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I wouldn't limit your thinking to just 401(k) plans but look at the total picture including money purchase / profit sharing plans as well. Following is a post I made about a month ago on the Passion Savings board:

I would like ot tackle this issue from a different perpective presuming, just for the moment, that people will eventually gravitate toward occupations they are basically good at and reasonably enjoy and that FIRE wannabe's will LBYM. What that leaves is the environment within which one performs their labors.

I would like to suggest that people should attempt to perform their services within the "professional service sector". Why? Because almost all professional service firms function as partnerships (forget their real legal formation), e.g. lawyers, accoutants, architects, engineers, actuaries, etc. Becuase they function as partnerships & because of external legal constraints, this environment creates a couple of interesting aspects:

1. There is invariably a dicotomy of the "professionals" versus the administrative support organization; e.g. a legal secretary.

2. The professionals are further split between partners (or their equivalent) & associates.

3. Administrative support personnel (primarily due to a lack of job progression) tend to make 5% to 25% above market averages.

4. The organization itself has zero capacity to create future period value for its owners; e.g. the firm can not issue common stock (outside of itself) or stock options; thus, most professional partnership owners are forced into current financial period thinking; e.g. take my profits now because there is no way to take them in the future.

5. These origanizations invariably result in three employee classes: admin. support, in a variety of jobs that pay slightly above market say in the $25k to $75k range; the associates, who will either become owner/partners or leave, say in the $50K to $125k range, and the current owners, say in the $200k to $1mm range.

6. These firms owners are all concerned above retirement savings and all adopt §401(k) plans and/or §401(a) defined contribution / profit sharing plans. Further, the owner decision-makers all want to maximize their personal retirement savings and accordingly adopt fairly "rich" plans in order to make their individual $30k (now $40k) per annum contributions. In order to do so, there are a variety or restrictions and opportunities within IRC §§401-424 which usually results in full benefits (meaning contributions) for the owners, reduced or no benefits for the associates, and full benefits for the administrative staff. A typical (what is called a social security integrated formula) would be something like 10% of pay contribution up to $70,000 followed by a 16% of pay contribution from $70k to $175K.

So, let's say you are a legal secretary currently making $40k. If you contribute 10% and your employer contributes 10%; that's 20% per year. You will have over a $1mm in approximately 20 years depending on what assumptions you make. The point is that this job with Dewey, Cheatum & Howe should be compared with the same secretarial job working for General Motors. The differences are astronomical becuase of the employer contribution which is unavoidable by the partner/owners.

(who has been consulting to professional service firms for over 15 years)

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