Also check out the monthly networking meetings for fashion entrepreneurs at the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center in San Francisco, co-sponsored by Harder's group. The next one is on Monday. "It's a great way to cross-pollinate and get information,' Harder said. Call the Renaissance Center at (415) 541-8580.
Q:The company I work for eliminated the employer match for our 401(k) plan this year after honoring it for about seven years. And my friend's company recently started a 401(k) plan without an employer match. Is there a standard amount or percentage that employers should match? -- Irritated in Oakland
A: About half of Americans work at companies that offer a 401(k) or similar plan allowing employees to set aside pretax dollars for retirement, according to a 2006 study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
But large employers are more likely than small ones to match their workers' contributions in some manner.
The most common formula is a 50-cent company contribution for every $1 put in by an employee, up to 6 percent of his or her salary. About one third of all plans use that 50-cents-on-the-dollar formula, according to a study by the Profit Sharing Council of America.
Why do companies choose to match their workers' 401(k) contributions? There are both selfless and self-interested motives.
-- Selfless: Companies want to help their employees prepare for a secure retirement.
-- Self-interested: Federal tax law allows highly compensated people such as owners to put more pretax money away if their 401(k) has high participation from lower-paid staff.
In both cases an employer match is a great incentive for workers to put their own funds into a 401(k).
There's one other reason for an employer match -- recruitment. A strong benefits package can help attract and retain top employees. And in some industries, a 401(k) with an employer match has become a standard benefit.
Byron Hancock, a benefits consultant with Hancock Sifling in San Francisco, won't even set up a 401(k) plan for a client unless it includes an employer match. It can be as small as 10 cents for every $1 that an employee contributes, he says -- but it's got to be something.
"An employer match can increase employee participation enough to justify the cost of setting up a plan," Hancock said. "If an employer doesn't put in a match, the plan won't be as valuable to the employer and group, and it is harder to justify the expense."