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Ethical question: fire vs retire
Old 11-01-2010, 05:59 PM   #1
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Ethical question: fire vs retire

I'm ready! My last day will be some time in 2011. I'm 56 years old. My net worth is $1.6M, not including my mortgage-free house. I have no outstanding loans. I live way below my means, on about $26K/year. My estimated retirement budget is $33K/year, which would include health insurance (currently paid for by my company). The budget also includes a set-aside lump-sum fund of $200K for large non-recurring (at least not annually!) expenses like roof/car/furnace/deck replacement, etc.

OK, so here's my dilemma. I'm a long-time employee of a good-sized company. They've been good to me, and I've served them very well over the years. If they offered me an early-retirement package, I would take it in a second, but as far as I know, they don't do that (except maybe at the the C-level). When they had layoffs a couple years back, they gave out extremely generous severance packages. What's more, I've heard through the scuttlebutt that even when they terminate someone for cause, they give them very generous severance pay in exchange for promising not to sue.

On the other hand, folks who just hand in their resignation get nothing, other than pay for any accrued vacation time.

See where I'm going with this? There's a devil on my shoulder urging me to get myself fired instead of resigning, which would get me 16+ additional work-free weeks of pay and health insurance.

Since I know that's not ethical, has anyone ever heard of someone going to HR and just requesting an early-retirement package out of the blue? Is that ever done? Does it ever work?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
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Old 11-01-2010, 06:12 PM   #2
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If they offered me an early-retirement package, I would take it in a second, but as far as I know, they don't do that (except maybe at the the C-level). When they had layoffs a couple years back, they gave out extremely generous severance packages. What's more, I've heard through the scuttlebutt that even when they terminate someone for cause, they give them very generous severance pay in exchange for promising not to sue.
All you would be doing is showing your hand to the company if you asked for a package. Then if you try your 'getting fired' idea they would know what you were up to.
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:00 PM   #3
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There's a devil on my shoulder urging me to get myself fired instead of resigning, which would get me 16+ additional work-free weeks of pay and health insurance.
Welcome.

Only 16+ weeks? Not worth it, IMO.

How long is the health insurance? If it's less than 6 mths then it's not worth it either.

One question: Why not right now? Why wait for 2011?

Congrats on your upcoming retirement.
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:11 PM   #4
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To me it doesn't seem ethically any worse than walking away from a mortgage when you can still afford it, or staying in a foreclosed house rent free for months because the bank is flooded with too many foreclosures to process them. Or collecting unemployment each time you switch contracting jobs, even though you know ahead of time there will be a set amount of time between your jobs, and you are getting paid more as a contractor than a full timer (I know a lot of people who do this). I think we as a nation left ethics behind a long time ago, both in work and money. Now it is better to just do what is best for yourself, while staying legal of course!

Having said that, I don't know the best way to make your idea work. Would you just start showing up late? Fake depression or sickness? Ask the boss's 19 y.o. daughter out on a date? (I bet that would do it!) Definately you would be burning your employment bridge behind you, so would want to make sure the 1.6 million will last through your retirement.
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:20 PM   #5
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Geez - what happened to doing the right thing IMO why have "forcing a fire" on your head forever, for only 16 weeks of pay? Take the high road.....
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:20 PM   #6
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Ready, this was posted on the ER.org Facebook page. Maybe it will help.
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:20 PM   #7
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The fact that you're not sure if it's ethical tells me that you already know the answer. Because you're an ethical person, you know it's wrong, and that it will most likely not be something you'll feel good about having done, even years down the road. If they've been good to you, as you say...then I think you owe them the courtesy of being a good employee and leaving the right way. However, if you'd said they'd been a**holes over the years, then I'd say stick it to 'em! Go to sleep at night with a clear conscience. Best of luck!
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:23 PM   #8
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The fact that you're not sure if it's ethical tells me that you already know the answer. Because you're an ethical person, you know it's wrong, and that it will most likely not be something you'll feel good about having done, even years down the road. If they've been good to you, as you say...then I think you owe them the courtesy of being a good employee and leaving the right way. However, if you'd said they'd been a**holes over the years, then I'd say stick it to 'em! Go to sleep at night with a clear conscience. Best of luck!
I agree with that. When you leave, walk out with your head held high. Don't sleaze out.

10 years from now you'll know that you did the right thing.
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:23 PM   #9
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You have to live with yourself. It makes no sense to me that you worked for this company for years, they were good to you and you were good to them. Now for 16 weeks pay you want to ruin your reputation and defame yourself?

You have 1.6M and you're worried about scamming for 16 weeks pay. Slap yourself and go live your life.
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:24 PM   #10
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I agree with that. When you leave, walk out with your head held high. Don't sleaze out.

10 years from now you'll know that you did the right thing.

Of course, with the proper investment strategy, how much would that 16 weeks payoff be worth in 10 years Just kiddin' lol!!
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:27 PM   #11
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Like with walking away from a mortgage or other debt, which leaves your credit rating marked and the future possibility of the bank coming after you anyway, I would worry that something about getting myself fired would come back to bite me later. If you have a 401(k) at the company, a red flag on your dismissal might make rolling it over more difficult; if you have a pension, its start date might be delayed while your dismissal is investigaged. Probably these things wouldn't happen but why give yourself something to worry about?

So to me getting yourself fired would change the happiness, of retiring on good terms from a long career, to worry and uncertainty. It's not about the company (or the bank, in the case of the mortgage), it's about you.
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:31 PM   #12
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I bet I could get myself fired from my fed govt. job, but that's ALL I'd get, FIRED! I would get jack-s**t besides unemployed lol. Uncle Sam, to my knowledge, doesn't give out any payola when an employee gets fired. Many people don't believe govt. employees can get fired, but I've seen a number of them over my 34 years.
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:40 PM   #13
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I think this is much different than walking away from a mortgage. A mortgage is strictly a business transaction.

Working for a company is a different situation, you owe the company a honest day's work and they owe you a paycheck. Now I know that we've all had goof off days when our head wasn't completely in the job, but I think trying to get fired goes well beyond that.

On the other hand it is perfectly ok to tell your boss and/or his boss that you are looking to retire in a few years and that if there are layoffs and early retirement incentives coming that you are interested. From the bosses perspective it is actually helpful to know that some people are looking to leave. Firing people is painful and having some people volunteer is a really a win win. I remember one layoff I was involved in one of the woman was pregnant, she really didn't have any intention of coming back after maternity leave so she volunteered to take a package. She got a couple months extra salary and we avoid the agony of having to figure out who else to layoff.

On the other hand I can think of nothing worse as boss than having to fire a long-time employee for cause. First, you'd feel really bad firing an older worker in this economy, second you'd be setting the company up for an age discrimination law-suit.
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Old 11-01-2010, 08:00 PM   #14
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Ready, this was posted on the ER.org Facebook page. Maybe it will help.
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Old 11-01-2010, 08:02 PM   #15
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Why, yes, yes we do, Sue. Feel free to "like us" there.
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Old 11-01-2010, 08:05 PM   #16
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Welcome.

Only 16+ weeks? Not worth it, IMO.

How long is the health insurance? If it's less than 6 mths then it's not worth it either.

One question: Why not right now? Why wait for 2011?

Congrats on your upcoming retirement.
Thanks, Sam. I agree it's not worth it, that's why I'd rather be straightforward with HR and negotiate an early retirement package. I'm just not sure what their reaction would be. Then again, what's the worst they could do? Fire me?

As for your last question, why not now? Well, if I work a couple months in 2011, that's one more non-zero income year for my Social Security calculation (I only have 31 income years due to child-rearing), plus it's another $6K into the Roth.
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Old 11-01-2010, 08:12 PM   #17
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On the other hand it is perfectly ok to tell your boss and/or his boss that you are looking to retire in a few years and that if there are layoffs and early retirement incentives coming that you are interested. From the bosses perspective it is actually helpful to know that some people are looking to leave. Firing people is painful and having some people volunteer is a really a win win. . . . On the other hand I can think of nothing worse as boss than having to fire a long-time employee for cause. First, you'd feel really bad firing an older worker in this economy, second you'd be setting the company up for an age discrimination law-suit.
Thanks, Clifp, this was really helpful, and I'm going to do exactly that this week. I appreciate your feedback!
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Old 11-01-2010, 08:43 PM   #18
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Being in a very similar situation to the OP, I appreciate this thread. It has struck me as ironic that problem employees get a generous severance while loyal long-term employees get none. But that's how the world works.

Having considered the options for some time, I've decided against the "getting fired" approach for all the good reasons given above: why trash a long, successful career with unethical behavior at the end? On the other hand, given the economic pressures to cut payroll, I see nothing wrong with making it known you might retire earlier given some compensation and/or simply asking for a modest severance based on your long service. (Though I'd expect the answer to the latter to be "NO.")
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Old 11-01-2010, 10:44 PM   #19
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ReadyOrNot - Welcome.

I don't know your level in the organization, but coming from a senior mgmt perspective, I think your mgmt would catch on pretty quickly if you had been a highly productive and good worker and then all of a sudden you produced garbage work. In my megacorp, this would mean that I had reason to fire for cause, which is different that an "at-will employment" firing.

I think that if I were you, I would probably talk to my boss candidly, saying something to the effect that you were considering retiring in the next "couple of years or so" and would be happy to volunteer for the next RIF so that the jobs of people who perhaps may need them more may be saved. Sure, this tips your hand that you may want to get the heck outta Dodge, but at the same time (in my company anyway), we are happy to know who would want to go if there was a RIF. It makes the decision making process a lot less gut wrenching for us. Contrary to popular opinion, some of us do have a heart, and in my case anyway, it really does hurt to have to let people go in RIFs due to the economy. I think of their family and kids. Are they going to be OK for the next few months while mom or dad looks for another job? It is another thing entirely to fire someone for fraudulent or destructive behavior.

So, yeah, I think I would let them know...early in 2011. What's the worst thing that could happen...are they gonna fire you?

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Old 11-02-2010, 03:01 AM   #20
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I secured a package once when I told the HR person + my boss in a downsizing situation that I was offered an option to join a law firm but could not make it happen without some warm handshake. As time was right the deal was done very quickly.
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