Starbucks May Cut 401(k) Match

The coffee giant won’t guarantee a company contribution to retirement next year

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Current Starbucks Corp. employees get a gradually increasing 401(k) match, depending on how long they have been with the company. Matches begin at 25 cents for each dollar contributed up to the first 4 percent of pay for workers with less than 36 months on the job and gradually perk up until they max out at $1.50 for each dollar saved after 120 months or more of service. The coffee company plans to spend about $15 million on 401(k) matches this year.

But, like most 401(k) plans, Starbucks reserves the right to change, modify, or terminate these benefits at any time, with or without notice. And 2009 may be the year that the coffee company does so. The Seattle-based giant told employees the company won't guarantee that it will make a company match to their “future roast” 401(k) accounts next year. And if they do provide a matching contribution, it may be at a different rate.

The Wall Street Journal obtained and confirmed a letter Starbucks sent to employees last week:

 “The coffee giant said it will switch to a ‘fully discretionary match’ from a ‘fixed employer match’ starting Jan. 1 for employees ‘future roast’ retirement savings plans. That means the company can decide whether or not to make matching contributions to participants in the retirement plan for future years.”