Consider Total Compensation When Comparing Job Offers

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Salary is just one piece of how an employer compensates you.

Salary is just one piece of how an employer compensates you.

When I was applying for jobs after graduation, I focused a lot on what I would be paid (what can I say? I like money!).

Now that I’m working full time, I realize there’s a lot more than just dollars to be had in exchange for your time and effort.



While I was in school, most of my part-time jobs were in restaurants and retail. These had odd hours and inconsistent schedules that often had me working evenings and weekends. The 9-to-5 life is the butt of many jokes for 20-somethings, but it truly is my ideal. I get crabby if I don’t have a regular sleep schedule!

Likewise, time off for vacation or personal days is an important part of selecting the right job. Usually, more pay means more hours—which translates directly into less personal time. If you’re willing to sacrifice time for more money, then go for it. But before you sign the contract, think about how good a few weeks of vacation feels every year.


If you’re in your early 20s, retirement might feel like a lifetime away—because it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth thinking about. If your employer offers any kind of retirement matching, that’s money you’re being paid on top of your regular income, so take advantage.

Ditto any kind of employer stock buying plans. I worked for a large corporation during my undergraduate degree, and even as a part-time employee, I could participate in the stock purchase plan. Six months after I quit, I cashed out my stocks for no less than double what I had originally invested. Cha-ching!


Balking at a less-than-ideal salary because you’re worried it won’t pay the bills? Look at the perks of the job that might remove some of those bills entirely. Many employers provide significant (if not full) insurance coverage for health, vision, and dental.

More often than not, these are very large bills in your annual budget. If your employer picks up the tab, consider it as extra money on top of your salary. Some will even extend these benefits to your spouse or dependents. My employer health coverage is the only way I can justify monthly massages (having my contact lenses paid for isn’t a bad deal either).


Some jobs come with even more benefits, like cell phone plans, vehicles, living expenses, and/or educational expenses paid for.

What falls under “business expenses” can be everything from fancy dinners to yoga classes,depending on the industry and company you work for. At this point, I’m not lucky enough to expense any of the above, but I do have friends who were able to secure iPads as a necessary business expense—so I know there’s plenty of cool perks out there.

On your job hunt, remember to consider more than just the number being deposited into your bank account every month. Chances are, your total compensation is a lot more than your salary!

What’s your favorite perk? Free public transportation pass? Student loan reimbursement? Share it in the comments.

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