Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Help Me Howard: Profit Sharing
Many workers have pensions, 401Ks or profit-sharing benefits that are theirs to keep after leaving or losing a job, but how do you make sure you get what you're owed after hitting the road? Here's Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser with some answers.
WSVN -- If you want to run an ad for the Marines, just call Leon Cortez.
Leon Cortez: "It was the proudest moment of my entire life, wearing this uniform. It was the best thing that ever happened to me."
And speaking of ads, after Leon left the Marines, he joined an advertising agency as a graphic designer.
Leon Cortez: "I spent 10 years with them, very highly creative advertising agency. I enjoyed it very much."
Then the economy started taking a turn for the worse.
Leon Cortez: "I got fired, I got laid off."
Fortunately, the company had a profit-sharing program funded entirely by the business and Leon could take as a parting gift.
Leon Cortez: "I pretty much was told by the agency that you will get your profit-sharing after a year."
A year passed, and when December 2008 rolled around, Leon expected the money to pass from their account to his.
Leon Cortez: "They said they had changed companies from profit-sharing to 401K."
A company representative told Leon to call the new retirement company handling their 401Ks. They were no help, so Leon called his old bosses again.
Leon Cortez: "She pretty much said she was working on it, and it was the same story over and over again."
The wait is worrying Leon because he needs to get his money to help fund his new business.
Leon Cortez: "It is very frustrating right now, with the economic situation, I wanted to get part of that money, so I can start my own business here from the house."
But once you leave a company, if you have profit-sharing, a pension, a 401K, how do you make sure your hard-earned assets follow you out the door, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "401K and pension plans are regulated by the federal government. Many profit-sharing plans are not, but most work-related benefit plans have specific rules for when you are eligible to collect and the time frame that you have to wait to get the money."
After we spoke with a representative with the ad agency, we got this letter from their attorney, who seemed to be a little sensitive, noting Leon's benefits are not due until "administratively practicable" following the plan's year-end of December 31st.
He went on to say, "Rest assured, Mr. Cortez will receive the benefits to which he is entitled, and he would have received those benefits with or without a call from Help me Howard."
Adding, any credit Help Me Howard would take in his matter would be false and misleading. Thanks for the free advice, but we weren't taking credit.
Now, for some more free legal advice from Howard on what to do if you have a retirement plan and leave a company.
Howard Finkelstein: "In these economic times, it's a good time to make sure you have a copy of your benefit package, to know if it's guaranteed, what it's worth and know when you can get your hands on it if you lose your job."
The long wait for his money bothered Leon, but the bottom line is, he says he still has a lot of respect for his old company.
Leon Cortez: "I'm very grateful that I spent the 10 years with this company and I grew a lot, and I learned a lot, I just want my money."
The company has told Leon how much he is getting from their benefit package. He faxed in the final paperwork and was told his check is now coming. By the way, if you are having problems getting your benefit package, look in the paperwork, some plans tell you what government agency to call if there is a problem.
Sharing in the problems, but not the profit? Need someone to invest some time? Contact us, we never lose interest in benefiting you.
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