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Size matters when it comes to bonuses: Work not so much

By Dian Vujovich

I spoke to someone in New England who had just had her company review. The boss said she was the only one who received any compliments from their customers regarding a customer satisfaction survey. Nice pat on the back. But when it came to a bonus for her excellent service, none was given. As it turns out, there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason to who gets what during bonus season.

If you haven’t already heard, the average Wall Street bonus for last year was roughly $173,000. That’s up 2 percent from the previous year but not as much as it has been in previous years: Bonus payouts grew by 28 percent in 2012 and 19 percent in 2013, according to data from the New York Comptroller.

All of which could make 2 percent in 2014 to look measly to some. But not to worry, the current average figure could grow because not all the bonuses of bankers have been calculated in. Those figures won’t be available until later in the year. And although the bonus figure is enough to make nearly every American drool, really big time bonuses haven’t been around since 2006 when they averaged $220,000, adjusted for inflation.

To put all of this bonus money into perspective, consider the following:

•If you had an adjusted gross income (AGI) equal to a bonus check of roughly $173,000, that would put you into the top 5 percent of wage earners in America. Based on IRS 2010-2014 data, the AGI for the top 5 percent group begins at $159,619 and the top 1 percent have AGIs of $380,354 or more.

•In 2013, the current median household income in Florida was $46,036, according to Census ACS data. That means one Wall Street bonus is equal to what nearly four Florida households bring in each year.

•And from Payscale.com comes this sampling of Florida median bonuses paid based on various jobs: An operations manager’s bonus averages, $4,791; office manager, $1,00. administrative assistant $247.17; paralegal, $1,030. and general/operations manager, $4,955.

Back to that New England employee, at the very least one might think she’d receive a bonus based on performance. But, no such luck. That’s pretty stinky too given that according to a Towers Watson 201302014 Talent Management and Rewards Study of 321 North American companies, 24 percent of companies paid bonuses to employees “who fail to meet even the lowest possible performance ranking.”

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