Raise or 401(k) Match?

A co-worker and I were talking the other day and we started discussing the pros and cons of getting a salary increase versus a 401(k) match.

Our company cut both in 2009 and there’s no shot that we’re getting both raises and reinstatement of the 401(k) match.  Frankly, I’m not convinced that we’ll get either.  We’ll probably find out in the next month or so if there is any benefit increase for 2011, though as I said, I’m not holding my breath.

I’m curious as to what the thoughts are as to which is better.  My co-worker was squarely in the corner of the 401(k) match, as the tax benefits and encouragement to save for retirement outweighed the benefit of having a larger paycheck.

I agree with him on these points, but he went so far as to say that a 1-2% 401(k) match would be more favorable than even a 3% raise.

This is where I’m not convinced.  I figure, even with the tax implications, I could get a 3% raise, dedicate 1% of that to increased contributions in the 401(k) and still end up with probably 1.5% more take home pay.

His argument (and again, it was hard to disagree with him) was that, while he and I would probably dedicate some or all of a raise to a 401(k) match, the majority of people probably wouldn’t, and would just take home the money (and spend it).

What do you think?

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Is $18 Worth Being Less Aggravated?

My biggest pet peeve at work has to do with coffee.

I drink the coffee at work.  It’s not the best stuff in the world, but the ‘free’ stuff that the company provides isn’t too bad.  I bring my own half-and-half because I can’t stand the powdered creamer, so all in all it’s not bad.

But, my pet peeve surrounds some of the other people that also drink coffee.  In fact, if I had to guess, it’s probably one of the biggest sources of ire in today’s workplace.

It’s the person / people that takes the last bit of coffee and doesn’t bother making a new pot.

In our office, they’re even better about it.  They leave a little bit, maybe a half cup worth, at the bottom of the pot.  Apparently, they think that absolves them of their duties to make a new pot, and probably clears what little conscience they have (can you tell this bugs me? *lol*)

After walking in for the umpteenth time and seeing a shooter of coffee left in the pot, I finally decided it was time to take action.

After much looking around, here’s my current ‘plan’:

I’m typically the first one in the office most mornings.  Usually, I don’t make coffee right away, preferring to drink some water to get my day started.  After about half hour, I’ll desire coffee, and it’s probably 50-75% of the time that I make the first pot of the day.  No big deal.

I’m thinking that what I will do is make the first pot right away, and pour what I would want for the day into a handy-dandy thermos (which I’ve yet to acquire).  Since what I drink works out to slightly over half a pot, I’d probably brew an additional half-packet to create a new ‘full’ pot for the rest of the co-workers.  After all, I don’t want to make myself part of the problem.

This would give me my coffee for the day and would erase me from having to deal with the aggravation  of those who think making a fresh pot is ‘someone else’s responsibility’.

I’m a little leery about spending $18 (which is the cost of the thermos I want on Amazon), but in the end, isn’t that a small price to pay in doing my part to foster a productive office environment?

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Does It Feel Like We’re Stuck In Neutral?

When it comes to personal finances, every so often I take a look at things over the long term.  For as much progress as our family has made paying down debt, contributing 10% of my income to retirement, and the like, from a personal finance perspective it often feels like we’re stuck in neutral.

Here are a few examples of how it seems like we’re spinning our wheels:

  •  Income level stagnant – I’ve heard it said so many times “I’m happy to just have a job” that few complain about not getting raises.  I was lucky enough to avoid a salary cut during the recent recession, but haven’t had an effective raise in years.  After more than tripling my salary from when I first started in the workforce in 1996 to 2005, this is frustrating (even though I *am* happy to have a job)
  • Stock market – It seems that the stock market has been stuck in neutral for over a decade.  Levels have risen and fallen a lot during that time, but aren’t the Dow and S&P pretty close to their trading levels from ten years ago?
  • Housing levels – OK, so everybody knows the housing market sucks but how bad is it?  Let’s put it this way, I bought a condo in 1999.  It went up in value over the years, but when I sold it in 2007, it had already started going down in value, and I sold it at 2005 levels, which I was bummed about.  Even though I don’t live there anymore, I still track what’s going on, and I’m pretty sure now it wouldn’t even sell for what I paid for it.  That’s pretty typical around here anyways.  So, in other words, housing values are below 1999 values.

I’m still fighting the good fight and keeping my chin up, but every once in a while, it seems like the one-step-forward two-steps-back adage.

The sucky part for me is that most of these ‘neutral’ indicators have happened during the prime of my working career, and the same probably holds true for those around my age (mid-30s).  In the past, this is where many people would get established financially, but now it seems we can barely keep up from the month before.  This could have long lasting repercussions as the effects of this personal finance neutrality will certainly impact us for the rest of our lives.

*sigh*

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When Desperation Rears It’s Ugly Head

My sister-in-law works at a child care facility.  Company policy states that they can’t take their personal items like purses and what not into the rooms where they care for the kids.

Well, with this, it was only a matter of time before someone started taking advantage of this and stealing money.  A couple of people (thankfully not my sister-in-law) have reported that they kept their purses here and that money has been coming up missing.

People are now starting to hold back on bringing anything of value in at all, but how desperate do you have to be to steal from your co-workers?

Many of the people that work in these types of places become friends.  Most of the employees are female, and many are younger.  Before Baby Beagle was born, my wife had jobs in similar places, and made many friends along the way.

Unfortunately, these places don’t pay very well.  Child care is not a lucrative field, so quite honestly, hearing about this type of theft doesn’t really surprise me.  Money is tight with most people that work here, and while it’s no excuse, probably one extra bill or unforeseen situation could cause someone to be desperate enough to go places where they shouldn’t.

Reduce your chances of being a victim of this type of workplace theft:

  • Take away the opportunity to be a target – Don’t leave your wallet or valuables lying around.  Keep them in a locked place, or if that’s not available, make sure what you bring in and leave unattended is minimal.
  • Keep your eyes open – Someone is being very bold here.  Keep aware of suspicious behavior or anything out of the ordinary.  Whether you know it or not, you become aware of people’s habits if you’re around them long enough, so keep an eye if something suddenly changes.
  • Report activity – Even if you don’t see something directly, if you have any suspicions, it’s better to report it.  If you’re uncomfortable, do so anonymously.
  • Don’t feel guilty – Because of the relationships that often get built at work, many people feel guilty about reporting a colleague, whether it be for confirmed activity or just suspicions.  Don’t feel guilty!  There’s someone breaking the law, taking something that doesn’t belong to them, and impacting the safety and security of everybody else there.  Besides, if you do know something and don’t speak up, you’re basically an accomplice and that’s not worth it.

If you’re desperate enough to consider or even follow through with such an action, don’t do it.  You might solve a problem easily but it’s a slippery slope and it’s just not worth it.

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