Lockheed Martin had already begun cutting benefits before the Coronavirus took its toll on the world economy. According to Barron’s, “Lockheed Martin (LMT) finished freezing its defined-benefit pension plan on Jan. 1, 2020." Since the pandemic struck, Lockheed Martin has certainly had to make adjustments. According to the Fort Worth Star, 2,500 employees were forced to work fewer hours due to supply delays brought on by the pandemic. This decision was described by the Vice President of Aeronautics as a way to “weather the pandemic without layoffs.” Earlier this month, the Company made the decision to freeze its pension plan back in 2016, and recently offloaded $4.9 billion in pension liabilities to Athene Annuity and Life Co., per Pension&Investments.
But will these cost cutting measures be enough? Could Lockheed Martin be the next corporation to suspend or reduce their company match program?
Time and time again, we have seen 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 also made big news with its announcement 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 Lockheed Martin 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. employees' contributions to their retirement savings plans. The suspension of these benefits officially began 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 reinstated on October 1st, 2021, per Reuters.
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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