There's been a good amount of discussion in the last week over IBM's announcement to shift its 401(k) plan contributions to a once-a-year deal, rather than the more popular quarterly or even monthly inputs common to most plans.

The date picked, apparently, is Dec. 31, giving it a nice holiday theme – you know, sort of a present for all of its employees' hard work over the year – though it's not really a bonus. Actually, it's a financial deferral on the part of the world's one-time-biggest technology company, one that's going to save IBM a lot of money. Things are simple: If you leave before Dec. 15, unless you retire, you don't get the match.

This isn't necessarily a good guy/bad guy story, on the surface: IBM finished in the top 15 of the best overall 401(k) plans among major employers, and its employee benefit offerings are among the best in the country, with matches of up to 6 percent. And supporters say that by making it a once-a-year, all-or-nothing investment, it will in fact make employees more aware of the beneficence of their plan sponsor and the importance of making their own contributions.

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