Your earnings can play a big role in your financial success over time. While we can all work to save more and live below our means, it’s difficult to build wealth if we barely make enough to cover our basic expenses.
So, yes, your income is important. But when it comes to seeking a new job or planning a career change, your potential paycheck isn’t the end-all, be-all. If you’re job hunting, the salary attached to each position you apply for is only one financial factor you need to consider.
Here are 3 key elements to think about before sending in a resume or accepting an offer
Most people stop at the amount of money they take home every month when thinking about how they’re compensated for the work they do. But your compensation is far more than what you directly deposit in your checking account. Good company benefits can save you thousands of dollars each year if you use them.
Employer-sponsored retirement plans: If a position comes with an account like a 401(k) with a company match, they’re offering employees free money. 401(k)s and employer matches make it that much easier to save for retirement, and are a big financial benefit to you.
Health insurance: Although you need to pay for your health insurance, employers subsidize much of the cost -- and not all health insurance plans and benefits are created equal. Positions with excellent coverage and reasonable copays can help keep you healthy. If you take advantage of preventative care visits, you can also save money in the future by avoiding some serious health problems. You may also have access to life and disability insurance coverage through your health insurance.
Special savings accounts: Some companies may offer things like health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs). These are both helpful savings vehicles that make it easier to pay for expensive medical needs, like having a baby or getting LASIK surgery.
Flexibility in schedules and work environments: Some benefits are more intangible than others. Many young professionals don’t want to work in an office Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm -- and many businesses are responding to the desires of their employees. If you value flexibility with your schedule and the ability to work remotely full- or part-time, finding a position that offers these perks may be worth a lot to you.
Vacation, sick, and personal days: Paid time off is a luxury not all workers receive. A position that offers more than the average 5-10 days for new employees is well worth considering (even if the pay isn’t quite what you’d like it to be). Our time is valuable, and so are paid days off work.
Other perks: Some employers offer employees company cars, spending allowances on various work-related items, or paid-for work cell phones. These perks can help reduce the expenses you need to pay for out of pocket.
When you enter negotiations for a new job, keep these added benefits in mind. While the money you take home is important, a position with a low salary figure but extensive company benefits is still one worth considering in your job search.
Cost of Work
Most of the time, we think of our employers paying us. And yes, we do get to take home paychecks. But most employees also have expenses that are exclusively work-related -- meaning, if they didn’t hold a particular job they wouldn’t need to account for a particular cost.
Most of us need to put gas in our cars to drive to work or purchase fares for public transportation. We need work-appropriate outfits, which means an entire section of our wardrobes must be dedicated to office clothes (and some of those may be dry clean only, which is an added expense).
If you need to travel or schmooze with clients, you may be able to turn in an expenses report. But not all employers cover all expenses, and you may be stuck footing the bill for some costs.
And if you have children, you need to arrange for someone else to care for them during your working hours. Daycare, babysitters, and nannies are all big expenses that you must account for.
Some workers deal with other expenses that aren’t required, but come with the territory: going out for a weekly lunch with coworkers, attending other social activities, or grabbing a coffee as a pick-me-up if you must stay late.
If you’re looking for a new job, take these kinds of expenses into consideration. It will cost you money just to go to work and do a good job, and you need to think about that cost in relation to your potential salary.
Opportunity for Growth
Before accepting a new job, you need to think about your potential for growth with the company along with the position’s current salary. This may be difficult to measure or impossible to predict, but where this stage of your career takes you could have a big impact on your overall financial success.
It’s worth it to at least take a moment and consider the possibilities -- or to ask the manager making the hire directly in negotiations. (Some companies even like to hear a candidate ask, “Is there opportunity for growth?” in job interviews, as it shows a willingness to provide value for the long term.)
A big salary offered by one position may tempt you with all those numbers. But if the company has a history of going through employees quickly or there’s no avenue for future growth, the job might not present the best long-term career and earning opportunities.
When job searching, remember that you have more financial considerations to think about beyond the salary offered for any position. Your compensation is more than your paycheck; it also includes company benefits and perks. These should be weighed carefully against the cost you incur as a working employee.
And you shouldn’t forget to think ahead and research your future opportunities. Although not as easy to measure as things like savings from benefits or expenses related to work, the ability to move up or grow means just as much to the success of your career.
About the author: Kali Hawlk is the founder of Common Sense Millennial, a resource for members of Gen Y who want to do more with their money. She works as a writer and content manager, and is passionate about personal finance and business. You can connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.