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May 28, 2017

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Benefit From the Benefits

Concerned about compensation? Arm yourself with data from Job Search Intelligence, which the US Department of Labor says offers the most accurate salary information available. The salary calculator gives you a personalized compensation value to take to your negotiations. Use this tool to guide the conversation to get the compensation you deserve.

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Don’t forget to negotiate benefits. Overall, benefits can make up to 30 percent of your salary—no small sum. Your compensation should meet all of your needs, not just monetary ones. Consider hiring bonuses, vacation time, retirement plans, sick leave, insurance, and other company benefits as open for negotiation as well. If you are planning to go back to school, tuition reimbursement may be just as important as health insurance. If you’re planning to start a family, maternity leave and vacation time may be the most important feature for you. All of these benefits can tip the scale in negotiating salary.

Even if your salary is as much as $10,000 higher than your previous wages, a poor benefits package can deplete that increase quickly. For example:

  • You may have to pay the monthly health insurance premium for your dependents.
  • Consider how much vacation time you’ll receive compared to your previous position. An additional week’s vacation or other time off can add up to thousands of dollars.
  • Consider the average percentage of pay increase you will receive, and the length of the increments between receiving them. You may quickly be earning less than you would have at your previous position.
  • If you’re offered a signing bonus, there may be higher taxes on it, so you will see a smaller percentage of the money than you might expect. Ask for your signing bonus to be increased to compensate for taxes, so that you receive the full amount and the company covers your tax liability.

To successfully negotiate a benefits package, you have to understand what’s out there. Some companies will offer a standard benefits package and others will let you pick and choose the ones you want, “cafeteria style.” There is a wide range of benefits from a wide range of companies. Here are some of the most basic:

  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Vision plan
  • Life insurance
  • Retirement plan/401k and profit sharing
  • Sick leave
  • Short- and long-term disability
  • Maternity, bereavement, childcare, or eldercare benefits
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Financial planning services
  • Credit union
  • Relocation
  • Tuition assistance
  • Company car
  • Paid parking
  • Parties, retreats, company packages
  • Gym membership or wellness packages
  • Free subscriptions, discount offers, tickets, community events
  • Severance package

Most positions will offer insurance, but the package can vary greatly from company to company. Some plans will include dental or optical; others will not. Some will cover the premium for the employee and their dependents; others will only cover the employee. Not only does the amount of coverage vary, but insurance companies will offer several different plans. Some plans have a deductible, some have a copay. The only way to know your plan is to review the documents. This is critical. Your human resource department can help you understand the details.

Vacation time and sick leave are also standard in a benefits package. Two weeks’ vacation is the norm; the amount of sick leave is more varied. Make sure you are aware of when you start earning the time, how much time you will receive, and when you will receive an increase. Understand how much advance notice you must give to use time off and if there are certain seasons or periods when you cannot use it. Take into consideration whether or not your unused time off will roll over into the next year or if you will simply lose it. Try to avoid using time off before you have earned it. If you quit before you have earned as much time as you have used, this may be deducted from your last paycheck.

401k plans are another common benefit often undervalued and misunderstood by women. A 401k plan is a retirement fund in which you invest money and your company will match your investment, sometimes by 50 to 100 percent. This is a benefit you can’t afford not to understand and take advantage of. You are being paid to save money for your retirement, so ask a human resource professional what your plan includes.


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