From the May 2000 issue of Startups

If you're in the market for a 401(k) retirement plan, health insurance or other benefits, there's no lack of resources, and some are as close as the Internet. Ez401k.com, for example, charges $401 to set up a retirement plan online, according to Robert Steinhorn, president of the Walnut Creek, California, pension administration company. Targeting small businesses with five to 500 employees, Steinhorn estimates you can design a plan and print out announcements for employees in less than five minutes. In turn, those employees can access their accounts on the Internet, investing in any of 50 mutual funds. In addition to a 90-day money-back guarantee, Ez401k.com handles IRS audits free. Nice touch.

For a broader range of benefits, independent contractors can turn to FreeAgent.com or Aquent Partners.

Freeagent.com, a 1-year-old New York City company, targets "the 24 million independent contractors in the U.S.," says Allen Berger, senior vice president and general manager. "We provide a free service, matching their skills with client needs, and offer group rates on health insurance, a 401(k) plan and other benefits to independent consultants and small businesses with up to six people."

For a fee, you can elect to register as an employee, maintaining your independence while FreeAgent.com does your billing and collection and provides insurance and a 401(k) plan.

Similarly, 14-year-old Aquent Partners (www.aquent.com) in Boston helps find work for independent professionals specializing in creative areas. "We take on independent professionals as W-2 employees and offer health, dental and disability coverage, vacation and holiday pay, a matching 401(k) plan and other benefits," explains David Nichols, former regional manager in Los Angeles, current European country manager. Aquent offers small businesses a range of insurance products and factoring services and a range of insurance service products and factoring services.


Paul DeCeglie (MrWritePDC@aol.com) is a former staff reporter for Journal of Commerce and American Banker.