Buyout, Anyone?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Ford, back in the good ol' days....

Ford, back in the good ol' days.... Source: upnorthmemories hide caption

itoggle caption Source: upnorthmemories

The Ford Motor Company, which has lost $15 billion in the last two years, is offering its employees huge incentives to leave their jobs: one-time cash payments of $140,000, rolling contributions to retirement accounts, and reimbursement packages for classes and coursework. By March 17, the automaker hopes at least 8,000 of its 64,000 employees will take the company up on its offer.

Because the economy is doing so poorly, companies around the country, in an array of industries (including this one), have been forced to cut costs, and buyouts are one way to do that.

In the first hour, we'll ask Sarah Webster, who covers the automobile industry for the Detroit Free Press; Andrea Coombes, who writes about personal finance; and Stephen Viscusi, author of On the Job: How to Make It in the Real World of Work, about when it is a good idea to take a buyout. And we want to hear from you. Have you taken one? Are you happy that you did? Are you considering one?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I understand that this buyout is all taxable. So, for most workers, they get a less. The company doesn't offer them to get this deposited into an IRA. Plus, what happens to their pensions?

Good questions to answer...

Sent by Rich | 2:21 PM | 2-26-2008

I'm self employed... buyout? I can't believe people think a company owes them something. Doesn't Ford pay people for the work they do? If Ford is offering you a buyout... they don't want you. Find another job and consider yourself lucky you got something.

Sent by Peter swap | 2:28 PM | 2-26-2008

What if you don't take the buy out and then get laid off later with NO incentives? That has actually happened to people I know...

Sent by Rupa | 2:28 PM | 2-26-2008

I would take that buyout. I am a technology professional and have been let go by large company, a (recent) member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. I will receive a severance package, but it does not begin to approach the buyout Ford is offering. This is the difference between unionized employees and white collar workers (there are not too many software engineers in unions) who are losing jobs by the bucketfull. And the wonder of working in a "Right to Work" state.

Sent by Jean | 2:31 PM | 2-26-2008

first law of wing-walking:
don't let holt of what ya got holt of till ya got holt of somethin else

Sent by joe crawford | 2:33 PM | 2-26-2008

Why is this buy out ? Why dont they all decrease salaries starting from CEO to the small level and work like a family ?
Buy out seems more immoral

Sent by Prasanna Kasthuri | 2:34 PM | 2-26-2008

Few people recognize that a buyout offer has the effect of lowering the value of one's future wages. This is because of the concept of 'opportuniy costs'. If you accept the buyout, a known present value, you have to give up future wages, which are 'probable' - ie, subject to unknowable variabilities.

On the other hand, if you reject the buyout, you have to reduce the present value of estimated, probable value of future wages by the amount of the lost buyout.

It is fairly easy to estimate the dollar value of the decision, something that every MBA knows how to do:

I was offered a 'golden parachute' in the form of added retirement benefits about 2 or 3 years before I would have retired. By doing the calculation, I was able to estimate the value of probable future earning at $18,000 per year, not near enough to justify continuing to work. I have neber regreted the decision because I know why it was the best option.

Sent by Leonard Schwab | 2:36 PM | 2-26-2008

can Stephen Viscusi sound any more condescending?

Sent by Tony | 2:39 PM | 2-26-2008

The speaker on this show (Steven) is being extremely rude and dismissive to all involved. Please do not invite someone like this back again. Persistent sarcasm is not the way to educate people.

Sent by Catherine Klapperich | 2:39 PM | 2-26-2008

wasn't that steven guy somewhat inpersonal with the white collar worker, asking questions like "what u gonna do go work at starbuck" or "that is ridiculous Ford will be here for 100 years" Ouch for that caller.

My two cents, just cuz steve knows doesn't mean he has to rub it.

Sent by Ricardo | 2:40 PM | 2-26-2008

My husband and I both took a buyout from the Chicago Tribune in 1976. It looked great at the time, but unfortunately, it doesn't work out that way. You never recoup the benefits and the wages are never the same. Almost 30 years ago I was making $9 to $10 an hour and you really can't make that much more now. Pensions are virtually non existent and business are only offering 401k plans are another story where companies save and the average worker usually looses. You really have to scramble to retire. I told my husband "if one of us dies, there might be enough there to retire." He passed away and I did retire. His last job ended up being with the State of Illinois and he was able to finally get some good benefits, which I am still getting now. As usually, the buyouts are for the companies benefit, not the employee.

Sent by Jane Leider | 2:40 PM | 2-26-2008

Stephen Viscusi was a deplorable guest. His opinions are strong and mostly correct but too belittle both the Ford worker and the ambition of a fifty six year old who has the tenacity to attend medical school is absurd and vexing. Hopefully he does not return in any capacity.

Sent by Andrew Quirk | 2:40 PM | 2-26-2008

I think your guest Stephen Viscusi was extremely rude to the callers. I would suggest not having him back on the show. Surely there are other "experts" that are able to treat callers with courtesy.

Sent by Katie | 2:43 PM | 2-26-2008

Stephen Viscusi said Ford will never go out of business. Viscusi is a moron.

Sent by John Fitzpatrick | 2:43 PM | 2-26-2008

Stephen Viscusi is clown. Ford and all of the American automakers are fighting for their lives. Further more, his tone was insulting to me as a casual listener and counter productive if you are considering a buyout.

Sent by Greydon Clark | 2:43 PM | 2-26-2008

I hope someone make the distinction between what you get and what you really get. The amount is heavily tax at the federal gift rate, about 42%.

The benefits are gone, the pension is gone and if you have 13 years at Chrysler like i do, it all gets wiped away with the stroke of a pen.

We were all just offered buyouts. The package that's offered to just leave and walk away is $100,000. Post tax that's $63,000 or so. When that is gone it is gone. The lack of jobs in southeast Michigan means you'll have a tough time finding another one. And it is a lot difficult to just pull up stakes to go look elsewhere.

I wouldn't take it with my seniority.

Now, if i had two or three years less.....

Sent by Charles | 2:45 PM | 2-26-2008

I didn't hear anyone comment on the law of unemployment and how that will fit into the financial equation of taking a buy out or not

Sent by Laila Swanson | 2:46 PM | 2-26-2008

The guest, Steve, seems to have a somewhat distorted view of business. Businesses exist to make money for their owners/shareholders, not as a "social service" to their employees. If a company goes out of business (or relocates overseas) all loose. Ford and GM have both suffered. If they want to stay in business and compete globally, they are not going to be able to continue to pay $25+ per hour while car companies overseas produce and sell their products in our market at lower production wages.

Sent by Robert | 2:51 PM | 2-26-2008

Neal, One can only hope that Stephen Viscusi will never be a guest of your show ever again. The condescending tone toward the callers was uncalled for and unacceptable.

Sent by Paul | 2:53 PM | 2-26-2008

I take issue with Stephen Viscusi calling buyouts "a trick" - if the employee can't find a good job post-buyout, then that individual has failed to maintain or develop marketable skills.

The days when an employee could expect to work for the same employer forever are long gone. A good career and comfortable retirement are the responsibility of the individual, and companies are merely stops on this road. Most of us will have five or more careers (and even more employers), according to many pundits.

When Viscusi says the employee won't be able to find a job that pays anywhere near the one he or she left, he is implying that the employee is being overpaid for the value of his or her work right now, or that there isn't much demand for that kind of work. Either condition is risky for the employee, and a clear indication that the individual should be working on preparing for the next career move rather than trying to prolong a bad situation.

Even IBM dropped its "employment for life" policy decades ago - get with the program!

Sent by Roger | 2:59 PM | 2-26-2008

I would like to echo the comments of those who have pointed out what a terrible guest Stephen Viscusi was. Rude, condescending, and completely ignorant of the reality of living in southeast Michigan, he owes an apology to the callers whom he directly and deliberately insulted on today's show.

Talk of the Nation should apologize to it's listeners on his behalf and make every effort to prevent a guest from behaving like that in the future.

Sent by Barry Fuller | 3:04 PM | 2-26-2008

Please do not invite Stephen Viscusi back.
His attitude and behavior is suited better on a bitter, self-righteous show such as Imus.

Sent by Renee Holesovsky | 3:07 PM | 2-26-2008

Another vote for "No more Stephen Viscusi".

What a terrible guest. He's confrontational, rude, arrogant and never brings anything of merit to the discussion.

His anti-business rhetoric is annoying at best and were it not for the "what could he possible say next" factor I'd turn the station every time. I don't always agree with your guests, but at least the majority of them are polite and reasonable about expressing their opinions.

Please skip over Stephen Viscusi the next time you're looking for a guest.

Sent by Clayton | 3:40 PM | 2-26-2008

Stephen Viscusi quite simply is a jerk, and extremely unprofessional. I suspect you could have found others who would have make more interesting contributions to this rather interesting and timely topic.

Sent by Kurt Silver | 4:33 PM | 2-26-2008

I can't believe how rude, ignorant and self-righteous this Stephen character was. I've been a long time listener of NPR and this is the first time I've felt compelled to comment on a guest. As a listener of NPR, I would hope him and people like him not be invited back. While he is entitled to his opinion, he has no right to be condescending to the NPR callers, and by extension, to all listeners that might have been in similar situation as the callers.

God Bless NPR, its staff and participants for providing such a great forum for the great value it provides to the community.

-Robert

Sent by Robert | 4:37 PM | 2-26-2008

After listening to today's program I'd like to think y'all had higher standards than Stephen Viscusi. Quite honestly we NPR listeners deserve better.

Sent by Jimmy | 4:45 PM | 2-26-2008

It looks like to me if you want to increase ratings, you should invite Stephen Viscusi to be on the program more often.

Sent by Beth | 6:25 PM | 2-26-2008

Stephen tells it like it is and if you were a little less sensitive and actually paid attention, chances are you would probably agree with him.

Sent by Brad Hammer | 6:32 PM | 2-26-2008

I got a package from a fortune 500 company at 53. They bridged me to 55 for early retirement and 80 weeks severance and health care for 6 months. That was 2 years ago. I was able to relocate home to a warmer climate, start another career and reduce stress and travel. I have been dipping into my 401 and savings but the portfolio continues to grow, although slower at this point. I do work with a financial advisor who has been very helpful. It was very stressful as we went through it but in the end it was the right/best decision.

Sent by Geezer | 7:35 PM | 2-26-2008

Stephen Viscusi is one of the most obnoxious people I have ever heard on radio. His presence cheapened your show today.

Sent by Mark Olesnicki | 9:36 PM | 2-26-2008

I thought Stephen was thought provoking and exactly what people needed to hear. Many of you hear bash him for his condescending attitude. That is up to interpretation. If you didn't like him so much than why did you continue to listen?

Sent by Loren DeFalco | 11:08 PM | 2-26-2008

I can't believe all the negative comments about Stephen Viscusi. He did get a little abrasive, but he was the only person not living in some LA LA land. Wake up people!

Sent by Drew | 11:22 PM | 2-26-2008

I thought Stephen Viscusi told it like it was, no-holds barred and it was absolutely refreshing. I get so tired of all the corporate drones on NPR and Talk of the Nation. Management wants to give you a buy-out? The standard NPR line would be to Trust The People In Charge, Make Lemonade out of Lemons and Follow Your Dreams, or some such pap. Stephen told the truth; it wasn't pretty. Good for him. I hope you do have him on again. I learned a ton from him.

Sent by Midwest Meg | 12:16 AM | 2-27-2008

Stephen Viscusi was nasty and mean spirited in his comments and interactions today. Whose idea was it to have him as a guest? Very poor choice.

Count me out as a listener if he ever appears again. I am open, as I think many NPR listeners are, to a wide variety of opinions but they can be expressed in a respectful manner. I felt terrible for the callers who were basically attacked today.
Just who does he think he is to treat people this way?

Sent by Wendy | 1:07 AM | 2-27-2008

Listening to Stephen Viscusi was extremely aggravating for me. He seems to think that all companies are evil greedy entities awash in piles of cash.

If companies are forced to offer union employees buyouts, that's an indicator the company's financial health is at risk and that those employees no longer represent an efficient use of the company's resources.

If American car companies freed up cash by lowering labor costs they could use this money it improve the quality of their products to meet consumer demand. The longer American car companies and their employees refuse to adapt and innovate the closer they come to bankruptcy.

This goes for every failing industry here in the US. Americans need to stop delaying the inevitable and start working for progress. I applaud 56 year old caller Mark for his courage to pursue a medical degree so late in life, lets not let the American dream die because we were too scared to take a risk trying something new.

Sent by Tobias Gros | 1:57 AM | 2-27-2008

If people believe that will not be able to find work at their current wage then that are getting paid too much for the job they are doing.

Companies must be a profit generating unit, if not everyone loses.

Sent by reclk | 4:35 AM | 2-27-2008

Stephen Viscusi rudeness overshadowed the few valid points of argument that he had. It sounds as though he assumes Ford Motor Co employees are all idiot enough not to look for another job or check their finances before accepting a buy out.

I work for Ford, and know quite a few people who accepted the buyout (~30% of our organization was reduced last year through the buyout offers or involuntary separation). Most of the people who accepted buyouts were ready or close to ready for retirement, but also quite a few had jobs lined up prior to leaving the company (and some of them were also planning on collecting retirement pension). Since the first waves of buyouts, I've known a number of people who have continued to leave the company for jobs with better pay or opportunities, in or outside the auto industry. Some already had successful side-businesses or sizeable savings.

It's true that most of my acquaintances are skilled trades, technicians, engineers or other professionals, but I think that some of the union guys are also smarter and mot=re skilled than Stephen Viscusi assumes.

So aside from being rude and condescending, Mr. Viscusi painted a narrow, incomplete and simplistic picture. He may have been provoking, but not thought-provoking. NPR you can do better than Stephen Viscusi.

Sent by Marie | 12:41 PM | 2-27-2008

Regarding the February 26th show:

Mr. Viscusi's comments were dead on. I applaud his frank, honest assessments. It was regrettable he was not given more air time to expound his insights.

Unless one is financially able and is on the threshold of retirement, does a buyout make sense? Probably not.

Why doesn't Talk of the Nation explore working without union protection, especially in those "right to work" states?

Remember "right to work" also means the employer has the "right to terminate" the worker's employment; for any reason or absolutely no reason at all. No buyouts, no severance, no anything.

Sent by john | 9:35 AM | 3-2-2008