Etrade: How to Set Up Your Defined Benefit Plan Account

For years we have been setting up defined benefit plans and cash balance plans with Etrade. They are generally very knowledgeable on how these plans work (even though we do all the administration).

But now that you’ve set up your cash balance or defined benefit plan, what’s next?

The next step is to set up your custodial investment account. This can be done on Etrade’s platform or essentially any custodian of your choice.

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Getting Your Plan Documents from SmartVault

Before you contact Etrade, make sure that you have access to your plan documents. You should have received an email from us with instructions on how to access your SmartVault (secure portal) account.

The adoption agreement is the first document you want to retrieve in your portal. The most important information is the plan name and effective date (usually the first day of the plan year). This can be found on page 1.

There is an IRS letter with the plan’s designated EIN located in your SmartVault as well. Please use the plan EIN to set up the account. When Etrade asks for your EIN do not use your business EIN. Use the EIN for plan trust account on the IRS letter.

Opening the Etrade Investment Account

Now that you have access to all your plan documents, I suggest you contact Etrade just to make sure that you are completing your application correctly.

In addition, there may be some changes to the application that we are not aware of. The number for the Etrade Small Business Retirement Department is 1-888-402-0654.

Because you already have plan documents that establish qualified retirement plans, you will fill out the application below for BOTH of your retirement plansThis would be your defined benefit plan and 401k plan (if you are setting one up through us). You can find the application here:

Investment Only Retirement Plan Application (

To open an account with Etrade, you’ll need to mail the above application and the requested documents.

The Application (Step By Step)

Please review and complete the highlighted sections.

Section 1 – General Plan Information

This where you include the basic plan information like plan name, effective date, and plan EIN. Make sure you do not use your business EIN as the plan EIN.

Section 2 – Plan Trustee information

You are the owner, trustee, and for a solo plan the only participant.

Section 3 – Beneficial Ownership Information

This section is required only for a defined benefit plan or cash balance plan. You do not need to complete this section for a 401k plan. The owner is the control person.

Section 4 – Participant Information

This section is only required for a 401K participant directed account.

Section 5 – Create and Investment Profile 

In this section you just provide some background information like income, investment experience, etc.

Section 6 – Select Account Features

This can be filled out as applicable to your preferences.

Section 7 – Trading Authority and Duplicate Documents

Section 8 – Third Party Administrator Duplicate Documents

Prefilled with Emparion’s information

Section 9 – Provide a Trusted Contact Person

Section 10 – Sign and Date Application

Section 11 – Options trading application and agreement

Final Thoughts

For a first year client, we typically will calculate a fixed contribution amount. Before you make your contributions, please make sure you confirm the amounts with us. It is important to NOT overfund the account.

Just remember to fund your plan before the deadline. If you are a client of ours, you can call us at any time with any additional questions you may have.

Looking for more information on cash balance plans? Take a look at our ultimate guide to cash balance plans. Discover our favorite strategies!

Paul Sundin

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