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I GOT MY 401(k)!!! ALL $17,000 OWED TO ME!

by J. Money on Monday, July 11, 2011

jump for joy
Can you believe that $hit?  18 months later, and countless sleepless nights & battles with my ex-employer, and BAM! I wake up one day and my 401(k) account is $17,000 fuller. How’s that for crazy? :)

I’m kinda still in shock.  And also very VERYYYY happy I never filed a complaint with the D.O.A. (Department of Labor) the other month!  My fear out of all this would be that my ex-boss would come after me in some form or another if I did that, and every single time I literally picked up the phone to call them (the D.O.A.) something stopped me from doing so. (Plus we were/are good friends – making it even more complicated)

Three times that happened, and each time I emailed her and said something like “I can’t take this anymore – what’s the deal w/ the money?” and I’d get a response back saying something to the effect that she was working on it, and to remain patient.  Which was always enough for me to cool down for a few more days (or weeks) until my anger rose back up again to that same level ;)

Granted, it could have gone the other way and I’d be here bitchin’ and moaning all over again and you’d tell me to grow some balls and just go after her already, but luckily that didn’t happen and we’ll never have to wonder anymore ;)  And I think that says something about sticking to your guns and doing whatever YOU feel is the right thing to do at times – even when popular thought says differently.

Not saying you guys were wrong in advising me to file or anything – factually speaking it was DEF the right thing to do – but only us, personally, understand the entire situation and know what our heart is telling us to do or not.  And I lump my dad into this thinking too — he told me on day 1 to file suit against her because I had to admit my money was long gone and I was kidding myself if I thought differently. Again – it very well coulda ended up that way, but as we now know it didn’t.  And had I filed, I can guarantee I’d have one big mess on my hands – whether I got my money faster or not (or at all!). When times were good, my ex-boss was DOPE.  Caring, fun, smart, you name it.  When things went sour though, it was totally like Jekyll and Hyde.  Anything could set her off, and you did NOT want to be in her way when she was on the war path.

Something else to consider was the way we’d been treated over the past 4 years too.  For anyone who’s been around this blog from the beginning, you’ll know how AWESOME we used to have it back in the day also ;)  And when I say “awesome,” I mean “INSANELY awesome.”

This is what it was like:

  • Our work days started at 10 a.m.
  • I got paid way more than I should have for my job: $75,000
  • We’d get quarterly bonuses of $2,000… just because.
  • We had box tickets to major sporting events.
  • We had killer free gym membership
  • We had an unlimited account at Starbucks – free anything, anytime!
  • We had unlimited vacation time, as long as you didn’t take advantage of it.
  • We took insane trips to Vegas and other places all on the company dime.
  • We could wear our hair (*ahem*), or clothes, however we damn well pleased :)
  • We had a fully stocked fridge.  Including all the beer you can drink. (!!!)
  • We paid $0.00 for our health insurance.  And it was the best of the best.
  • We had an open door policy w/ the CEO – we could walk in anytime and throw out ideas or ways to improve the company – which were all taken seriously.
  • And more importantly, at least to me, we had 100% matching of our 401(k). Up to the legal limit of whatever we were allowed to put in each year! Which meant I could invest $16,500 from my own paycheck, and our company would MATCH IT with another $16,500 that same year.  100% fully vested and all mine.  Sick, right? I did that for 3 years, and everyone thought I was crazy – sometimes taking paychecks of $90 so I could max out faster.  It was a big risk toward the end, knowing the $hit was about to hit the fan, but as we all know: big risk = big reward, baby!

So did I have a right to be upset about my missing $17,000?  Yeah, of course I did – it’s called stealing.  But at the end of the day (or years, I should say), I was treated pretty damn well and I’ll be forever grateful.  It was my choice to continue on w/ my 401k at the rate I did, and I knew the consequences if things continued to go downhill…. I didn’t think they *would,* but hindsight is always 20/20 ;)  And honestly, I’d do it all over again the same way if I could anyways.  Not simply for the money, which is nice, but because I acted and took risks that made sense to me at the time.  I could have very easily got burned, but the stars aligned and I can finally lay this chapter down to rest.

I got my money.  I got 4 years at an incredible start-up. And I remain friends with my ex-boss without bringing legal action into it all.  I’d say that’s a win.  And now I gotta move it all out just in case something else tries to get in my way! ;) IRA here we come!!

PS: In going back through my posts to research all our work benefits we once had, I found it interesting how bit by bit we lost them until we were eventually sold and let go :)  It’s kinda crazy looking through history when you have it all documented like I do here.  I remember so clearly EACH event when it happened, and being so excited to just share it here with y’all, haha… I think it saved me a lot of pain and was a good coping mechanism ;)  Check out how the final days crept up:

The secret is out! How much i earn.
Vegas + Work = Sweet Love?
And it starts…the first phase of Operation Cut Benefits!
Dear employer, PLEASE don’t cut our 401(k) matchings!
Just found out our quarterly bonuses are frozen (dumb economy)
Health Insurance getting changed up, but I still have a job!
Goodbye 10% of My Salary!
It’s Official: Our Employee Benefits Are Over
I Got Fired.

(Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt)

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jay July 11, 2011 at 7:42 am

LOL! WIth (expensive) perks like that, it’s no wonder whatever happened to that start-up, happened to that start-up!


2 Money Beagle July 11, 2011 at 8:08 am

Wow, to see the chronicle like that (even just by looking at the titles) is pretty jarring. It makes sense that things ended up as they did, it was almost inevitable in fact, but probably at the time, you kept hoping that things would turn back around.


3 No Debt MBA July 11, 2011 at 8:16 am

Those really are some sick benefits. If it was good for my resume I’d take that job in a heart beat, even knowing that the company might not be solid financially. 100% matching on your 401k?!?! I only get that because I’m self employed ;) Glad it all worked out for you. $17k isn’t chump change.


4 J. Money July 11, 2011 at 8:26 am

Haha, thanks guys. When we were raking in millions of dollars in revenue, these perks were just a drop in the bucket ;) But it’ll show you what poor planning and money management will do. And the economy didn’t help either.


5 Rafiki July 11, 2011 at 8:41 am

Holy crap and I thought I had killer benefits. You had a weapon of mass destruction when it came to your benefits.

It’s good you got back your money. Kinda guess she was being honest when she said she was working on it. All is good now.


6 Investor Junkie July 11, 2011 at 9:21 am

No wonder you lost your job. Unsustainable bennies.


7 Beth July 11, 2011 at 9:34 am

Congrats! Wow, those were some pretty insane benefits. Its not surprising they were unsustainable when the economy took a dive.


8 rainbowfish July 11, 2011 at 9:43 am

You are more patient than I. Glad it worked out in the end.


9 Melissa July 11, 2011 at 9:57 am

Awesome, J. Money! Glad it was finally all worked out.

But man, what I could do with an unlimited Starbucks account…but you know, my job has perks, too. Someone usually makes coffee in the morning, and my boss doesn’t mind when I steal animal crackers from her desk.


10 Ashley @ Money Talks July 11, 2011 at 11:39 am

I’m glad you got your money!! you handled it better than I would have!


11 20 and Engaged July 11, 2011 at 11:58 am

If I had those benefits, I’d be hopelessly devoted to my employer. That was definitely one of the reasons of the downfall of the company though. As cliche as it is, everything happens for a reason, and maxing out your contributions definitely helped you out in the long run. I’m glad you got your money though!


12 Trinnie July 11, 2011 at 12:10 pm

yeah I totally don’t blame you being devoted to your employer, with perks like that…and I would’ve been just as pissed if I had lost all that investment too! I’m so happy that they did “the right thing” and paid out what was due to you!

BTW, did some research on that $600–I’ll email ya in a bit…


13 Christine July 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Yeah congrats! That’s a big chunk of money!


14 bleu July 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Those were fab benefits!!!! Congrats on the 401K :)


15 Jen @ Master the Art of Saving July 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Finally! That’s so awesome that you finally got your money. Bet that’s gonna make your next Net Worth Update d@mn sexy. ;-) You must have amazing patience; I would have gone NUTS waiting all this time.


16 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager July 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Congrats on getting the money you deserved back! Although it’s curious that you got so many great benefits – maybe that is the reason the company went under / sold?


17 Ginger July 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I’m glad you got your money. And, I wish I had your benefits. I’d be maxing that 401k out too.


18 Crystal July 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Congratulations!!! I am so happy for you!!!


19 J. Money July 11, 2011 at 6:31 pm

@Rafiki – Yup! I trusted in her even when I felt like punching her in the face, and luckily it paid off in the end. Literally ;)
@Investor Junkie – Nope – unsustainable economy. And bad savings plan ;)
@Beth – Yeah, bad economy makes for a faster demise for sure. Especially when you can’t react fast enough (another reason to save save save when times are good! for businesses and personal finances)
@rainbowfish – Thanks. It was def. the toughest (and longest) time yet. Real glad I’m not here writing about taking her to court, or DOA filings – that would be miserable.
@Melissa – Haha, I LOVE animal crackers!! And after the initial shock of free Starbucks, you start to realize it’s not that GOOD to drink/eat as much as you want ;) You learn to pace yourself and be more careful. Unless you’re like the person we fired because she ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner there – along with coffee breaks (no joke). Well we fired her for a bunch of reasons, but that one certainly didn’t help her. There was a “take it as you need it policy” not a “use it to save money on all you bills” policy ;)
@Ashley @ Money Talks – Thanks Ashley, I just knew the details of the situation, that’s all :) And I practiced my patience.
@20 and Engaged – YUP! At any startup there’s always the chance of hitting it big, or going home, at any second so you take advantage of the perks given while you can (without abusing it). Though crazily enough I was the only one at the place to max out my 401k. Guess others didn’t see the opportunity, or thought it was worth it?
@Trinnie – Yup, which is why I coulnd’t feel bad *all* the way cuz I was treated so well over the years, but when it came to giving me what’s legally, and ethically, mine – it def. strained our relationship. I’m proud to say we’re both back to texting each other though and all is good in the world! :)
@Christine – Thanks!
@bleu – Thank you! They were insane benefits, for sure.
@Jen @ Master the Art of Saving – I’m learning as I get older ;) I would have gone ape $hit five years ago. But you’re right, the next net worth update is gonna be killer! I’m so excited!! Haha…
@Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager – Nah. I mean, yeah it’s a tiny part of it, but it really came down to poor money management and a bad economy. We made plenty of money when those benefits were leaving the door, but where it was invested or used was not so hot. The economy going down just amplified it and the rest is history.
@Ginger – Cuz you’re smart!! I was the only one to max out in my company – how crazy is that??
@Crystal – Thanks Crystal! Appreciate it :)


20 Brian July 11, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I can’t wait to see the net worth update! Sweet news J money!


21 Jeffrey Trull July 11, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Awesome story! Even though it’s money that belonged to you, it must feel like winning the lottery. Congrats on getting back what was owed to you for your hard work.


22 Donna Freedman July 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Congratulations, pal.
But don’t rule out the “grow some balls” advice. They’re very handy accessories, I’m told.


23 Shelly July 11, 2011 at 9:18 pm

J$ I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO happy for you….Freaking awesome…..Long time coming, yes but I have a huge grin on my face :-D


24 retirebyforty July 12, 2011 at 12:13 am

Congratulation man! It’s been a long time coming, awesome!


25 Maria Nedeva July 12, 2011 at 7:37 am

Good day, J! This is good news, indeed. Getting money back is always great! As to the benefits, these were also great but was it worth it? Were you happier back then or now?


26 Kevin July 12, 2011 at 9:16 am

Thats better then finding a wad of CASH in your pants while doing the laundry :-) So I hope they included Intrest for hijacking your money like that. You have a lot more patients then I do, I would have been on the phone and back at the office till they cut me a check. I had an employer do something like that with me but they held back my last few paychecks for 1month. I’m sure they won’t make that mistake again after the hell i put them thru.


27 LaToya July 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm

J$, what ever happened with your last paycheck? I know you were asking for that too.


28 J. Money July 13, 2011 at 11:05 am

@Brian – Yes me too!!! :)
@Jeffrey Trull – Exactly – I went MONTHS without any paycheck to max this bad boy out, and for the past year and a half it kept eating at me wondering if I’ll ever get it or not (but hoping & fighting that I would). So it’s an amazing feeling to now be able to close out this chapter of my life :) Woohoo!
@Donna Freedman – Haha, I’ll be using them this Friday at court, don’t you worry ;)
@Shelly – Awww you are too cute, thank you! :)
@retirebyforty – Thank you sir! It’s a good week over here at the Budget household.
@Maria Nedeva – Well that’s like comparing apples and oranges ;) I was much happier benefits wise back then, but in the general scheme of thinks MUCH happier now on my own. If only there was a way to combine the too, eh? :)
@Kevin – Haha, believe me – there’s a lot of stuff I did that’s not documented here on the blog ;) Unfortunately though, when there’s no money any more it’s hard to find a place to get it… I’m just glad I didn’t F up our relationship too bad where she decided she was just gonna leave me in the dust and take her chances w/ me reporting her! (which I would have at that point, but I shudder to think how that would have gone down…) But you’re totally right though – it is much better than finding a wad of cash in my pockets :) Besides the amount of the money, this one was really earned!
@LaToya – Hah! Funny you should mention that… I’m going to court on Friday to fight for it :) But that’s from a different employer than this one, so it’s a totally different ballgame. Which is kinda good, I’d feel bad trying to get this paycheck after just getting $17,000 from her even though it’s still legally, and rightfully, owed to me. But I’ll keep you guys updated! :)


29 Big Ass Superstar July 13, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Well done, boy, well done. First your wedding photos, now this. You’re on a lifetime roll as far as pressing for what’s coming to you. And you never had to do anything you’d regret in order to get it. Good on ya.


30 Evan July 14, 2011 at 12:24 am

Ever think you could have ran the company better? How many free 20K perk employees were there? Probably could have kept the layoffs to a minimum if that money was reinvested…


31 J. Money July 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Big Ass Superstar – Thanks dude! And got the last of the group hitting tomorrow — going to court to battle for my last paycheck!! :) I doubt my odds will continue, but I keep fighting the good fight. (different employer than this 401k one).
Evan – Nah, I have no desire to run a company :) Except my own little mini-one here, haha… I could have totally ran the money part a lot better, but I’m not a business man when it comes down to it – or a leader unless it falls under something I’m passionate about. Great question though! You got me to think for a bit :)


32 Ginger B. July 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I’m glad to hear you’ve gotten all of your money! Glad that you keep your friendship too! :)


33 J. Money July 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Thanks! Me too – a LOT :) Been texting back and forth w/ her past few weeks and it’s been soooooo much better lately. Win-win all around, w00t!


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