SAN DIEGO – Members and employees wanting more mutual fund choices without having to be “locked in” to one family of funds, now have access to a new retirement plan that allows for customization with CUSO Financial Services, L.P.’s latest offering. Through the 401(k) Your Way plan, credit unions can select from 50 fund families representing more than 2,000 mutual funds. The program also features asset allocation tools, online education resources and face-to-face investment advice from CFS’ investment consultants. Amy Beattie, CFS’ COO/co-founder, said the entire platform is done online “from enrollments to loans to distributions.” CFS chose ExpertPlan, Inc. as the platform to offer the retirement plan to its 62 credit union clients mostly because of the online retirement plan provider’s administration and technological expertise and range of products, said Mary Ahearn, CFS’ director of retirement services, who conducted the third party vendor search. “What we we’re hearing from credit unions is that `we don’t want to be locked into one mutual fund family,’” Ahearn said. “Affordability and easy were also important factors.” Depending on the plan arrangement, credit unions can pay as little as $750 for set-up costs, Ahearn said. CUSO began offering the new retirement plan July 8 and has already fielded a number of queries about the service, she added. Credit unions and CUSOS that offer CFS’ programs receive revenue from CFS for their participation. CFS also gives the credit unions the option to buy in as owners of the broker-dealer and participate in the profits. With the myriad of changes to pension law under the Economic Growth & Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) Ahearn said credit unions can look forward to employee and employer friendly-issues such as increased contribution and benefit limits, increased portability between most plans, and easing of many administrative rules. “Every plan will need to be reviewed, restated, communicated,” Ahearn said. “If your credit union has select employer groups, you can add real value by becoming a resource for your corporate members about these new tax law changes.” Ahearn said CFS training allows for credit unions’ business development managers and investment consultants to talk about EGTRRA and they in turn, can schedule seminars about the new tax laws, and bring in experts to talk about them to business owners from their SEGs. In addition to 401(k) plans through ExpertPlan, CFS will offer the new one-person 403(b) and 457 plans for its school system partners and its recently-launched Solo(k) plan for individuals. Ahearn said the market is ripe for the Solo(k) plan, citing the 18 million sole proprietorships that generate $1 trillion in gross revenues and have the potential to contribute up to $41,000 annually towards their retirement. -samaad@bellsouth.net