By Allison Kade
It’s the dream: friendly colleagues, fascinating work and, of course, a big salary bump from your last gig. When deciding which job to choose, salary is only one of many things to consider before accepting, but most of us take it rather strongly into account. After all, it’s pretty hard to choose the option that pays less, isn’t it?
Before you pooh-pooh the job of your dreams because the wage isn’t what you were hoping, make sure you’re giving the opportunity a fair shake. After all, benefits are more than nice perks – they have actual value.
Next time you’re staring down the barrel of a job offer, here's how to think about the mix:
When an employer offers health insurance, it’s easy to mentally check “included” and stop there. But don’t forget the details! Let’s say one plan has a $1,000 deductible (the amount you have to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company kicks in and covers the rest of the costs) while the other has no deductible at all. If you incur at least $1,000 in medical expenses this year, you’re down a grand with the first option. If both employers are offering the same salary, then the one with no-deductible insurance actually leaves you with more at the end of the year.
Don’t forget copays, either, as these vary depending on the plan. (That's the amount you pay each time you visit the doctor – for example, $40 every time you see a specialist.) Do the math based on an educated guess around how many doctors you’ll see in a given year.
Special savings accounts like health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible savings accounts (FSAs) let you to deduct health expenses pre-tax, which means that you won’t get taxed on however much you sock away in these special funds. Some employers even match your contributions up to a limit.
If one job has an HSA or FSA (or matches your contributions!) calculate how much you might save on taxes, and add that to the offered salary when deciding.
In addition to the intangibles of getting away, you can try to put a monetary value on your vacation days. Try dividing your salary by the number of days you actually work, not counting vacay – you just might find that your jobs value your daily rate more similarly than you thought.
Same day rate but one job has you working more days? That’ll just come down to whether you’d rather a little more cash or a little more time on the beach.
If one of the job offers on your plate offers to match your 401(k) or 403(b), that’s free money. As long as you commit to contributing enough to claim the whole match (say, 3% of your salary), then you can add that amount to the salary they’re offering when comparing offers.
Whether it’s in-house training or a stipend for you to take courses or attend conferences, educational opportunities improve your future earning potential. The exact value of these perks may be harder to quantify, but try to assess the opportunities that each job offers and how it might translate to dollars down the line.
Don’t forget to consider the expenses like parking, wardrobe and commuting costs.
All the math in the world means nothing if you’re miserable. Salary isn’t – and shouldn’t be – the only factor when you’re choosing a job, whether or not you’ve added in the value of benefits packages. Who knows, maybe you’re destined to quit your day job and work for yourself rather than taking another desk job. When all is said and done, close your eyes and ask yourself, “Would I be happy here?”