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Financial Fitness Week at Google

July 29, 2018

We just finished Financial Fitness Week at Google. Teaching people about finance is something that our society doesn’t do very well. I had an economics class in high school, that was really more about a higher-level picture of the economy rather than more concrete lessons about saving, investing, IRAs, 401ks, 529s, and the like. Most of what I know I’ve picked up on my own, starting with picking up a copy of The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need in grad school while interning at Microsoft Research (the first time I’d earned enough to need to start deciding what to do with my money). I still have my copy, and I still recommend it to people who want to start learning about their options.

When I was at Samsung I regularly encouraged colleagues to make sure they were contributing enough to their 401k to get the corporate match (it was astonishing to me how many didn’t unless explicitly encourage). Often those who weren’t contributing were avoiding doing so because they weren’t sure how to allocate their investments; no one had ever explained to them what to consider when choosing because possible investments (for example, the different between active and passive mutual funds). Once I even held a lunch time information session for the folks on my team to explain some of the basics (passive vs. active, stocks vs. bonds, regular vs. Roth contributions, etc.).

So I was happy to learn that Google doesn’t just make financial information available to its employees, it actively holds classes during a designated Financial Fitness Week. Most of them covered the basics of investing and planning for retirement, but there were some more advanced classes as well. I attended a class on optimizing your 401k, and I learned about an option with Google’s 401k that I wasn’t aware of: you can make after-tax contributions above the $18500 contribution limit and then recharacterize them as Roth contributions, allowing you to exceed what would otherwise be the Roth contribution limit. That’s an option I’ll definitely be taking advantage of in the future.

I’m not sure how many Googlers actually take advantage of the classes (none of my colleagues seemed to do so, but they might have done so in previous years), but I’m definitely glad that the company holds them and actively reaches out to employees to make them aware of them.

From → Finance

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