Who is the Plan Administrator for an IRA?

There’s much that goes on behind the scenes to ensure a retirement plan runs efficiently, which usually falls to its administrator.

An internal employee or third-party administrator (TPA) can act as an asset manager for you. They may charge either flat fees or asset-based fees.


Custodians are financial firms that store IRA investments safely for investors while adhering to IRS regulations. Individuals can find custodians for their IRAs at banks, brokerage firms, mutual fund companies, some life insurance providers or robo-advisers; as it is their responsibility to conduct full due diligence on any investment and find one with responsive customer service representatives and plenty of educational material about self-directed investing it is crucial they select an IRA custodian with which they feel comfortable doing this work.

If you’re considering opening a self-directed IRA, search for a custodian who allows investments in alternative assets like real estate and precious metals. Be sure to find one with experience processing transactions for these types of assets from purchase, administration and tax reporting through sale. Lastly, pay close attention to servicing times and communication styles so as to prevent problems down the line; inquire into annual maintenance fees as well as any charges for transferring between assets.


Administrators provide daily administrative duties for your retirement account. They could be an employee at your company or a third-party contractor with expertise in retirement plans.

Employers typically hire an outside investment advisor or administrator for traditional or Roth 401(k), Simplified Employee Pension plans (SEP), or Simpled Employee Pension plans (SEP), to administer plan funds. In such a scenario, there will likely be an administrative fee charged which can either be covered entirely by employers or shared among employees.

Plan administrators provide services that assist in designing your 401(k) plan from its conception, as well as overseeing it to make sure it remains compliant with federal regulations and your plan rules. They authorize withdrawals and loans, perform routine testing, file regulatory documents when needed, authorize transactions such as withdrawals and loans and file any required statutory documents – typically working alongside an asset custodian to carry out these functions – for instance creating an IRA then selecting one as their custodian to manage assets within it.


Retirement accounts can be complex. Compound this with some firms labeling themselves IRA administrators while simultaneously offering advice for these accounts, and investors may become confused by this entire process.

An administrator is typically a third-party firm that manages paperwork duties and ensures transactions take place according to investor wishes, often working alongside custodians to transact alternative assets like real estate or precious metals. A Self-Directed IRA administrator may or may not provide investment advice but will typically work alongside their custodian to execute all transactions for investors on behalf of an account holder.

An administrator of an ERISA 3(16) plan often delegates much of their ministerial tasks to a fiduciary (such as an ERISA 3(21) investment advisor), to reduce fiduciary liability by sharing it with them. Fiduciaries must always act in their beneficiaries’ best interest while seeking low fees, avoiding conflicts of interest and disclosing any potential ones they might come across.

Choosing a Custodian

Just like when purchasing an electrical appliance, IRA owners must conduct thorough research when choosing a custodian. When doing their due diligence they should consider not only fees such as annual account maintenance fees, commissions on trades and loads on mutual funds but also how experienced those handling your account transactions are with managing an IRA account.

Finally, they must select a custodian who understands the rules surrounding self-directed retirement accounts and understands which investments are prohibited – precious metals or real estate investments being examples. Failure to adhere to such regulations may incur severe penalties and taxes.

When selecting a custodian, it is also wise to assess how satisfied their current clients are with their process and experience. Verifying testimonials or references may give an accurate reflection of their level of expertise. Inquire into what security protocols exist in order to keep your personal data secure – cyber hacks have become more frequent recently and safeguarding this is of vital importance.

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