Hi Deborah! One reason that you may not see online information is the type of plan. Government organizations probably do not offer a 401(k), but often have different types of retirement plans including a 403(b), 457, or a pension plan. In any case, continue to hound your HR department as they hold the keys to the information you are looking for. Good luck!
Deborah - In regards to getting information about your plan, you have a lot of firepower you can use. Contacting the administrator and any other responsible parties you can find is a good idea. Not responding to your requests indicates the plan is not being well cared for. As a last resort, call the Department of Labor and file a complaint. As a local government employee your plan may or may not be covered by ERISA. You still have the right to all the information you described so be persistent.
The advice already given in regards to your son is all good. The key is to put together a plan and start working it. With his resources he can be in great shape for a secure retirement. Good luck.
Regarding your plan, my only thought is to check if your employer has a benefits website. Most do now. The plan administrator should have the information posted there. I realize that is not a great answer, but it could be a clue.
Regarding your son. Congratulations to him for making a great salary. Is he eligible for a 401k with his employer? That would be the best mechanism to have him automatically save and reduce his taxable income at the same time. He could also contribute to a traditional IRA. Granted he will not get a tax deduction for the contribution, but it would allow tax deferred growth.
Another thing he could do is a ‘back door’ Roth IRA contribution. This is where he contributes to a traditional IRA, and then does an immediate conversion to a Roth IRA. This will allow tax free growth of the money. If he has existing IRAs, then the taxes due are a bit tricky and he should get some help calculating it. If he has no existing traditional IRA, then the only tax due would be if there were a gain between the time he contributed to the traditional and the time when the Roth conversion completed. Again, it would be good for him to verify the taxes with a CPA or other tax authority.
He could also start to invest in taxable accounts. In all cases, he should use no-load, low cost ETFs or mutual funds to invest. No reason to pay hefty commissions or management fees. With his salary, it would be good for him to put together a comprehensive financial plan so he can ensure he is saving adequately for his retirement and other goals in life.
I'd suggest you and he sit down with fee-only financial planner. They can help you identify your goals and then put together a plan. Always find someone whose fiduciary responsibility to you. This means they must act in your best interest above all others, including their own. You should ask them to put it in writing. You can find a fee only planner at NAPFA and Garrett Planning Network. (Full disclosure – I am a member of both.)
Hope this helps,
Andy Tilp, CFP ® Trillium Valley Financial Planning, LLC
Deborah, every plan has a plan administrator, which, as the name implies, administers the plan. Get the number either from your statement or HR. The plan administrator is required to provide every employee with a 404(a)5 Annual Fee Disclosure, which will disclose all fees to employee. It should be very straightforward, both in getting the form, and understanding it. If they are not immediately responsive, send them a written request. Your son; if he is eligible for a company plan, he should participate. If he is self employed, he should start his own. Otherwise, Andy’s advice is spot-on; participate in a non-deductible IRA, and convert to a Roth. Then to invest in a taxable account. The prospect of not having a tax advantaged account for retirement should not deter him from responsible financial planning. I would suggest he seek advice from a local financial professional, preferably a CFP®
Excellent advice contributed above by Andy and Michael...