I heard that Microsoft has offered a retirement package which includes complete vesting of all your stock options if you remain with the company until you are 55. When I was at Microsoft, junior employees received stock options that took four and a half years to vest. At that time, large jumbo grants were being given out to executives with seven year commitments. With each year's review, you'd receive more stock options that would vest four and a half years on... and so on... Eventually, you might have millions of dollars ahead of you if you would only stay with the company longer, hence the term golden handcuffs.
When I left to start GiftSpot.com in April 1999, I left more than a half million dollars stock that would vest in another few months and more six months after that, and six months after that, etc. I couldn't stay because GiftSpot needed to launch in time for the holiday season.
According to the Microsoft Web site, the average of employees has risen to 36.9 years with more than a third of employees now older than 40. Essentially, Microsoft is giving an incentive to their older experienced employees to stick it out with them for more time (perhaps another 5 to 20 years depending on their proximity to 55). I expect for many veterans, this will impact their long term planning. Oh, cruel world.
While GiftSpot didn't work out financially, I try to remember that I was very fortunate to earn as much as I did in my eight years at Microsoft and that the experience of being a CEO of an Internet startup during the dot com boom was ... priceless. i try to remember that whenever GiftCertificates, the company that acquired GiftSpot, dilutes their stock ... which they did again this week (the first time was by a factor of 500).
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