retirement

Look Beyond Salary to Judge a Job

Factor in benefits when evaluating the job you're in or one you may be considering. They can be worth thousands, but they can also pay off in important lifestyle benefits as well.

When you think about how valuable your job is, do you think mostly about the salary, maybe a bonus or some stock compensation? In the tech industry, where my clients work, I find most people do just that. But there’s another part of your total compensation that you should pay more attention to: employee benefits.

I have always reviewed my clients’ employee benefits. But when I read Sarah Lacy’s recent book, A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug, I realized people — especially women — need to investigate their employee benefits more closely.

Why Employee Benefits Are So Important

Lacy asserts that women’s rights and safety nets are being stripped away at the federal government level. Which means those rights and safety nets are:

“falling more and more into the hands of states or private corporations. Individual companies are offering some of the best parental benefits anywhere in the world....”

And while she focuses on parents and mothers in particular in her book, these safety nets and rights are important for everyone. Some benefits, like long-term disability insurance or generous parental leave, can be worth thousands of dollars a year and give you and your family meaningful protection against the vagaries of life.

Understand Your Benefits

This is simple but boring: You need to read through and understand your employee benefits. Ask your HR department or navigate your probably horrendous company intranet to find all the information.

What benefits are available to you? Some of the most valuable are:

  • Health insurance
  • Long-term disability insurance
  • Family leave
  • Flex time and remote work

Maybe you will find some more minor, but financially valuable, ones like:

  • Tax-free transit passes
  • Free legal services
  • Dedicated commute shuttles
  • Rental car discounts and other, bizarro discounts

A lot of benefits are weird and unexpected. Which is why you have to see the full listing of benefits to know what’s available to you!

Take a moment to think about how you might actually use these benefits.

Think About Benefits When Looking for a Job

Please start looking more intently at employee benefits — not just salary, equity and role — if you are lucky enough to have multiple job offers. Benefits can make your life so much better.

Example #1: Having a Baby.

The federal government mandates that your company give you up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave when you have a baby.

Some companies will pay you during that time, or give you 16 weeks or more of leave. And companies that provide more than minimum, I have to believe, are more likely to create a culture that supports parenthood in general.

Example #2: Long-term disability insurance.

You’ve got a good chance of becoming disabled for at least 90 days during your work life (1 in 4). And when you’re disabled, you still need an income.

Does the company pay for a long-term disability policy for you? Does the policy replace 50% of your income? 70%? That difference could mean thousands of dollars every year, while you are in a vulnerable position.

Example #3: On-site (and maybe even free) childcare.

Childcare can cost thousands of dollars every year. Not to mention the hassle of pickup and drop-off (“By 6 p.m.! And we charge extra if you’re five minutes late!”). Imagine how your life would be different if your child were simply in the next building, no commute separating you, you were able to see your child on breaks, and maybe it’s even all free! Some companies, especially the bigger, richer tech companies, offer just that.

Please look at employee benefits as part of the total compensation package when evaluating your job or job offer. It might make sense to take a job that pays less because it provides more support — financial, professional, cultural — in other areas of your life.

About the Author

Meg Bartelt, MSFP, CFP®

President, Flow Financial Planning, LLC

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