Will Boeing Stop Matching 401(k) Contributions?

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Boeing has just recently started offering a second round of voluntary layoff packages (VLO) to its employees. According to Fox Business the company had originally planned to cut 10% of its workforce but is now forced to go further. The layoffs come as no surprise as the Coronavirus pandemic has hit the air travel industry especially hard. This year Boeing experienced a $641 million dollar first quarter loss, compared to a $2.1 billion profit in the first quarter the year before. The company is looking at all cost cutting measures as a possibility. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has stated that the company would be, “engaging in a full-scale enterprise transformation effort, evaluating every aspect of our business for opportunities to improve”.

But will traditional layoffs be enough? Could Boeing be the next company to suspend or reduce their 401(k) matching program?

Read: Top 10 Articles Read by Boeing Employees

We have seen a consistent trend which shows that during a recession corporations will decrease or suspend benefits. According to CNBC, 95% of companies offer a company match or some alternate contribution program. However in that same article they stated, “Don’t be surprised if your employer pauses its contributions to your 401(k) plan during the U.S. economic downturn.” This happened during the 2001 recession when General Motors, Charles Schwab, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, & Ford all decreased or suspended their company match programs. We saw this again in 2008, with Forbes reporting that nearly 20% of companies with over 1,000 employees reduced or suspended 401(k) contributions.  Unfortunately, this trend seems to be continuing in the wake of the current recession brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. According to Market Watch, 16 major companies have suspended their 401(k) matching programs this year including Amtrak, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, and Tenet Health. General Electric & Lockheed Martin also made big news with their announcements to cut benefits in 2019. There have even been rumors on Layoff.com of AT&T considering cutting benefits to hit their target goal of $10 billion in cost cuts.

Matching 401(k) contributions is one of the most popular benefits Boeing offers.  A recent study showed that on average, employees who don’t maximize the company match leave $1,336 of possible retirement money on the table each year. Clearly, a suspension of these benefits would dramatically change many employees’ retirement plans. 

 To get a better idea of what an end to 401(k) Matching would look like, let’s take a look at ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil announced recently that they will no longer be matching U.S. employee’s contributions to their retirement savings plans. The suspension of these benefits will officially begin on October 1st, 2020. According to Reuters, ExxonMobil has now experienced, “its first back-to-back quarterly loss in 36 years because of the drop in demand during the novel coronavirus pandemic”. 

ExxonMobil has two savings plans available to employees, the first is the U.S. ExxonMobil Savings Plan (EMSP) and the second is the U.S. Supplement Savings Plan (SSP).  The company was matching a 6% minimum employee contribution with 7% of the participant’s pay.  These match programs will be suspended indefinitely beginning on October 1st. 

When benefits are frozen, employees in the mid to late portion of their career are usually hurt the most. If your company match program does end, it’s a good idea to calculate exactly how much this will affect your retirement savings plan. Forbes recommends maintaining your retirement contributions and even increasing them if you have the funds. This can help compensate for the loss of benefits.

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Sources:

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“The Retirement/Transition Guide for Boeing Employees.” The Retirement Group, The Retirement Group, 11 Aug. 2020, https://defense.theretirementgroup.com/boeing-guide-download-google

Manfredi, Lucas. “Boeing Offers Second Volunteer Layoff Package to Employees | Fox Business.” Fox Business, Fox Business, 17 Aug. 2020, https://www.foxbusiness.com/economy/boeing-offers-2nd-layoff-package-to-employees.

Tretina, Kat. “What To Do If Your Employer Suspends 401(k) Matching Contributions.” Forbes, Forbes, 10 Apr. 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2020/04/10/covid-19-employers-suspending-401k-matching-contributions/#7a48068b285f.

O’Brien, Sarah. “401(k)s Contributions from Employers May Drop during Economic Downturn.” CNBC, CNBC, 31 Mar. 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/31/employers-may-drop-401k-matches-as-companies-look-to-cut-expenses.html.

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“AT&T Layoffs – TheLayoff.Com.” TheLayoff.Com, https://www.thelayoff.com/at-and-t. Accessed 13 Aug. 2020.

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