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The Best Deck Chair on the Titanic?
Old 10-31-2019, 03:51 PM   #1
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The Best Deck Chair on the Titanic?

Hi FireFolk!

I mostly lurk here, but thought I'd chime in regarding an interesting situation that I find myself in.

I w*rk for a large company that's imploding. MegaCorp is following the path of Enron and Sears. I see this company from the inside, and I can't imagine it surviving for much longer. We've just announced that we're reducing headcount by 25,000.

The leaders of MegaCorp have done some bad things, and they have gotten caught. Several times. The company has paid Billions of dollars in fines (and that's Billions with a "B"). There has been one high-profile scandal in the press after another. The CEO was called before Congress and then ousted, and the person who replaced him as CEO was also dragged in front of Congress and is also now gone. The "interim-CEO" then stepped down, and after a lengthy search the board hired CEO#4. Several other CEO candidates turned down offers to work here.

Customers generally don't choose to do business with MegaCorp. We get most of our customers through "acquisition", and once we've got them, we've GOT them. Our customers rank us near the bottom in every metric that I've seen, and they consistently will get away from us if given the opportunity. Due to the nature of our business, our customers are a "captive market" and in nearly all cases simply don't have the option of going elsewhere.

Employee turnover is high, and the only people being hired (and I truly mean the ONLY people being hired) are foreign contractors who often have limited English language skills. While it's often said that "nobody is irreplaceable", we've already lost a LOT of good people who indeed are "irreplaceable" within their areas of expertise, which has resulted in repeated failing of internal systems - sometimes impacting the public and getting coverage in the national press.

The "A-team" players are already long gone, and the "B-team" people are leaving fast. My boss quit last week. Another person in my group just quit today. Many of the people sticking around are the kind of people who would have trouble finding another job anywhere (even in this economy).

And then there are people like me...

I'm one of those folks who are "retirement eligible", and have been quietly maxing out my 401k for DECADES. I'm all set to FIRE, with a score of 100%. I have a short commute, a quiet office in a safe location (although there is talk of eliminating my office and moving everyone "downtown"). My spouse is still working in a reasonably well-paying job that she loves and with people who are her friends, so there's nothing to be gained in my quitting until she's ready to retire.

My lifestyle wouldn't change one bit if I were working vs not working. At this point I consider every paycheck to simply be a bonus. It may sound strange, but I'm having FUN in the midst of all this turmoil!

I'm tempted to say that I've got the best deck chair on the Titanic. But perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I feel like I'm on a lifeboat, with a cup of hot chocolate in hand while quietly watching the Titanic as it slips beneath the waves.

So glad I started saving when I was young, and that I kept at it. The peace of mind that I now enjoy is priceless!


.
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Old 10-31-2019, 04:00 PM   #2
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Well, if you are enjoying it, make some popcorn and watch the show. Apparently your job is not too stressful, although how that can be with the description you gave of the company is pretty amazing.
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Old 10-31-2019, 04:11 PM   #3
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One thing you may want to keep an eye out for is layoff packages. Companies sometimes will pay X months salary for every year of service when downsizing. That way they get rid of their more senior and expensive employees without facing age discrimination lawsuits.

If you're OK leaving anyway, you might as well have a pile of money thrown at you as you waltz out the door.

Depending on your relationship with your manager, you might even discuss ahead of time volunteering to be downsized. Managers sometimes hear of things ahead of time and if they're a good manager they'll know how to steer you into that situation. You can even "save a job" of someone younger or more desperate than you who really needs the paycheck.
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Old 10-31-2019, 05:15 PM   #4
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As terrible as Wells Fargo is, I doubt it will be disappearing anytime soon. It's still quite profitable, and if it really came upon hard times, Warren Buffett would purchase the entire bank before letting it go under.
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Old 10-31-2019, 06:10 PM   #5
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Congratulations it sounds like you’ll be fine.
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Old 10-31-2019, 06:15 PM   #6
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This sounds similar to my situation, remote headquarter location, removed from the fray, only one in my position, ready, and waiting for a buyout offer, but no layoffs yet.

I wish you well in your quest, and congratulate you on good choices earlier in your career.
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Old 10-31-2019, 06:57 PM   #7
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It may sound strange, but I'm having FUN in the midst of all this turmoil!
Back in the old days, employees sacrificed immensely on behalf of their employers with the implicit understanding that the employers would do the same for the employees. Those days are mostly gone, and yet we still have an archaic employment status called "W2 employee". What would happen if the IRS got ahead of the curve (for a change) and abolished W2 employment status, turning everyone into a 1099 independent contractor running their own business instead? This would represent the triumph of the new-fashioned "gig economy" over the old-fashioned "indentured servitude" economy.

Although I was a W2 employee for various companies for many years, the only way that I was able to keep my sanity during that time was to view myself as an independent contractor instead. As an independent contractor running my own business, the host company's problems were not my problem unless I chose to make them so. Having a family biz running in the background my entire life definitely helped me adopt this point of view (P&L and balance sheets have always been a part of my life ).

Good luck with your impending retirement!
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Old 11-01-2019, 10:11 AM   #8
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One thing - just be sure you hold none of your company stock in your 401k. Zip, zero, nada. Also, do you have any assets held in a non-qualified account with your employer? If so, I’d be very wary about that.

BTW - I waited for a while after I was set to FIRE...just to get a good layoff package. Somebody above mentioned this, but it’s a good idea to have everything in order and ready to go...just in case the opportunity arises.
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Old 11-02-2019, 07:56 AM   #9
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That was a good read. Tell us more!!
Congratulations for being clever enough to watch the show. Do you have any friends/associates in similar position?

I thought there would be more guesses with all those clues!
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Old 11-02-2019, 08:04 AM   #10
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As terrible as Wells Fargo is, I doubt it will be disappearing anytime soon.
Can't be Wells Fargo, OP said "due to the nature of our business, our customers are a "captive market" and in nearly all cases simply don't have the option of going elsewhere." Banks do not have captive markets and their customers have lots of options.
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Old 11-02-2019, 08:07 AM   #11
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OP, congratulations on your saving over the years. It allows you to take risks others can't. When I was 53 the company I worked for was sold. Many good people jumped ship immediately and quite a few of them had to relocate since we were one of the biggest insurers in the area. I looked at the finances and realized that we could handle a six-month to one-year period of unemployment if it came to that (DH was already retired), so I stayed. The new company turned out to be (mostly) a class act and I was there another 6 years. It was good to have that option.

I know what you mean about losing people- an old boss used to refer to losing "institutional memory"- people who knew how things were done and why, and what worked/hadn't worked in the past and why. If your employer is the one njhowie mentioned (I know he was speculating and you haven't confirmed), it's unfortunate. I had a mortgage with WF years ago which they refinanced at a lower rate at no cost (they initiated it after rates went down) and I was perfectly happy with them.

I'd probably find your current environment stressful but, as dtbach said, if you enjoy it, get some popcorn. You might also want to start thinking about what you want your life to look like after retirement. It's great on the other side!
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Old 11-02-2019, 08:10 AM   #12
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Can't be Wells Fargo, OP said "due to the nature of our business, our customers are a "captive market" and in nearly all cases simply don't have the option of going elsewhere." Banks do not have captive markets and their customers have lots of options.
If you're working, and your 401k is with WF, then you might be considered captive.
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Old 11-02-2019, 09:51 AM   #13
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Can't be Wells Fargo, OP said "due to the nature of our business, our customers are a "captive market" and in nearly all cases simply don't have the option of going elsewhere." Banks do not have captive markets and their customers have lots of options.
My guess is PG&E.

Have fun watching the show; it sure is nice knowing that the worst that will happen is a well deserved retirement.

Marc
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Old 11-02-2019, 10:21 AM   #14
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Maybe due to living in the Seattle area, and through the big layoffs of the 70's, I thought Boeing...though I guess that would warrant a mention of a pension.
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Old 11-02-2019, 10:37 AM   #15
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Doing a bit of internet searching, I think OP's working at Ericsson. The layoffs, fines and CEO ousting all point to Ericsson. Add in the telecom market difficulties and uncertainties for some more support for the company imploding.



Back to OP's question, it is a nice position to be in where if the megacorp ship sinks that you will be good shape. I agree, try to hold out for a RIF package if one is offered. At the least stay on as long as you can to max out the 401k savings. Also adding to the after tax savings (Roth....) and spouse working. So enjoy the ride for now and see how you can try and maximize your exit strategy.
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Old 11-02-2019, 11:50 AM   #16
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Don't know who but I'm guessing he's talking about the for profit prison system / ICE
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Old 11-02-2019, 02:14 PM   #17
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I don't know what company it is, but I find it both, appalling and depressing that there are so many "viable" choices. Speaks volumes about the state of our economy.
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Old 11-02-2019, 02:24 PM   #18
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Don't know who but I'm guessing he's talking about the for profit prison system / ICE
After much contemplation just gonna let stupid is as stupid does.
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Old 11-02-2019, 02:28 PM   #19
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I don't know what company it is, but I find it both, appalling and depressing that there are so many "viable" choices. Speaks volumes about the state of our economy.
State of our economy? The economy is great. Have you seen your 401 k today?

Now I do agree there is no loyalty from employers and they treat most like their just replaceable.

Happiness is the best revenge though! RE
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Old 11-02-2019, 02:33 PM   #20
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I'd quit just so I could get my 401K out of there. If so many people are jumping ship, what state is the HR department in? Any competent folks left? I wouldn't breathe easy until Megacorp no longer had control over my 401K.
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