I called Schwab and they just said, "401(k) accounts are not eligible for paperless confirmations and statements. It's the law. Sorry."

I can't find any reference to this law in the Google. The amount of snail mail generated by my 401(k) account is staggering, and it all goes straight into the paper shredder. I make one deposit a month plus two trades, and I get four envelopes in the mail a few days later. It's quite silly.

Is there a 401(k) out there that allows paperless statements? Is there any way to reduce the amount of paperwork? What's the actual law? Is there a congressional bill in the works to change the law?

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    I think this is Schwab-specific. My 401k is at Fidelity and I can't remember the last time they sent me something in the U.S. Mail. – Jesse Mar 30 '15 at 18:25
  • They can. If Schwab wants to. I had 401K with various providers (Vanguard being the current), and I don't remember when was the last time I received a snail mail from any of them in years. – littleadv Mar 31 '15 at 5:48
  • Maybe they have an option to stop sending any confirmations for certain/all transactions? – dg99 Apr 29 '15 at 18:28
  • Follow up: heard from my Schwab rep that they are finally committed to going paperless for retirement accounts. I'm told "it'll happen sometime in 2018". – Rocky Apr 27 '17 at 18:07

There are a lot of unintended consequences of fairly arbitrary IRS guidelines when it comes to 401Ks, they both close and create tons of loopholes and many companies are left to implement their own policy around these laws.

Ultimately what you are left with are a lot of random things, interpreted differently by every single company in the country, that aren't directly codified by the IRS or Congress.

If you have a choice regarding what brokerage firm manages your 401(k), then just call around. Be sure to ask the pencil pusher on the phone to double check because they might say "OF COURSE you can get paperless statements it is 2015" but then when you sign up it becomes "ooohhh sorry due to recent guidelines this kind of account isn't eligible for paperless statements"

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Glad my question got bumped. I took it as a sign to get a solid answer out of Schwab. First the rep gave me the same line that it was impossible to provide paperless statements for a 401(k) plan because of "regulations". I pressed the issue and got this from the rep:

I just spoke with our dedicated small business plan team. They told me that there are regulations that state that a Qualified Plan, such as this, require to have a statement sent. It is a Schwab policy that we have decided to only allow paper statements for this account type.

So to clarify, it is a Schwab business decision to have the statements available only by mail.

Hope someone from Schwab with some authority sees this post and is pushed toward helping change their policy. I can't imagine what a colossal waste of paper, postage, and hassle it is for everyone involved.

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    so I was correct? – CQM Apr 29 '15 at 20:14
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    yup! voted you up. but I think the combination of our answers is the complete picture, didn't seem right to pick either as "accepted" – Rocky Apr 29 '15 at 20:17
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    ah, what the heck. you get the checkmark. – Rocky Apr 29 '15 at 20:18
  • thanks! It is possible to include the important information in my answer, but I think in general this is the kind of thing you will encounter, random company interpretations of IRS guidelines – CQM Apr 29 '15 at 21:34

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