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Old 02-14-2014, 01:01 PM  
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Companies Squeeze 401K Plans From Facebook to JPMorgan

Gotta fund those outsized executive compensation packages somehow.

Also, I've been ****ed on these types of shenanigans at 3 different employers.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-0...-jpmorgan.html

Companies Squeeze 401K Plans From Facebook to JPMorgan
By Carol Hymowitz and Margaret Collins - Feb 14, 2014

Employers are squeezing their workers’ retirement savings, holding back on both the amount and the timing of 401(k) matching funds and dragging out vesting schedules. Taken together, these measures are making it more difficult to save for old age.

Major companies that have engaged in such practices in recent years include Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM), Facebook Inc., Oracle Corp. (ORCL), Caesars Entertainment Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The most frugal have been scaling back company matches and setting lower limits for the maximum annual payment they’ll make to a 401(k) account, according to hundreds of government filings analyzed by Bloomberg. A difference of three percentage points on a match can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars lost for employees over the course of their careers.

“There’s been an implicit contract for years and years -- workers save and companies match -- but now they’re changing the rules,” said Brigitte Madrian, a Harvard Kennedy School professor who studies retirement policy and corporate management. “Most individuals can’t do it on their own. We’re going in the wrong direction.”

Companies including International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) and Hewlett-Packard Co. say their 401(k) policies are partially dictated by bottom-line considerations and marketplace competition. Others say that when setting their 401(k) contributions, they consider a wide range of benefits and their costs as well as employee preferences, including health care, vacation policy and incentives such as performance bonuses, stock options and outright grants.

Choosing Benefits

“In addition to our 401(k) plan, we offer benefits that our more than 80,000 Team Members have the opportunity to actually vote on, including paying only $0-$15 per paycheck for health insurance premiums, robust store discounts, and paid time off that carries over,” Mark Ehrnstein, global vice president of Team Member Services at Whole Foods, said in an e-mail. “We offer other benefits such as a broad-based stock plan that awards 95 percent of options to non-executives, and we have a gain-sharing program that rewards teams for labor productivity.”

The advent of 401(k) retirement savings since the late 1970s was supposed to help secure and boost the retirement savings of baby boomers. The plans, originally conceived as a supplement to pensions, have since mostly replaced them. Workers can direct up to $17,500 of pretax income toward their 401(k)s this year and an additional $5,500 for those aged 50 and older.

Control, Portability

The investment industry has said for the past 30 years that 401(k)s are a big improvement over pensions, giving employees more investment choice, more control over retirement planning and more portability amid the frequent job changes of the modern workforce. That, at least, was the promise held out by the industry that now holds $4 trillion in retirement assets.

It hasn’t worked out that way. The median balance in 401(k) and individual retirement accounts for households headed by people ages 55 to 64 who had accounts at work was just $120,000 in 2010, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Those savings will provide only $4,800 a year, assuming seniors withdraw 4 percent annually, the amount recommended by retirement benefits experts to ensure retirees don’t run out of money in their lifetimes. Financial planners say that retirees need savings of at least 10 times their annual income to live comfortably.

Cost Savings

Companies that adopted 401(k) plans have realized they can adjust them, tinkering with the plumbing and, in the process, costing workers millions in retirement savings. What’s more, contributions aren’t mandatory as they generally are in traditional pensions. Since 401(k) contributions are measured as a percentage of payroll, the savings from any cuts are realized immediately. Some employers are changing what they offer to lower their own expenses and improve profits.

That’s what AOL Inc. tried last week when Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong announced the company would make 401(k) payments in one lump sum after the end of the year. When he blamed the change on spiraling health-care costs, including $2 million spent on care for “distressed babies” and the higher cost of benefits under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, employees cried foul. Within days, Armstrong apologized and AOL reversed its decision.

Delayed Contributions

The tiff at AOL provides a window into a growing practice among companies of quietly scaling back retirement contributions, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg. Many companies, including some major U.S. banks that sell investments to retirement plans, now delay their contributions to their employees’ 401(k)s until early the following year, paid in one lump sum rather than through regular payroll checks. Those changes depress employees’ compounded returns. And employees at some companies who change jobs before the end of the year wind up leaving company matches on the table.

“It’s starting to feel like déjà vu at the start of the Great Recession,” said Marcia Wagner, president of the Wagner Law Group, who specializes in employee benefits. “Right now employers are looking at cost savings and they are definitely looking at their 401(k) plans.”

The corporate cutbacks are adding to employees’ financial anxieties at a time when incomes are stagnant and even those earning low-six-figure incomes aren’t accumulating enough retirement savings. A generation since the shift from company-funded pensions to mostly employee-funded 401(k) accounts, half of baby boomers aged 50 to 64 don’t think they’ll ever have enough to retire, according to a 2011 survey by the AARP.

Wide Variations

The details of retirement plans vary widely from company to company. A typical match is 3 percent of pay and requires the employee to contribute 6 percent to get that company money.

Facebook (FB) offered no company match in 2012 and 2013. Whole Foods provides an annual match of $152 based on a formula of 15.2 percent on the first $1,000 that workers contribute. That compares to more generous companies, such as the biotechnology company Amgen Inc. (AMGN), which contributes 5 percent of workers’ salaries whether they contribute or not. The company also will match as much as another 5 percent of employee salary deferrals.

Facebook says it will decide each year at its discretion whether to make a contribution. The company plans to provide a match later this year “as part of a comprehensive set of benefits,” said Facebook spokesman Tucker Bounds.

Whole Foods’ Ehrnstein said his company’s match was approved by 84 percent of its 80,000 employees.

Full Match

Kroger Co. (KR), the grocery store chain, is more generous than many companies. It matches 100 percent of the first 3 percent of workers’ salary deferrals, plus 50 percent of the next 2 percent of workers’ compensation. The company generally also pays an additional contribution of 1 percent to 2 percent based on tenure.

Kroger’s 401(k) match program is a way to attract and retain employees and is “a reflection of our company values,” said spokesman Keith Dailey.

Most employees have no idea how their company’s plan stacks up against competitors because the details are buried in opaque government filings. While companies file reports annually to the Labor Department that are available online, they’re difficult to access and the information provided isn’t consistent.

Corporate tinkering with 401(k) plans accelerated in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. About 18 percent of 334 companies surveyed by consultant Towers Watson suspended or reduced contributions, a response to an urgent need to conserve cash. Yet when the liquidity crisis subsequently eased, about 23 percent of companies that reinstated company matches offered less generous contributions than before the recession.

Lower Match

Caesars Entertainment (CZR), the casino resorts and online gaming company, suspended its 401(k) match in 2009, when it was 50 percent of employee contributions up to 6 percent of pay, not exceeding the federal cap. When the company reinstated the match three months into 2012, the maximum contribution was $450 for that year, and it was $600 for all of 2013. Gary Thompson, a company spokesman, declined to comment on the change.

Hewlett-Packard lowered its match during the financial crisis from 6 percent to 4 percent, where it has stayed.

“The change was made to align with comparative companies,” said HP spokesman Michael Thacker.

Huge Difference

A few percentage points up or down can make a huge difference come retirement day. A 25-year-old worker with a starting salary of $25,000 whose employer matched 3 percent would see his or her 401(k) balance reach about $624,000 if he or she saved consistently until age 65 and got 6 percent annual returns, according to calculations by Jack VanDerhei, research director at the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

All things being equal, that person would have about $812,000 -- or 30 percent more -- if his or her company matched 6 percent. The analysis assumes an annual wage growth of 3 percent so the worker’s ending salary at age 65 is $81,550.

“Top executives with high compensation likely don’t care what their company contributes to a 401(k), but for employees in the ranks it can mean the difference between financial security and scarcity in old age,” said Mike Alfred, CEO of BrightScope, a San Diego firm that ranks retirement plans.

Some companies, especially small businesses, offer no match at all. The number of 401(k) plans that contribute declined 3 percent in 2012, according to a survey of government filings of more than 400,000 plans by American Investment Planners, a financial adviser in Jericho, New York.

Vesting Periods

Companies also save costs through lengthy vesting requirements, forcing employees who leave to forfeit unvested contributions. Employees at Oracle, for instance, are 25 percent vested after one year of employment, another 25 percent after a second year and only fully vested after four years. In 2012, Oracle used $3 million in nonvested payments to offset its matching contribution obligations, according to government filings. An Oracle spokeswoman, Deborah Hellinger, declined to comment.

Another form of skimping occurs when companies delay 401(k) matches until the end of the year or early the following year. IBM shifted last year to a lump-sum payment. Workers who left the company before Dec. 15 didn’t get their match for the year.

“Younger workers who tend to be more mobile are really going to get hammered by this,” Harvard’s Madrian said of delayed matches and long vesting schedules. While the amounts left on the table may only total a few thousand dollars, over the course of decades of compounding and investing, they have the potential to significantly enhance retirement portfolios, Madrian said.

Financial Giants

Many large financial institutions also delay matches. Among these are Citigroup Inc. (C), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Morgan Stanley. (MS) Citigroup and Goldman in e-mails said employees who leave during the year get the portion of the match owed. Morgan Stanley’s spokesman Matt Burkhard declined to comment.

JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank, began delaying matching contribution payouts in 2009. The company, which sells investments to retirement plans, urges savers to “Invest early and often,” in a J.P. Morgan Asset Management website.

The bank waited until January 2014 to match retirement deferrals its own workers’ made last year. The bank employed about 7,500 fewer people at the end of December than a year earlier, according to its fourth-quarter earnings filing. Employees who left the bank because their positions were eliminated got their matching contributions even if they weren’t employed on Dec. 31; JPMorgan declined to comment on the exact number, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Kim.

Meanwhile, the bank gave 6 percent of salary up to $600 to U.S. employees’ 401(k)s if they earned less than $60,000 a year. The award was made to employees with at least one year of service at the end of 2013. The program has been in place for at least two years and the bank hopes to continue it, Kim said.

“It’s ironic that the very financial companies that earn fees by sponsoring 401(k)s are themselves cutting back on contributions for their employees,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, an economist at the New School. “Even as they tell people to save more.”
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:23 PM   #46
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It doesn't sound like you and petegz28 understand what I mean by "competitive compensation". Noncompetitive compensation is compensation that isn't high enough to prevent good employees from going elsewhere.

The problem of stagnant wages isn't created by upper management giving themselves big bonuses, it's caused by something more systemic than that.
Um, once again you are wrong. I would think you would get tired of it but you're quite the trooper.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:26 PM   #47
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It doesn't sound like you and petegz28 understand what I mean by "competitive compensation". Noncompetitive compensation is compensation that isn't high enough to prevent good employees from going elsewhere.

The problem of stagnant wages isn't created by upper management giving themselves big bonuses, it's caused by something more systemic than that.
Why don't you do us all a favor and explain what the systemic problem is??
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:27 PM   #48
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I'm saying corporations are doing less and less for their employees and yes, given the current environment a lot of people out there are working harder and longer for the same pay as they were 5 years ago because the alternative is to not have a job.

Don't kid yourself, or in this case stop playing dumb. You think these companies don't know that they have the average Joe bent over a barrel and aren't capitalizing on it?

There was a time when a company took care of the hard workers and thus were rewarded with a strong economy and consumer base. Now we have board room cliques spreading the cash around between themselves and the hell with everyone else. Problem is that it will eventually catch up to them as well and it is starting too.
Like I said, you don't understand what is meant by "competitive compensation". Corporations aren't welfare services, they're profit seeking entities. They offer competitive compensation for employees or they end up being forced to hire the dregs of the workforce or leave jobs unfilled. This bullshit about CEO pay squeezing out worker pay doesn't work unless the big meanies running our corporations get together at places like Davos and collude about how to keep the regular stiff down. Is that the kind of thing you're buying into these days, petegz28?
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:30 PM   #49
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Um, once again you are wrong. I would think you would get tired of it but you're quite the trooper.
Have we scheduled the Kristallnacht to show these captains of industry who's boss, yet?
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:30 PM   #50
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Like I said, you don't understand what is meant by "competitive compensation". Corporations aren't welfare services, they're profit seeking entities. They offer competitive compensation for employees or they end up being forced to hire the dregs of the workforce or leave jobs unfilled. This bullshit about CEO pay squeezing out worker pay doesn't work unless the big meanies running our corporations get together at places like Davos and collude about how to keep the regular stiff down. Is that the kind of thing you're buying into these days, petegz28?
Yes because it couldn't have possibly started any other way. It started with some dumb **** Professor at Harvard but see, you have to run to these extremes because it just can't happen any other way in your world. Corporations aren't a welfare service but they sure are a recipient when they need it.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:32 PM   #51
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I see job postings every day. And I laugh at a lot of them because companies are now wanting a doctor at a janitor's wage. I saw one today for a Held Desk position and they wanted the person to not only have a degree but 3-5 years experience. This is for an entry level job. It's ****ing insane where things have gone.
My theory regarding the lack of talent involves a lot of unskilled manufacturing types flooding the market in the last 10-15 years. The people who are good at what they do are still doing quite well. There's just a lot of people who don't belong in this economy. It's not their fault, they should be on an assembly line instead of sales or fixing computers.

The type of job you mentioned is ridiculous and it's helping to drive secondary education expenses through the roof. There's a lot of jobs that shouldn't require a degree. Entry level help desk is one of them. Costumer service jobs that require a degree are also stupid.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:32 PM   #52
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Have we scheduled the Kristallnacht to show these captains of industry who's boss, yet?
Next time unemployment benefits get extended or something similar don't you say a ****ing word about it.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:34 PM   #53
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My theory regarding the lack of talent involves a lot of unskilled manufacturing types flooding the market in the last 10-15 years. The people who are good at what they do are still doing quite well. There's just a lot of people who don't belong in this economy. It's not their fault, they should be on an assembly line instead of sales or fixing computers.

The type of job you mentioned is ridiculous and it's helping to drive secondary education expenses through the roof. There's a lot of jobs that shouldn't require a degree. Entry level help desk is one of them. Costumer service jobs that require a degree are also stupid.
I agree but companies know with the given economy they can demand over qualified people and in a lot of cases get it. Contrary to what patteeu may think, there's only so many executive jobs to go around.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:39 PM   #54
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Yes because it couldn't have possibly started any other way. It started with some dumb **** Professor at Harvard but see, you have to run to these extremes because it just can't happen any other way in your world. Corporations aren't a welfare service but they sure are a recipient when they need it.
Sure they are, but that doesn't have anything to do with the connection you're trying to draw between CEO compensation and employee 401k parameters.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:40 PM   #55
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Next time unemployment benefits get extended or something similar don't you say a ****ing word about it.
Why not?
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:42 PM   #56
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I agree but companies know with the given economy they can demand over qualified people and in a lot of cases get it. Contrary to what patteeu may think, there's only so many executive jobs to go around.
Those companies are doing themselves a disservice. Hiring over qualifies people is almost as bad as hiring under. Lazy under qualified hr/recruiters are also the issue. A degree requirement is the quickest and easiest way to eliminate a ton of applicants. So they're taking a short cut. I often deal with hiring managers that start off asking for a degree but are easily persuaded to go with skills over degrees. I current have high level Project Management openings that don't require a degree. The fact that a help desk position does is crazy.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:47 PM   #57
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Those companies are doing themselves a disservice. Hiring over qualifies people is almost as bad as hiring under. Lazy under qualified hr/recruiters are also the issue. A degree requirement is the quickest and easiest way to eliminate a ton of applicants. So they're taking a short cut. I often deal with hiring managers that start off asking for a degree but are easily persuaded to go with skills over degrees. I current have high level Project Management openings that don't require a degree. The fact that a help desk position does is crazy.
Again, I agree. But it's like a loose thread in a sweater. One person starts pulling at it, then another, then another and the next thing you know it's all starting to unravel.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:48 PM   #58
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Why not?
Because you support the business practices that help drive things like extending unemployment.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:51 PM   #59
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Because you support the business practices that help drive things like extending unemployment.
To be blunt, you're not qualified to assess what the things I support help drive. You're full of emotion, but short on common sense. Eating the rich won't fix your problem.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:57 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
To be blunt, you're not qualified to assess what the things I support help drive. You're full of emotion, but short on common sense. Eating the rich won't fix your problem.
Stop dodging the question I asked you...what is the systemic problem ? And no one is saying to eat the rich. Quite the opposite really but you can't pull your head out of the Cheney-Repub's ass long enough to see it.
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