When it comes to accepting your first job offer, it’s tempting to choose a position based on the salary alone. But a job’s salary is just part of your total compensation package, and it’s important to think about the benefits you want — and their value — in addition to the paycheck you’ll receive.
Legally, companies are required to give you time off to vote and serve jury duty. They also need to follow federal workers’ compensation laws and withhold and pay certain taxes on your behalf.
Above and beyond that, what employers offer is largely up to the company and can vary widely.
Look for benefits in your job search
Here are some of the basic benefits to look for before choosing a job:
- Health, disability, and life insurance
- Retirement plans
- Paid time off and time for sick leave
- Reimbursements for travel, relocation, or commuting costs
- Professional development or continuing education opportunities
- Tuition reimbursement
Upward mobility, bonuses, pay raises, and perks in your workplace are all benefits you might find important, too. Perks could include office kitchens stocked with beverages and snacks, catered lunches, half-day summer Fridays — or even things like nap pods.
Other benefits that are on the rise include flex time or work-from-home options, generous paid maternity and paternity leave policies, wellness programs and access to gym facilities, or even help repaying student loans.
Put a price on your benefits
More and more employers are introducing novel benefits to keep employees happy in their current positions. And while having a video-game room sounds fun and appealing, consider whether that’s more important to your overall career and wealth than a company that offers affordable health insurance and a strong employer match for your retirement plan.
There are a number of different ways a company can offer benefits to employees — so how do you value or compare your options when it comes to choosing a position?
First, look at what comes with a tangible value. A 401(k) plan with a 5% match, for example, is like giving yourself a 5% raise of free money right off the bat (assuming you contribute at least 5% to your account).
Insurance benefits and reimbursements also come with a real dollar value. If you don’t have access to these benefits through a job, you’d likely need to pay for them yourself — which would lower your take-home pay. Benefits like these can help you manage your expenses. The same goes for tuition reimbursements, student loan repayment assistance, or any kind of credit you get toward something you’d normally need to pay for yourself.
Then there are benefits that come with a value that’s harder to put a price tag on. These usually revolve around your time, like the ability to have a flexible schedule and work 7 to 3 instead of 9 to 5, for example. This flexibility and opportunity to manage your schedule is arguably even more valuable than money alone.