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    Understanding Salary, Benefits, And Total Compensation

    When deciding between potential job opportunities, think about more than just salary. Perks, benefits, and retirement plans offer you a wealth of extras as part of your total compensation.
    Updated: March 17, 2016

    What You'll Learn

    • How much of your total compensation is made up by benefits.
    • Different types of traditional and nontraditional benefits.
    • Why you should review total compensation when weighing salaries.
    a hundred dollar bill folded into a house

    What's more exciting than money? Secret money.

    Your employer pays you a salary, but they also likely give you a huge chunk of money that may never hit your bank account—by offering you benefits and perks. Because of this, it's important to know the value of your whole compensation package when evaluating job offers or negotiating a salary.

    Some people consider their salary as their only compensation. But the amount in your paycheck is just a piece of how much your employer gives you. Things like paid vacation days, 401(k)s, and even a shorter commute can make a job worth more than just the number on a paycheck.

    Look At Your Benefits

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages and salaries comprise 68.6% of a worker's compensation. This means that benefits cover almost one-third of the average total compensation at 31.4%.

    Some employers offer only traditional benefits like health care, while others may provide nontraditional extras like a flexible work schedule or training and development opportunities. Here are some examples of traditional and nontraditional benefits that may be part of your total compensation package:

    Traditional Benefits

    • Medical, dental, and vision insurance
    • Life, accidental death, and dismemberment insurance
    • Short- and long-term disability insurance
    • Retirement plans (401(k), defined benefit, defined contribution, etc.)
    • Social Security
    • Vacation, leave (sick, funeral, jury duty, etc.), and holidays

    Non-Traditional Benefits

    • Flexible spending account
    • Dependent care assistance
    • Other insurance (supplemental medical, long-term care, etc.)
    • Flexible scheduling
    • Deferred compensation plans
    • Training and development courses
    • Leadership development programs
    • Wellness programs
    • Employee assistance programs
    • Tuition reimbursement programs
    • Recognition and service awards

    What's Normal For Total Compensation?

    To help you understand the value of your specific compensation package, you need at least some standards for comparison. These amounts will vary depending on your level of experience, your location, and other factors. However, here are a few benefit averages you might want to check your job against.

    Keep in mind that some benefits may not be as important for your lifestyle as others are. Do you work out a lot? Try looking for companies that offer competitive gym memberships. Do you have trouble getting up in the morning? Look for places that offer a flexible work schedule.

    Benefits can also be a good litmus test of a company's environment. Company stingy with vacation days or other benefits? That attitude may carry over to management style and a culture that cares more about the bottom line than employees.

    Ultimately, by finding companies that are a better fit for you, you make yourself a better fit for them. If you're happy at work, you're more likely to be productive, work for the company longer, and give 110% when things get stressful.

    You Can Negotiate Benefits

    If you like some perks of a job offer but the salary isn't quite there, make a counter-offer. If you've got an official offer on the table, you're the number-one pick for the position. They want to hire you, so why not ask them to give you a small bump to make you happy?

    If they can't or won't, think about what's important to you and see if they'll alter their benefits for you. This can be difficult to do, but it might work in a few cases. For instance, if you're a parent, having a specified day of the week to work from home might be an acceptable benefit to negotiate for.

    Remember, each benefit has a real cost that adds to the value of your total compensation. How many of these are part of your package? Use our total compensation calculator to account for your salary and benefits, and figure out how much your job is really worth.

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