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Should I stay or go?
Old 01-02-2014, 09:47 PM   #1
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Should I stay or go?

This deals with whether – or when - I should quit my semi-retirement job. Details below, but basically I am extremely unhappy that I received no bonus for 2013 and no explanation of why. I did great work, so this has nothing to do my work. I speculate it may be because I changed in mid-year from working in the office twice a week to working entirely from home.


In the words of the immortal Clash song:


Should I stay or should I go?


Or, rather, when should I go?


When DH retired in 2010, I intended to also retire. When I went in to retire, I was asked to continue working one day a week. I was asked this by someone I’ve worked with for over 30 years who relied on me as his right hand for all that time.


We worked out that I would be paid an hourly rate, still eligible for bonuses and raises. I started out working one day a week, but later increased to 2 at his request. Since then, I’ve received annual December bonuses and a raise in 2011. This June, I told him I was going to retire completely. He suggested that I work entirely from home to avoid a commute I hated. I agreed. The hours I’ve worked have reduced since then but for 2013, I averaged working 8 hours a week (what I had originally planned on back in 2010).


I was surprised when I received no December bonus. I would have expected a couple of thousand dollars. The most likely speculation I have is that since I don’t come in to the office any more I am not seen as a typical employee (although I am) so they just didn’t give me a bonus. But, my deal made in 2010 was that I would still get raises and bonuses.
Normally I would expect that, if they did try to not give me a bonus, this guy would advocate for me. He did so last year when they wanted to give me a low bonus and they increased it. So, this year maybe they decided to recommend no bonus. It is possible (although unlikely) that he might lose the fight to advocate for me. If so, though, I would have expected him to tell me. So, I have concluded that he didn’t fight for me. Given our over 30 year history, the only thing I can think of is that he thinks of me as more like a “consultant” now than an employee so he doesn’t realize that I still expected a bonus. However, we never had any discussion like that. I am still an employee and nothing changed in June except I don’t physically come to the office.


I am inclined to quit. Financially, I don’t need the job. I was doing it because (1) someone I’ve had a close relationship for over 30 years asked me to and I hated to turn him down and (2) the work wasn’t onerous and was well paid. At this point, I really don’t want to do it any more at all. A big part of me just wants to immediately resign.


But two questions:


1. As an employee on 12/31, I am entitled to participate in the annual discretionary 401k contribution made by my employer. This is not a matching contribution. It is made, usually in March, for the prior year. According to the last summary plan description that I have (from 2010), I am entitled to it as an employee on 12/31. I think I could quit now and still get it. But, I’m not entirely sure. There might be a way to not fund the discretionary contribution that I am eligible for and then for them to fund some other discretionary contribution that I wouldn’t be eligible for. I don’t know if that is possible. So, part of me says the more prudent thing is to wait until the contribution in March before resigning. This is probably $2-3k.


2. Whether to say anything to this guy about not receiving the bonus. I think he has convinced himself that I am OK with not getting a bonus (maybe he thinks that since I was willing to quit in June, I don’t care that much about the money). If so, then I expect to hear him rationalize why he thought I wouldn’t expect a bonus. That will just enrage me. So, that could easily lead to me quitting on the spot. Or, I tell him how wrong he is and I could see that causing hard feelings in a long term relationship. So, part of me says that saying anything is a waste of time and would just cause hard feelings. On the other hand, I sort of feel like if I don’t say anything I am a chump and I guess there is some possibility of some fact that I don’t know.



So I could just quit now and risk forgoing the 401k contribution. Or, I can just say nothing at all about not getting a bonus and quietly doing whatever work comes my way in the next 3 months (it is sporadic – I might work 0 hours one week and 15 hours the next), and then quit after the contribution is made.


Financially, it makes no difference to Firecalc but extra money is extra money even if a small enough amount to not really matter. So just not sure whether to wait or not.
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Old 01-02-2014, 09:54 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Katsmeow View Post
Financially, it makes no difference to Firecalc but extra money is extra money even if a small enough amount to not really matter. So just not sure whether to wait or not.
The $ amount is trivial in the long run, so it all boils down to how much heartburn it will cause you to wait three months. Only you can answer that question. If it were me, I'd be gone tomorrow.
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Old 01-02-2014, 10:15 PM   #3
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My last employer offered me part time work but no benefits or bonus. I was told about the no bonus upfront, so I turned the job down from the outset. It would have been 50% of the hours (probably more) for 25% of the pay without the dollar value of the benefits and bonus factored in.

From what you have written about your finances in this thread and others, I would just quit. I don't think a few thousand is worth the hassle. My inclination would be to not say anything. It isn't enough money to get worked up over in the long run.

I would think of it as spending a few thousand to buy peace of mind.
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Old 01-02-2014, 10:20 PM   #4
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I think you should just ask the person you feel has been an advocate for you about it. Maybe the bonuses went out late or there has been a policy change of some kind. Then decide what to do.
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Should I stay or go?
Old 01-02-2014, 11:04 PM   #5
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Should I stay or go?

Only once in my career did I get a bonus, but my understanding is that in some industries they are an expectation. That being the case, if you have been singled out to not receive a bonus, it is a clear message that your work is no longer valued as highly as that of others. I see it as a signal to leave. Since they have not directly asked you to leave, you may be able to prolong it till the 401k distribution but I think it will get more uncomfortable for you as time goes on. You would probably be more aware of this if you were spending time at the office.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:04 PM   #6
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I would ask about the bonus just so you know the reason. Maybe was policy change or HR mix up. Then maybe work long enough to fund a Roth for 2014 and put the rest in the 401k.

I would double check the policy on when the 2013 401k gets posted.

If you quit 3/15 with 2 weeks notice then you really only have 9-10 days left to work.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:14 PM   #7
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I think you should just ask the person you feel has been an advocate for you about it. Maybe the bonuses went out late or there has been a policy change of some kind. Then decide what to do.
+1
I think your work schedule has morphed you into a consultant in the minds of your former colleagues. Any "understanding" of bonuses and matching 401k has likely been left in deep memory. Make the suggested inquiry, if the answer is unacceptable, it is time to move on to the next phase of your retirement. I do recommend you have it clear in your own mind, the next steps that feel right for you. The behaviors of your firm suggest, your firm has moved on.
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Old 01-03-2014, 12:27 AM   #8
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It is a somewhat complicated situation, much of which I left out when I originally posted. This is a law firm of about 20 or so lawyers. It is one firm with several different groups of lawyers in it. So the person I work for advocates for me and the couple of other lawyers who work for him and others advocate for their people.

My situation has always been a little different. When I joined the firm almost 20 years ago I had been a shareholder at another firm and could have joined as a shareholder where I would have been compensated under a formula. I chose, for reasons of my own at the time, to not be a shareholder and to be paid a straight salary.

I was always very highly valued by the person I came to the firm with (and in general) and am sure that I still am (he said his wife cried when she heard that I planned to retire). However, back when I was full-time I know that some shareholders in the past weren't that happy because I was very highly paid. Still, they were happy enough to have me stay when I went part-time and I routinely got the usual bonuses each year. Basically if the person I was working for wanted me that was good enough. And, I don't think the other people at the firm really want me to leave or anything. I am paid hourly so I'm sure they make a profit on my work.

But, when bonuses and stuff are given out you basically need the shareholder that you work for to advocate for you because the others will naturally advocate for their people.

In the past, he has always advocated (successfully) for me. So this year he either didn't advocate for me or he lost the fight. If he lost the fight, though, I would have expected him to tell me. He is very happy with my work, so the only reason not to advocate for me would be because he was thinking my status had changed and that I wouldn't expect a bonus. That doesn't seem rational to me, but I guess it is possible.

I don't really think there has been any major policy change. In my experience they pay bonuses which are proportional to salary. If there was any policy change, I would expect he would tell me. But, maybe he was clueless and didn't.

I'm not really worried about being uncomfortable until March or April. I don't think anyone knows or realizes that I'm upset. I don't go into the office any more so I don't expect to see anyone. I am called on at irregular times to do tasks. I think the person I work for has no idea that I'm upset.

Part of me does want to mention it to him. It is just that I can't imagine I will be happy with any answer. I guess it is just barely possible that they didn't give a bonus to anyone. That would make me feel better about it, but not sure if it would change my decision.

On the other hand, if he were to say that I didn't get a bonus because I wasn't coming to the office any more that would make me irate. I'm not sure that I could just go on and keep on working after that. It would almost seem like I was agreeing it was OK not to give me the bonus. So, I sort of feel that if I ask and don't get a reasonable explanation that I am setting myself up to quit then and not try to hold on until the 401k contribution is made.

I guess I am of two minds. It probably is not that onerous to just keep working for a few months. But, it will be hard to bite my tongue. So, part of me does want to ask. But, if I ask and don't get a good answer, then it is hard for me to just say OK and keep working....
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Old 01-03-2014, 12:42 AM   #9
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I am with most of the other people....


Ask about the bonus... see what is said.... if something is not forthcoming such as a late bonus or some really good reason (the firm did not make money), then kindly say thanks for the work, but it is not working out for me anymore....

Don't worry about the match... unless you are willing to take them to court (not sure if you are a lawyer), there is not much you can do unless you go to the state or feds...

I would not look back and also would not be in touch with them.....
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Old 01-03-2014, 01:23 AM   #10
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You are driving yourself crazy speculating about the meaning of the absence of a bonus. Why not just ask?
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Old 01-03-2014, 02:48 AM   #11
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If bonus is not of a big significance then I would move on. I would had asked and fought about it in my younger years but now the peace of mind is above it.

If you can stretch till 401k match without heartburn then continue, I would look for signals if the match in also on chopping board.
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Old 01-03-2014, 04:20 AM   #12
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Old 01-03-2014, 04:45 AM   #13
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I suspect that you are mourning the loss of this job and the self esteem that goes with it. The bonus issue only brings this to the surface. It is over. Employers only use us, they rarely truly respect us.
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Old 01-03-2014, 05:31 AM   #14
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You say the 401(k) contribution is discretionary, so I wouldn't take it for granted. There are two aspects of variable compensation working against you. Retention is always a factor, and there is a fixed total $$ amount available for the team. The amount not given to you is probably available to give to someone else. It might be because you work from home, but a more likely reason is because you are leaving. The bonus to you is of no benefit to them, neither do they see any downside by reallocating it.
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Old 01-03-2014, 07:15 AM   #15
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I would ask about the bonus just so you know the reason.
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Old 01-03-2014, 07:23 AM   #16
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Whether to say anything to this guy about not receiving the bonus. I think he has convinced himself that I am OK with not getting a bonus (maybe he thinks that since I was willing to quit in June, I don’t care that much about the money). If so, then I expect to hear him rationalize why he thought I wouldn’t expect a bonus. That will just enrage me. So, that could easily lead to me quitting on the spot. Or, I tell him how wrong he is and I could see that causing hard feelings in a long term relationship.
This is an important point. I would be inclined to say nothing about the bonus right now (no point becoming enraged and/or harming a long-term relationship). However, I would probably calmly mention it as a deciding factor at the time I turned in my resignation.

It sounds as though as you leaving and the question is whether to go now or in March. Can you take your best guess as to how much the 401k contribution would be, then divide it by the approx number of hours you expect to work between now and the end of March? Then you can decide if it's worth the extra hourly payment to stick around.
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Old 01-03-2014, 07:55 AM   #17
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I was in a very similar situation - a highly compensated employee in (a larger) partnership and received a bonus and worked almost exclusively from home other than travel to client sites. I would just ask since it is bothering you. Probably a longshot that there were no bonuses paid. If you were excluded, I would then tell them that your "deal" was to be treated as an employee proportionally based on your chargeable hours and that includes participation in the bonus plan and if they want to treat you as a contractor then you would need to renegotiate the rate you are paid to include all forms of compensation, benefit costs, overhead and profit. See what they say. If you can clear the air and want to stay then do so. Otherwise give them a month's notice once the 401k contribution is made and if part of the reason is the lack of a bonus be clear about it.

The reality is for every hour you work for them they are collecting from clients 2-4 times what they are paying you so every hour you work for them is easy money to them.
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Old 01-03-2014, 08:01 AM   #18
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If the money is not a big deal to you, I would just retire and enjoy life.
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Old 01-03-2014, 08:13 AM   #19
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So it sounds like you do not want to clarify this with the firm, because you think you know that you have been excluded from a small bonus on purpose and your advocate did not go to bat for you or was unsuccessful, and if this suspicion is confirmed, then you will be so irate you will resign on the spot and forfeit any firm's contribution to the 401k? Wouldn't you be happier getting it out in the open and verifying that there will even be a contribution to your 401k?
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Old 01-03-2014, 09:04 AM   #20
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Question 1. Ask HR or the plan administrator. Anything else is a guess.
Question 2. Ask your employer. Anything else is a guess.

After those questions are answered, you can make an informed decision based on facts.
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