Are Technologists Blowing Their Bonus on Big-Ticket Items, or Saving It?

Many technologists (especially in the major tech hubs of Silicon Valley and New York City) depend on their annual bonuses. If you take a look at sites such as levels.fyi, which crowdfund compensation data, you’ll note that bonuses constitute a very hefty percentage of many companies’ overall pay packages for software engineers and developers.

With all that in mind, how do technologists actually spend their bonuses, particularly at the largest tech firms? Blind, which anonymously surveys technologists about a range of issues, recently put that question to its audience. Based on their data (note: sample sizes are small), it’s clear that many technologists are doing the ultra-prudent thing and investing their bonuses rather than spending the cash on big-ticket items.  

Overall, some 67 percent of technologists reported investing their bonuses; another 21 percent said they’d save it rather than invest it; and 8 percent decided it was the opportunity to buy the toys of their dreams—or at least a sizable purchase of some sort.

“Buying a custom-built bike,” one Facebook employee told Blind. “My bonus is for big purchases. The rest of my income goes to my future.” 

Around 4 percent of technologists said they donated their bonus, which is an extremely altruistic move. At some companies, the number of those donating was quite large—around 11 percent at Cisco, for example, and 9 percent at SAP. 

Many companies have set procedures around annual bonuses. If you want to score one outside of that cycle, you may face some difficulties. However, it’s not totally impossible, depending on your company and circumstances. For example, special accomplishments could result in a spot bonus; you may also be eligible for milestone prizes related to project deliverables, or a retention payout if you try to leave.


There are very different strategies for scoring such out-of-cycle bonuses, but ultimately you need to come up with a plan; this isn’t the sort of thing you improvise. If you’re seeking a spot bonus, or a milestone bonus that wasn’t set in your existing contract, you’ll need to present a clearly detailed breakdown of your accomplishments, with a focus on how your work benefitted your team and company

When it comes to retention bonuses, you need a fair amount of leverage to get what you want. If you’re absolutely indispensable (i.e., you have knowledge and expertise that your company absolutely needs to accomplish its goals), you may be able to extract a certain amount of cash from your manager. Be warned, though: If you try to force the issue, and threaten to quit unless you’re paid, your company may call your bluff. And even if you manage to land that retention payout, it may impact your relationship with the company moving forward. 

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