Y2K Victim

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An Early Victim of Y2K By Dick Mills January 29, 1999

You may think it ironic, but this Y2K columnist just became one of the early victims of Y2K. At least I think so. Here's the story:

I'm a contract worker and my legal employer is one of those contracting agencies. Recently my pay stubs have been getting badly screwed-up.

They withhold the wrong tax, then report inaccurately on the pay stub what they actually withheld. The year-to-date sums are off by factors of 10-to-1, or sometimes 52-to-1. They say they're having trouble preparing the 1998 W-2 statements for us and the deadline is only 2 days away. I fear that they may report bad figures to the IRS and get me in big trouble.

Some of my coworkers from the same agency fared worse than I, with screwed-up pay amounts. Getting a paycheck 52 times the normal size sounds like fun, but not if you're afraid to cash it. Is there any chance you'll be forced to give the extra money back, yet still have to pay taxes on the larger amount?

Worst of all, in late 1998 the company withdrew all of my pension and 401K funds without giving me notice or obtaining my permission. They sent an explanation claiming that they are going to move the money somewhere else. Finally, they claimed that both their primary and backup disks crashed on December 30, 1998, and they couldn't read the backups, and thus lost track of the historical records. What a mess!

The rumor around our office is that their payroll software had Y2K-like problems that would trigger in 1999. In an attempt to fix the problems, they managed to break the software and to corrupt the historical records, then backed up the corrupted versions before noticing the errors. To cover up, they invented excuses like disk crashes and unreadable backups. So far, there is no official confirmation of the rumors. There probably never will be.

Then my son called and told me of similar problems with his employer, the National Guard. In mid-December he double checked his status and the statuses of his family and got new ID cards for them all. Everything looked fine. In January, medical claims started bouncing. He called the administrative office and they said all record of him and his family had disappeared from the benefits computer, but not the payroll computer. The office had no theories as to how this happened, but they promised to fix it.

My point is that real-life Y2K problems tend to get blended in with other issues and obscured. This, plus secrecy, makes it difficult to say how much of any particular problem is due to Y2K. Fearing liability, many of those responsible for Y2K screw-ups will deny it and obscure the facts. Others, negligent in other ways, will jump on the opportunity to blame ordinary screw-ups on Y2K influences beyond their control.

Even I am reluctant to trash the guilty party publicly by name until I get my money out of their hands, and until the lawyers sort out the consequences.

Most of us are hoping that the next 18 months will prove some predictions right and others wrong. Too bad, those hopes may go unfulfilled. I suspect that even historians in some future century will find it hard to clearly establish what Y2K actually contributed to the events of the Year 2000.

It is often said that bearing warnings of Y2K trouble is a thankless job. If the result is catastrophic, it will be our fault for not warning forcefully enough. If the result is no big deal, we'll look foolish. I suggest there's a third possibility - that it will never be clear. I like that possibility least of all.

What does this have to do with electric power? Just that the same principles will apply to utilities as to any other organization. Do not expect the events in power delivery in 2000 to be clearly tied to or divorced from Y2K. No matter what transpires, lack of clarity, obsfucation, and uncertainty will be the norms.

What does this mean to you personally? We've all heard the advice to be especially careful to keep paper records of everything in 1999 and 2000. The wisdom of that advice has been made abundantly clear to me.

-- Mr. Kennedy (y2kPCfixes@MotivatedSeller.com), January 30, 1999


No W-2's have been received at this household this year (for 1998 W-2's) at all. Hmmmm, there are only 2 more days....

-- Mr. Kennedy (y2kPCfixes@MotivatedSeller.com), January 30, 1999.

I'm still waiting for mine too.......hmmmm


-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), January 30, 1999.

Mr Kennedy and Andy-

Finally got our W-2s yesterday.


-- Mercy (prepare@now.com), January 30, 1999.

Wrapping up my fourth month in the new house, no electric bill yet! They may have forgotten about me? I called the first of December to ask where my bill was, and they said I would get one in the next two weeks. The lady said "our computers are messed up".

Plus see my earlier post on your homeowners insurance bills that go direct to your mortgage company. They are still messing them up.

-- Bill (y2khippo@yahoo.com), January 30, 1999.

No W-2s here either. 1-30=1999

-- Linda A. (adahi@muhlon.com), January 30, 1999.

I just got my 1099R and the amount was doubled what I actually received. I called them and they said they were already aware of the mistake and were sending out correct ones soon. y2k?

-- b (b@b.b), January 30, 1999.

We've just discovered the web pages provided by the Dept. of Labor, through its Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, on 401K Plans. There's a lot of surprises in here. Recommended reading.

A Look At 401(k) Plan Fees

Consumer Information on Pension Plans

What You Should Know About Your Pension Rights

How to File a Claim for Your Benefits

Protect Your Pension: A Quick Reference Guide

Ten Common Causes of Errors in Pension Calculation and Consumer tips for Safeguarding Your Pension

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), January 30, 1999.

Excellent references Tom.

-- Mr. Kennedy (y2kPCfixes@MotivatedSeller.com), January 31, 1999.

Had six credit card errors already this year - none in the 18 months.

It's starting......but remember, not all of these are Y2K related directly or implicitly - they just happen at the same time, and are typical of the mess probably coming.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), January 31, 1999.

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