When I accepted my first job, I focused on one thing, and one thing only – my annual salary. I didn’t care about anything else the human resources director mentioned as I signed my paperwork. As Jerry Maguire once said, “Show me the money!”
In hindsight, I can admit that I was a fool. A damned fool.

Total Compensation – The Bigger Bottom Line

My first job paid me a measly $21,000 a year. Even that wasn’t a rock bottom starting salary for the TV news industry; in fact, I’d passed over several other job offers that would have paid me even less. But those other jobs offers included benefits I completely ignored.
The thing is, when you’re looking at a compensation package from a job offer, you need to look at the big picture. That’s more than just the salary, more than the paid vacation days or sick leave. You need to pay attention to the oft-forgotten benefits, the ones you may never use – or may only use years (and years, and years) down the road.

Health Insurance

Last year, the average worker-only health insurance plan cost $5,615. Despite that high price tag, workers paid just $951 in premiums – less than 20 percent of the full price. At my first job – in the pre-Obamacare era – I didn’t get health insurance coverage. If  I had, the employer-subsidized premiums would have added nearly $5,000 to my total compensation.

Matching 401(k) Contributions

One of the job offers I turned down back in the day included a 401(k) that matched up to 10% of my annual salary. Although that salary wasn’t huge, the matching contributions would have been a huge bonus. The ultimate example of “it takes money to make money,” I could have added nearly $3,100 a year to my total compensation had I taken advantage of the benefit offered by this employer.

Other Benefits You May Overlook

While I was only offered health benefits and a matching 401(k) in my working days, I’ve seen other compensation packages that go far beyond that. Here are some examples:

  • Tuition assistance – A friend of mine was able to go back to school to get her MBA, thanks to the tuition assistance program offered through her work. I’ve heard of tuition assistance programs that pay for everything from a small percentage of tuition expenses up to the whole thing, depending on your level in the company and what you plan on doing with the degree upon completion.
  • Training and development – My husband’s job routinely pays to send him to skill development seminars and programs. Not only do these programs increase his skill set at his current job, but they also add to his resume.
  • Health club membership – I’ve never worked at an office that had its own gym facilities, but I know people who have. It makes it more convenient to workout, and also means they don’t have to pay for a gym membership elsewhere.
  • Childcare facilities – Some jobs provide on-site childcare for children of employees; other employers subsidize the cost of daycare for workers. Either way, you’re saving money.
  • Travel abroad opportunities – A friend just got back from Prague, where she spent two weeks while her husband was on a business trip. Her husband’s company offered to send her to Europe along with him, giving them a chance to tour the continent while he worked.

What other add-ons to an employee’s compensation package have you heard of? Which would you be most interested in having added to your job?

Libby Balke

Libby Balke