When you start a new job — including your first job — salary seems like the most important issue.
Making money is important.
We all enjoy eating and most of us like to have a little fun, too.
But it’s not just about the salary or the hourly wage. When my now-ex-husband got his first real job after, I was shocked, shocked, at how much easier life became with the addition of benefits.
For years, we’d been without benefits, with me cobbling together a “package” using IRAs, individual health insurance, and other financial accounts and tools. And then that glorious time came.
The time of benefits.
Health insurance is your BFF.
The biggest bonus was health insurance. We’d been paying for private health insurance for a decade, using my earnings as a freelancer to pay for everything. Every year, as has been the case for decades, prices went up. That’s the nature of health insurance. And for families and individuals without health benefits, it can be almost unmanageable.
With my ex’s employer subsidizing our coverage, our premium was cut in half, and we had a better plan. That was money in our pockets — on top of the fact that he was making more money.
I swear, one of the biggest disappointments of the divorce was the prospect of going back to being entirely responsible for my own health insurance.
Luckily, accepting a remote job with Student Loan Hero a year after the divorce helped the situation. I now work for a company that pays my entire health insurance premium. It’s a huge load off my budget and my mind.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have an employer who pays the whole premium. However, your employer might be paying as much as 68% of your premium if you have health benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are paying $250 per month for your health benefits, there’s a good chance they cost as much as $368. That’s a savings of $118 a month. It’s like making an extra $1,416 a year.
Paid vacation days are totes amazing.
Get paid even while you aren’t at work? Yes, please!
If you can negotiate a package that allows you to take vacation days and still get paid for them, you are doing something right. It might be worth it to accept a little less in terms of salary if you don’t have to worry how you’ll make up the money for the days you missed to attend SXSW.
Many companies offer 14 days a year of paid vacation. Others might offer a little less or a little more. Check into how much paid vacation you get and see if you can negotiate a little more to make up for a slightly lower salary.
Even if you don’t get paid vacation days, some companies are willing to offer extra personal days (although you won’t get paid for these).
If you could take extra time off to live life, would you take it even if you aren’t getting paid? I would.
Just being able to take that time can be a huge relief. And, if you get into a side hustle, you can use some of that time off to potentially make money doing something you like more.
Don’t discount time off — paid or unpaid — when it comes to your job.
Nothing beats flexibility.
There is nothing — nothing — I value more than freedom and flexibility. Increasingly, companies are offering benefits that include flexible work schedules.
Thanks to technology, a number of jobs now come with location independence, and there are some companies that allow completely remote workers. I work for one of those companies myself. It’s an amazing perk that can be almost as valuable as another $10,000 a year.
Even if you don’t get to work in your jammies or from the coffee shop every day, you might be able to negotiate telecommuting privileges for two or three days a week or customize your schedule to come in earlier or later in the day. Being able to manage your schedule around your life is a big plus.
I have a friend who is willing to accept a little less in terms of salary because his employer allows him to work three 12-hour days a week. That means that he has four days off each week, and is still considered full-time and enjoys health benefits. That level of flexibility is worth $7,000 a year to him.
Is there a way for you to get some sort of concession like that? Maybe it’s coming in from 10 am to 6 pm. Or maybe it’s going in at 7:00 am to be done at 3 pm. Perhaps you just want a two-hour lunch break so you can go to the gym in the middle of the day, or meet your friends.
No matter what it is, the ability to boost your quality of life makes a huge difference in your job satisfaction and performance.
How fierce is your retirement plan?
No matter how much money you make, investing can help you prepare for the future.
The easiest way to invest is through your company’s retirement plan. Your money is automatically withheld from your paycheck and invested for the future.
And if your company’s plan is truly fierce, you’ll get an employer match. That’s free money that goes toward your future, building your retirement portfolio. It’s hard to beat that.
Companies that offer good retirement plan benefits can get a leg up in attracting talented workers. And you benefit as well. So what if you don’t get another $9,000 a year? The reality is that the value of a retirement plan with an employer match is worth way more than that. The free money that goes into your account and grows through the magic of compound returns ends up being worth waaaaay more than that in the long run.
Other epic benefits.
Companies are interested in attracting the best and the brightest, and if that’s you, there are plenty of other epic benefits that you might be able to enjoy at the right company — and that might be worth more than mere money:
- On-site fitness center or a paid membership to a local gym
- Meals in a cafeteria that serves actual food
- Tuition reimbursement
- Student loan repayment help
- Career development and training resources
- Equipment, such as a smartphone or a laptop
- Attractive and diverse workspaces (including open offices, standing desks, and other innovative perks)
There are a number of companies willing to offer high-end perks, ranging from concerts to concierge services.
So, while you might not get a huge salary, you might end up with a better quality of life. What’s the point of having a big salary if you end up working 60 to 70 hours a week and you don’t have any time to enjoy the money?
The reality of salary vs. benefits.
Before you get hung up salary, think of your preferred lifestyle. Your life is going to such if you work 80 hours a week with no time for true enjoyment.
You might have a lot of money, but are you enjoying life now?
There’s more to life than work. There’s more to life than having a lot of money. We often see money as a status symbol, but does it help you live better? Will it help you develop more meaningful relationships?
When you think of your compensation package holistically, including the value of the benefits and the kind of life you can live, things change.
The right benefits can be worth more than a few thousand extra dollars per year.