shirking their de facto fiduciary duty, "I'm surprised the numbers aren't higher than 40%," says Dan Maul, president of Kirkland, Wash.-based Retirement Planning Associates, which manages about 175 retirement plans for small business clients. Maul, a CFP certificant who has targeted the small business plan market for more than 15 years, says pointing out missed opportunities can be a marketing boon for advisors interested in prospecting small business owners. Research bears him out. More than 70% of small business owners report being unaware of tax changes that would give them a tax credit of up to 50% for three years of retirement plan start-up costs , according to EBRI.

This fact, along with information on the tax advantages that plans can be designed to provide to owners and key employees "can be a great prospecting tool for advisors interested in getting in front of business owners," says Maul. Of course, advisors have to have some interest and competency in retirement plans, but Maul says they can get the latter by teaming up with a third-party administrator or a fund family that specializes in plans for small businesses. For investments and custody, Maul currently uses no-load families T. Rowe Price and American Century, which he says cater to the small business market.

Advisors can also use business owners' misinformation about plan types and how to reduce administration and costs as effective marketing tools. More than 50% of business owners don't know what types of plans are available to them and their employees. More than 30% are mistaken about the administrative burden of plans, and don't realize that there are no administrative costs associated with Simple and SEP (simplified employee pension) plans.

"Heavy administrative cost is a misconception that business owners and to some extent advisors share," says Maul. Employers can set up an employee contribution plan (a Simple) or a profit-sharing-based plan (a SEP) with no administrative burden or fees. But even 401(k)s can be set up for an annual administrative fee of $800 to $1,200, plus $15 to $40 per employee, for plans with 100 or fewer employees. "Employers are almost always amazed at how little a plan will cost them," he adds.

The Lowdown On AdviceThe Lowdown On Advice

As the SBA launches its national push to educate small business owners about retirement plans options, the agency's new "Guide to Retirement Plan Management" (available at, tells business owners they don't have to go it alone. They can ask for advice from qualified professionals such as investment advisors.

"Fiduciary responsibilities can be complicated, but can seem much less so with the help of a qualified professional who can ... help you make educated choices for employees," the guide states.

The guide suggests owners arm themselves with an arsenal of questions to ask professionals, such as: What is your record of success? Do you have experience with a broad range of investment choices? How do you get paid? What relevant experience or professional certification do you have?

"Qualified professionals deserve to be compensated for the work they do for you and the plan. They should be willing to explain how-and how much-they will be paid. Some may be fee-based and others are commission-based," the guide says.

As for qualifications, the guide tells owners that some professionals will hold certifications such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Certified Pension Consultant (CPC), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Financial Planner (ChFP) or attorney at law. The guide also directs owners to ask for advisors' experience, references and specific examples of how they've helped similar businesses.