It’s more than Salary: Assessing overall compensation

Do you have any former colleagues who only thought about a higher salary when accepting a new job, only to realize later that their overall compensation was less than before?

While you don’t want to go into an interview asking about overall compensation, you definitely should ask about it before you accept a job offer. You are much better off knowing what you are getting into, than having regrets. Here are a few things to check on before accepting an offer (Take each of these items with more than a grain of salt and assess the situation carefully before speaking with an employer.):

Compensation

Retirement Plans and Matches - Does the company offer a retirement plan and do they offer any sort of match? Note that sometimes match plans will vest over several years, so if you are only planning on staying for a couple years, you may lose the majority of your potential match. Also, there is a such thing as offering a match for only non-highly compensated employees (In 2016, a highly compensated employee earned $120k in the previous year or owned more than 5% of the business, https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/definitions). This means that only certain people may be eligible for the match. 

Bonuses and Deferred Compensation - Does the company offer a bonus or deferred compensation each year? If so, check if there is a a vesting schedule (i.e. you only receive a certain percentage each year). Note that vesting schedules are much more common in finance than other industries. Keep in mind that if the company or your division is struggling, you may not receive a bonus.

Insurance

Medical Insurance - What health plan(s) does the company offer? Does it cover what you need and how much will it cost per month? In terms of benefits, consider any chronic conditions that you or your family has. Medication and appointment costs can vary quite a bit, even if your new employer uses the same insurance company as before.

Dental and Vision Insurance - Does the company offer dental and/or vision insurance? In terms of dental, note that only some plans offer orthodontia coverage, and if your plan does offer it, it may only be for dependent children. Dental plans often have a maximum annual coverage. In terms of vision insurance, note that if you don’t need corrective lenses and your medical plan covers regular vision check-ups, you may not get much of a benefit from the vision plan. 

Short Term and Long Term Disability - What happens if you are in an accident and are no longer able to work? Short and Long Term Disability helps provide a partial “salary” if you are deemed medically no longer able to work. It’s one of those benefits that many people don’t think about and hopefully never need, but for those who do need it, it can be a lifesaver. Short Term Disability is also very important in terms of pregnancy leave as well.

Life Insurance - This is generally more important if you have kids. If you do not have any dependents who rely upon you financially, you likely won’t care about this benefit.

Other Benefits

Maternity/Paternity Leave - Does your company have a policy in place? If you want to find out about leave policies, you may just want to ask for a copy of benefit offerings and general policies. You want to be careful as to how you ask about maternity/paternity leave questions. It’s illegal to discriminate against pregnant women (https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/fs-preg.html), but it does happen.

Paid Time Off - What kind of vacation and sick pay policy does the company have? Also, is there any sort of probation period before you can take vacation? 

Work From Home - Some companies are okay with individuals working from home occasionally or on a regular basis. If this is important to you, ask about the policy relating to this.

Discounts, etc. - These are the nice to haves. Do they partner with discount programs, cover your phone bill, or offer wellness programs? These may not be deal breakers, but it can definitely add to your overall compensation package.

Job Volatility - This isn’t commonly talked about, but job volatility is a huge consideration in compensation. Some jobs have high pay, but you are working constantly and have no control over your schedule. There are also jobs that are high pay that are dangerous or have a high likelihood of layoffs. In this case, consider your risk ratio.

Compensation is far more than your salary. While it can be easy to compare straight pay, it’s not the only thing that matters. Prior to accepting an offer, consider what is important to you in terms of overall compensation and make sure you understand all the important financial factors before accepting an offer.

Before You Commit to a Graduate Program…

Should You Go Back for That Degree?