SURVEY SAYS: Are You Being Asked to Make "Adjustments?"

Not that the recent market tumult could come at a "good" time, but this is a time when many are making budgetary plans for next year.

This week, I asked readers if they had been asked – or were anticipating being asked – to make “adjustments?”  

Most of this week’s respondents ( 56.3% ) affirmed that sentiment, but, at least thus far, those requests seem to be regarding 2009 expenses – and not personnel cuts.   On the other hand, nearly a third ( 29.2% ) said that they either had received no such instruction or had not received it as yet, and more than 8% also apparently hadn’t – but inserted a caveat that it was “too soon to tell.”   The rest said also said that they had not heard such a message, but acknowledged that their boss may be asked to.

“Where” Withal

As for where those adjustments are being made, a reduction in 2009 spending/costs was, far and away, the most commonly cited.   In fact, more than two-thirds ( 69.7% ) of this week’s respondents noted that.   The second-most commonly area ( 27.3% ) was a reduction in 2008 spending/costs (travel was cited by a number of readers), well ahead of the 18% who mentioned a 2008 hiring freeze.  

Twelve percent each noted a reduction in 2009 staffing and a freeze in 2008 spending/costs, while 6.1% said there were no changes for 2008, and just over 15% said there were no changes for 2009 (at least not yet).   No one mentioned a reduction in 2008 staffing – though no one mentioned increases in 2009 budgets either.

Plan sponsors relying on financial services providers might take these provider comments to heart:   "We were told not to expect pay increases or bonus, no training/travel budget allowed, not IT investments, no consultant expenses unless approved by CFO. My take is this is the CEO bonus protection plan. Of course the talented ones in the department are looking for new positions, which will leave those one watt short of a nightlight to run the benefit plans. My guess is the CEO bonus will end spent on legal fees due to the actions of the dim bulbs."

The question itself implies a certain negativity, but a distinct minority of this week's respondents were in solid shape.  "Thankfully, we are in a good financial position, and will actually be expanding when others may have to contract," noted one.  "The commercial construction industry is booming.   We're hiring like crazy and making and spending money," said another.  

One reader's response should remind us that things COULD be worse; "I live in the Houston area and still don't have any power (12 days and still counting) so won't be watching the debate. Between politics, hurricanes and recent financial markets - I'm not sure which is the worst "disaster".

But this week's Editor's Choice goes to the reader who is clearly a budgetary veteran:   "Every year I'm told to budget for what we need. After preparing the budget every year, I'm then told to cut the budget, often given the numbers to budget. What IS the point?"

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!