Heads Up - Surprises and Hazards. Wish I Had Known #1
We asked HPAA members "What do you wish you had known before you left HP?"
The responses are organized into five articles:
- Heads Up - Surprises and Hazards [this article]
- Job and Career Issues
- Benefits Issues
- Financial Issues
- Looking at the Big Picture
Also see our ASAP Checklist
– what to do
before losing access to internal systems. (HPAA membership not required)
Heads Up - Surprises and Hazards. Wish I Had Known #1 (9-28-2014 -- Vacation payout comment corrected 10/2/14)
Use the HPAA's "ASAP Checklist" -- which has advice from HPAA members on
what to do before losing access to internal systems... and in the
following few weeks.
Analyze -- and mark up -- all the paperwork. Due to the complexity of
all this and the many moving parts, there are traps -- as noted below
and elsewhere in the "WIHK" articles.
Leaving HP is at least a quarter-time job for at least three months.
(Folks who are starting to leave don't believe this -- but members
consistently report that this was the case for them.)
Every aspect of leaving HP is handled separately. And by a different
financial or outsourcing company. (If you change your postal address,
you have to notify each company individually.)
Here's our map of the companies involved in HP Benefits -- especially
the various roles that the Benefits Center plays:
It is hard to decode each of the many mailings to determine what they
actually mean and what action to take. But each mailing does force you
to review some part of your finances -- perhaps an aspect that you
haven't been paying much attention to over the years.
Use your calendar -- and set up a binder for all the paperwork you will
Some of it is legal boilerplate -- but you must carefully examine all of
the paperwork to find the very important things that you need to take
action on before the sometimes-short deadlines.
If you won't be at your home address for more than two weeks, arrange to
have a trusted person go through your postal mail to catch notifications
of things that you must do by a certain deadline and secure any checks.
Despite having direct deposit for years, members report that you may
still get a very big check in regular mail -- not traceable, and in a
window envelope with the amount visible.
You need to ask a lot of questions to understand what is going on and to
be sure that things are set up the way you want them.
You need to watch the timing and tax issues with everything.
If I had taken another job in HP, within six months I would have been
eligible for the full retirement package. They did offer me the
opportunity "to apply" for a job, but it certainly did not seem to me
that I would get it and I did not feel like begging for a job from the
company. If someone would have told me the part about the six months, I
would have tried for the job.
I found out by reading the fine print in the final package they sent me.
When we left during the last EER, HP offered a short time you could
access LHH for some classes – such as résumé writing and tips. This was
to help you decide, then your access was stopped until after you left
HP. I STRONGLY recommend you take the résumé class during the decision
time. It was an excellent class and allows you to start that part.
Also, if there are other classes that make sense, do them immediately.
It will help with transition.
Do take advantage of any transition classes. Members consistently report
that the Lee Hecht Harrison classes are excellent. A typical comment:
"LHH was crucial in coaching me in how to find a job in today's market."
With respect to incentives -- VPB, PfR, commissions, etc. -- your management chain is not motivated to look out for your interests --
or they may be leaving themselves and therefore have no political power
to help you. Plus, managers need to use their limited incentive budget
to retain the employees they want to keep. Once it is clear that you are
leaving, you have already been written out of the script.
Quota will not be seasonalized but applied linearly, so if you leave in
a soft business season you will lose compensation unless you fix
different terms in your termination contract. I.e. in Europe for H2,
typically 50% or more of the business happens in September/October. I
left on August 31 and was measured against 2/3 of the quota. Even if we
achieve 100% for H2 as there is no seaonalization I will only be paid
80%. When I asked for seasonalization I was told that this was policy
(which I reckon is correct) and could have been adjusted in the
termination contract but as I had already signed I had to live with it.
I wish I had known this before I signed the contract so that I could
have added a quota seasonalization to the terms. Of course if you leave
in a hot business season this can play in your favor ;-).
Read the actual legal agreements that you got with stock options or
other stock-related incentives -- in addition to the information in your
retirement/layoff documents. The actual details vary by when you got
them and what predecessor company issued them.
Some members got badly burned by not understanding the legal
limitations. (And trying to exercise options on the last day before they
expire is just asking for something to go wrong in processing your
There is no recourse or do-over with this stuff.
I wish I had known that because I was over 55 my layoff was being
treated as a retirement, and that the original Tandem stock options I
had were not going to expire on the date of separation, which is what I
had been told by HP HR when I inquired about it. Instead, all my options
became vested on the date of separation/retirement and I was given 3
years to exercise them. Unfortunately, because of the incorrect
information I was given at the time, I exercised them for about $1 per
share net profit the day before I terminated, around the 5 year low. If
I had the correct information, I would have held on to them, and made a
LOT more, which is what I did with my other options which were below
water the day I terminated.
I wish I had realized that my EDCP account was going to distribute to me
starting the next year, because of the "retirement" treatment, it would
have changed some decisions I made that increased my tax liability the
next year. This too was due to incorrect information I received from HR
when I called them.
The time to get the [incentive or severance payment] once you signed the
paperwork to roll it to an IRA took almost 12 weeks. I had expected
closer to 6 weeks. The timing was dependent on when in the month you
submitted your paperwork as rollovers only occurred once a month and if
you missed the date, it pushed it out 4 weeks.
Wish I knew to use up vacation days... because they
don't pay you back for them.
[Not always the case. As of
9/16/14, HP's official PRP FAQ says: "Any unused credited vacation
hours are not eligible for payout, unless required by state law at your
primary work location (currently limited to California, Illinois,
Massachusetts, Montana, and Nebraska) or if you are a nonexempt employee
governed by the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA). If you have
purchased days under the Vacation Buy Program, any unused purchased days
that you have paid for will be refunded to you, regardless of where you
See the current official FAQ or Plan Summary for your retirement program
to confirm. Corrected 10/2/14]
I wished I had known how complicated and time-consuming it would be to
choose the correct insurance plan, sign up for it, end my hp COBRA,
etc., as well as all the other "stuff" I had to do. Decisions regarding
the pension plan and severance plan and how to take it and/or move it,
etc. It took me about a month to wade through it all! I wished I
realized how complicated insurance was!
How many things that are trivial to do inside the HP firewall are much
harder or impossible to do outside of it. [To help with that, use the
HPAA's "ASAP Checklist" at
http://www.hpalumni.org --cg ]
Wish I had known how much work it would be to move my personal business
off HP's systems.
[However you leave, any email autoreply that you set up will be probably
be immediately disabled. People who send you email either receive no
reply -- or get this forwarded by their ISP:
"550 5.1.1 ... Recipient address rejected: User unknown in virtual alias
Because the reply looks like spam or junk, it might not even reach your
http://www.hpalumni.org/PersBus for member advice. --cg
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