Retirement Plan Myths Dentists Should Know About (Part 2) 

August 7, 2023 Mark Kleive DDS

As I’ve been giving presentations about business systems to dentists, I’ve discovered that there are six prevalent myths surrounding 401k retirement plans. In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I hope to help dentists who are also small business owners develop a better understanding of what is possible.

Myth 4: It’s Possible for a 401(k) Plan to Be Free

The reality is that a 401(k) plan is never free. Equitable, for example, has a specific retirement plan for dentists. They claim to have a plan with no direct costs for dentists. What they do is take a part of the participants’ total investment to cover the costs. In most cases, the person paying the highest percentage of the fee is the dentist because the dentist puts the largest amount into the fund. As a dental practice owner, I don’t want the costs to come from my account. Instead, I want my business to cover the costs because the fees are tax deductible for the business and my retirement funds accumulate to their greatest potential.

When someone is marketing a free plan, be aware that there is no free plan and the costs are going to come out of your account, just as much or more as any participant’s account in the plan and those costs are not going to be tax deductible on personal taxes. In the case of Equitable, about 20% of your earnings are being siphoned off for fees and this has a significant drag on your net accumulation.

Myth 5: Being a 401(k) Fiduciary Is Risky

The first responsibility of being a plan sponsor is that you have the fiduciary responsibility. No one else can assume that responsibility. I believe you can meet your fiduciary responsibilities rather simply by doing the following.

The 6 Fiduciary Responsibilities Are to:
  1. Meet financial investment responsibilities.
  2. Meeting administrative responsibilities.
  3. Pay only reasonable expenses from plan assets.
  4. Deposit employee contributions timely.
  5. Maintain adequate ERISA fidelity bond coverage.
  6. Select and monitor 401(k) service providers.

You do need to maintain fidelity bond coverage, and $50,000 to $100,000 of bond coverage costs $200 to $300 per year. I do not think this is expensive and I think it is not difficult to fulfill your fiduciary responsibilities.

Myth 6: Switching to a Low Cost 401(k) Provider Is Difficult

An existing 401(k) plan cannot be simply terminated and then you start a new one. You must go through the following four steps, but this is easy to do.

The 4 Steps in the Conversion Process Are:
  1. Asset transfer
  2. Document preparation
  3. Investment selection
  4. Participant enrollment

Here are two examples of vetted companies that I believe provide low-cost plans with robust features. The first is 401Go.com. It provides advisor-led retirement plans for small businesses. This company is very easy to work with, has payroll integration, and you can set convert your plan quickly.

The second company is EmployeeFiduciary.com. This company has incredibly low establishment and conversion fees—some of the lowest in the industry. With Employee Fiduciary, you have access to 30,000 share classes and 377 fund families. These include low-cost options like Vanguard, Fidelity, and Schwab index and exchange-traded funds. You can also elect to include a self-directed brokerage account from TD Ameritrade, which allows you to invest in any fund on the market.

I hope this instills some curiosity in understanding your existing 401(k) plan. Examine your fees and your options if you were to convert your plan. I encourage you to do this because fees can significantly drag down your investment accumulation over time.


If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into financial freedom, I highly encourage you to sign up for Mastering Business Essentials. This course is the blueprint for running a dental practice with long-term growth.

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Transform your experience of practicing dentistry, increase predictability, profitability and fulfillment. The Essentials Series is the Key, and Aesthetic and Functional Treatment Planning is where your journey begins.  Following a system of…

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About Author

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Mark Kleive DDS

Dr. Mark Kleive earned his D.D.S. degree with distinction from the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in 1997. Mark has had experience as an associate in a multi-clinic setting and as an owner of 2 different fee-for-service practices. For the last 6 years Mark has practiced in a beautiful area of the country – Asheville, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife Nicki and twin daughters Meighan and Emily. Mark has been passionate about advanced education since graduation. Mark is a Visiting Faculty member with The Pankey Institute and a 2015 inductee into the American College of Dentistry. He leads numerous small group study clubs, lectures nationally and offers his own small group programs. During the last 19 years of practice, Dr. Kleive has made a reputation for himself as a caring, comprehensive oral healthcare provider.

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Plan the Exit Right for You

April 13, 2020 Drs. Christina & Bill Blatchford

More than 31% of solo practicing dentists today are 55 years or older. Since most dentists have traditionally retired between 60 and 69, retirement is a “hot” topic.

Future Financial Need

Goal setters who have planned for retirement since the beginning have accumulated five times what a non-planner has saved. Yet, baby boomers (now mid 60’s to 70’s) have reinvented each phase of their lives, never matching what has been customary. An ADA survey indicates dentists save 10.6% of their income which is below the federal limit of 15% contributions to a qualified pension fund.

Financial advisors think you will need from 70 to 90% of your current net income in retirement. The average dental net in 2019 was nearly $200K. In retirement planning, eighty percent of that is $160K, which is $13,350 a month. If you retire at age 60 and live another thirty years, you will need $4.8M from interest and savings.

Retirement Choices for Today’s Boomers

The figures are staggering for the slightly unprepared. What are the choices for today’s boomer dentist? Sale? Partnership? Associateship? Retire as you go? Or, will you up your game plan for 5 more years? Let’s investigate.

Sale: A sale is currently worth about 24 months of net income which is then taxed. Beware. A sale is final. You are no longer a dentist in that location. There is no going back. The book is closed.

Partnership: Partnerships in retirement have their own pros and cons. By reviewing what motivated you to enter the profession, you may find independence and freedom on your list. Selling half your practice to an unknown partner means you have surrendered your freedom and half your net income in exchange for about nine months of net income. The staff will still look to you for leadership.

Associateship: Becoming an associate after thirty years of private practice could be successful if you have the qualities to be an employee. Will you be happy doing dentistry for someone else? Do you have the qualities to be a team player under someone else’s leadership and rules?

Continue Your Own Practice by Retiring as You Go: Continuing to practice beyond the average retirement age is a viable alternative. The real advantages to keeping your own practice viable are the continued net income, ability to deduct expenses such as continuing education and a leased car, and the psychological rewards of feeling needed, serving others, and your earned status in the community.

Continuing your own practice can be done on your own terms. You can design your ideal practice days, plan your continuing education around travel adventures, and attract staff to work your schedule. You may want to work three days a week for three weeks and take the fourth week off. If you can continue to work on your own terms and have a substantial income that does not require using your retirement funds until you choose, count the advantages and your blessings.

Continue Your Own Practice by Upping Your Game: Another viable choice is to “Up Your Game” and actually make an extra $2M by increasing net in a five-year plan. This can cause a $900K increase in the eventual sale price. We have a number of very pleased retired dentists who upped their game in their 60’s. They can’t believe how much more enjoyable practice is again.

Upping your game means increasing your dental skills and your treatment offerings, installing strong systems of block booking to produce more in fewer days, solid sales conversations for an increased level of patient care, and having an accountable accomplished team marching with you. Because you have upped your skills and are focused, you can actually take more time away as you increase your net. 

Which Choice Is Right for You?

Examine your financial needs. Examine why you enjoy dental practice? Examine your options and spend time thinking about which retirement option feels most comfortable to you. We can help. Many of our clients have chosen to stay part of dentistry, and we have observed that when dentists keep up with continuing education and become skilled at working with new materials and techniques, they gain more than an enhanced income stream. They feel a rebirth and rejuvenation about their profession.

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About Author

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Drs. Christina & Bill Blatchford

Dr. Christina Blatchford is a graduate of Oregon Health Sciences University, School of Dentistry and has her doctorate degree in medical dentistry. She practices family and general dentistry in Milwaukee, OR. With her father, Dr. Bill Blatchford, she is Co-CEO of Blatchford Solutions, coaching a maximum of 50 dentists each year to reach their goals. Bill has written two books: Playing You ‘A’ Game – Inspirational Coaching to Profitability and Blatchford Blueprints: The Art of Creating Dental Practice Success. He also writes a monthly column for Dental Economics, “Flourishing in Changing Times.” You may call 888-977-4600 to receive a free copy of their latest book, Seven Principles of Highly Profitable Dentists.

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