Bruce Horovitz accepted an early-retirement package. Here’s his advice on what to do if your employer makes you the same offer.
When that buyout offer comes, don’t just take it. Negotiate. Your employer wants you to take it—and expects you to negotiate. Ask for:
1. More money. My buyout package offered 1 1/2 week’s pay for each of my 20 years of credited service. I should have pushed for the more typical two weeks’ pay offered to USA Today employees with 25 years or more. Some employers offer three or even four weeks’ pay per year.
2. More time. I should have asked to stay a bit longer—even a few more weeks would have extended my income. It was negotiable, and others took full advantage.
3. Longer health coverage. The best buyout packages will let you remain on the company’s health plan until you reach the Medicare age of 65. Others pay some or all of the cost of COBRA temporary coverage that typically lasts 18 months. Mine offered to let me retain the company plan for about seven months before COBRA. This was not a concern for me, because we are covered by my wife’s employer.
4. Better 401(k) match. Contributions to my 401(k) were not permitted after my last day of work. But, at least, I could have requested permission to fully fund my 401(k) for the calendar year—and get the full company match—before leaving.
5. Better math. While I was credited with 20 years at Gannett, USA Today’s parent company, I actually had 20 years and 8 months. The buyout formula—like most buyout calculations—gave no credit for those 8 months. I should have asked for my years to be rounded up to 21.
6. Better sweeteners. It doesn’t hurt to ask for perks such as life insurance continuation or job placement assistance. I did not.
7. Work after work. Gannett does not permit employees who accepted the buyout to do contract, freelance or consulting work for the company after leaving. Many companies do. It’s certainly worth asking before signing.