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On Wednesday, IBMers in the United States received the following notice in their email inboxes:

Dear IBMer,

Beginning January 1, 2013, IBM is changing the timing of the IBM match and automatic contribution for our 401(k) Plus Plan and Excess 401(k) Plus Plan from semi-monthly to an annual contribution at the end of the year.  The percentage of the IBM match and automatic contribution you receive – which makes IBM’s 401(k) plans among the best in the industry – is not changing.

You must be employed on December 15 of each year to receive your IBM contribution for that year.  For eligible IBMers, the IBM match and automatic contribution will be deposited to your account on December 31, 2013 (and on the last business day of each subsequent year).  Your personal contributions are not affected by these changes.  IBMers who retire at any time, including those participating in the Transition to Retirement program, will receive their match and automatic contribution upon retirement, based on the eligible pay received during that calendar year.
Sincerely,
Randy MacDonald
Senior Vice President, Human Resources
Source: the second comment in this BusinessWeek article

In a nutshell, IBM will no longer be matching its employee's 401(k) contributions on a paycheck by paycheck basis - they will be making a lump sum payment at the end of each calendar year.
  • And what if IBM decides to lay you off during the course of the calendar year?  No 401(k) matches for you, IBM keeps the match and the interest earned!
  • What if IBM structures your layoff so your last day is December 14?  No 401(k) matches for you, IBM keeps the match and the interest earned!  
  • So if you manage to stay employed by IBM on December 15, who earns the interest on the money IBM sets aside for the year end 401(k) disbursement?  IBM.

For those of you with 401(k)'s keep an eye on your HR department and follow the news as IBM's employees try to combat this change.  Unfortunately, IBM has become an industry leader in many things contrary to making its employee's lives easier.  Needless to say this change has sparked talk of massive US layoffs by IBM in 2013, so IBMers can expect renewed focus on having to work more hours for the same wage in the hope of keeping their job for one more year.

According to the Alliance@IBM website, US employees have been reduced from 133,789 in 2005 to approximately 84,500 today.  Why is IBM's US workforce estimated?  Because doesn't feel the need to release their US headcount any longer.  I have seen estimates that IBM now has at least as many employees in India as they do in the US.  

If you'd like to read real time reaction to this action from IBMer's perspectives, check this page.  Note, if you scroll down the page you will see news on IBM's outsourcing and layoff plans as reported by the people being affected.

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