Total Compensation: Should I Accept That Job Offer?

April 1, 2014

When looking for a new job we tend to focus on the one thing that we can easily understand: How much are they going to pay me?

If you're making $45,000 in base pay and this new job is offering $55,000, the choice is obvious, right?

Well, not so fast. Look beyond the base pay and analyze all the benefits the employer offers and then make your choice.  All those "fringe" benefits add up.

Here are just a few to think about:

Health Insurance Costs

Health insurance can severely alter the outlook of your potential bottom line and should be discussed early on. While some employers may cover your entire premium, others offer plans that cost more than an individual plan you could get on your own.

- How much will you have to come out of pocket a month for those premiums?
- How are spouses or dependents covered?
- What coverage is included (vision, dental, specialized doctors, etc.)?
- Do prescriptions (especially the ones you use on a regular basis) come with a high out-of-pocket cost?

Retirement Benefits

Some employers offer generous retirement benefits, while others don't even offer access to a plan. Contribution matching could add up to thousands in additional income a year.

- What does your employer offer in the form of a retirement savings vehicle? Is it a 401(k) plus social security or is there a pension plan?
- Do they offer a match? If so, how much?
- Is there a waiting period before you are allowed to start contributing or before they begin to match contributions?
- Are matching contributions given for each pay period? Or are they only offered in a lump sum at the end of the year?
- What are your investment options?

Paid Time Off

You may not have any intention of taking lengthy vacations, but a lack of paid time off -- especially if you happen to come down with a serious  illness -- can take a huge chunk out of your total salary, not to mention the added stress of getting a smaller paycheck. Here are a few things you should ask:

- Are vacation days and sick days grouped together? (Left over sick days may not be paid out if you leave the position.)
- How many days do you get per year (either together or separate)?
- Are you able to carryover days into the next year?
- Are there additional holidays offered that don't come out of your days off?

Fitness Center Access

If you like to work out, access to a fitness center on work premises is invaluable. Even these seemingly small benefits can make a huge difference.

- What types of equipment does the gym offer?
- Are there classes open to employees? If so, are they free?

Parking and Transportation

Often overlooked is the cost of your parking. Factor it in to your total compensation.

- Is parking provided? If not, is the cost of parking reimbursed?
- Does the company offer bus passes if parking isn't offered? Is it completely paid for?
- If any work-related driving is involved, is mileage reimbursed?

What else do you look for when considering a new job?