Will Boeing bonuses ripple through Lowcountry economy again?

Volunteers tally ballots on Jan. 3 at the International Association of Machinists union hall in Seattle. The IAM-represented Boeing workers voted to accept the company's latest contract offer, which cuts their benefits. The blow was cushioned by a $10,000 special bonus.

Boeing executives will deliver the company's fourth-quarter financial performance for 2013 this week, and record profits are expected to be announced Wednesday morning.

So the question is: Will that bottom-line success translate into cash bonuses for Boeing South Carolina employees as has been the case for the past three years? If so, workers can expect a nice bump in their bank accounts.

Last year, Boeing South Carolina employees received the equivalent of about 18 days of pay in late February. In 2012, they took home 15 days of pay. In 2011, bonuses equaled 14.25 days of pay.

With about 6,600 workers at the Charleston International Airport campus and Palmetto Commerce Park interiors fabrication plant, a lot of money soon could spread through the Lowcountry economy.

Boeing doesn't release the dollar figure in bonuses, but it's no doubt a hefty amount when lumped together. But when averaged based on pay scales for all 6,600 workers, it probably won't come close to the $10,000 checks that Boeing's union workers in the Seattle area are cashing right now.

Members of the International Association of Machinists are picking up the payments this month as part of a deal to sign off on pension cuts and extend their labor agreement with Boeing through 2024. The aerospace giant also will build the new 777X passenger jet in Washington state under that agreement, guaranteeing work for the union.

The IAM windfall has been estimated at more than $200 million in after-tax checks of about $7,500 each to the nearly 31,000 union members.

While the immediate urge is to spend the money, most financial planning experts would advise setting much of it aside for retirement or an unexpected expense.

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Let's say you spend $2,500 and save $5,000. At an average of 4 percent interest compounded over 30 years, that sum would more than triple to $16,273. Save longer and the account only grows.

If union members each spent one-third of their after-tax bonuses locally, they would inject about $77 million through the Washington economy. In South Carolina, there is no union at Boeing, so there's no $10,000 payoff.

That's probably a big reason why Boeing is here, but the company still hands out bonuses. How much it will share with its local workers for their efforts in 2013 could become clearer Wednesday.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.