November 30, 2009

Brightscope – Rating Your 401k


If you’ve never looked closely at your 401k plan, you’re not alone. Endless streams of fine print and complicated fee schedules make it difficult for even the savviest of personal finance gurus to understand many of the plans offered by employers these days. Brightscope aims to fix that, though, by introducing transparency to the retirement plans that millions of Americans rely on each year.

By using Brightscope’s unique ratings system—the first of its kind for 401k plans—employees can find out what their plan really entails and compare it to others that are available. After registering for free, you can search for your own company to find information about the 401k plans that are currently offered. Most, but not all, company plans are rated by Brightscope based on a series of 200 data points. You can also find out about additional costs and fees, employee participation rates, salary deferrals, and average account balances for eligible partners in the plan. Brightscope is continually expanding, which is why the site encourages its users to contribute their own data and comments about any particular company they work for.

Because Brightscope is an independent ratings website, users can be confident that the site’s ratings aren’t biased. Whether you’re looking to find a new 401k plan to join, to compare the one you already invest in to others, or just to see which plans competing companies are offering—Brightscope is a website that nearly anyone could find a reason to use.

Practical Uses:

  • Find out more about the 401k plan and allocations you already have
  • Research the plans that competing companies are offering their employees
  • Discover ways to maximize your retirement benefits
  • Investigate the 401k plans of your prospective new employer

Insider Tips:

  • Track the plans you are most interested in
  • Receive email alerts when the rating for any of your tracked plans has changed
  • Share your personal experiences by leaving comments anonymously
  • Check out the total participants in a specific company’s plan

What we liked:

  • Brightscope breaks down complex information and makes it easy for anyone to understand
  • Ability to compare companies and see how their plans match up
  • The interface is clean and simple to use
  • Information could be useful for employees, plan sponsors, or even financial advisors

What we didn’t like:

  • Not all company 401k plans have ratings yet


  • None

Company Info:

  • Launched: February 2008
  • Privately Held
  • Headquarters: San Diego, California
  • Founded by: Dan Weeks, Mike Alfred, Ryan Alfred
  • Web site:


  • Free


  1. Hi Stephanie, I was happy to see this review when I woke up this morning since I was not expecting it. We are launching a new free participant tool in January that we think will revolutionize a participant’s ability to understand their plan. I’d like to show it to you before launch date if you’re interested. Thanks again.

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