• Jay Hicks

Measuring Total Compensation During Your Job Transition


You’ve just received the job offer! Breath…think…count to ten. Did you look at the benefits? Do you know if they were good? Do you know how to measure them? Some companies offer great benefits; others do not.


Talk to anyone who has been in the job market for a while and they will tell you there is significant variety between company benefits such as PTO (Paid Time Off – or the equivalent of military leave) and insurance.


If you have been offered the job, but the pay sounds kind of low, what do you do? Sixty percent of American workers take the salary and accept the job without negotiating.


You can do the same. Or, you can request information, study the associated myriad of benefits and negotiate. This is where total compensation kicks in. When it comes to understanding total compensation, realize there are three components: direct financial compensation, indirect financial compensation, and non-financial compensation. There are also quality of life issues to consider. Here are a couple of real-world examples:


When a Pay Cut Becomes a Pay Raise


After leaving active duty and joining the reserves, John took a huge cut in pay and went to work for another company. People thought he was crazy. Turns out he was crazy like a fox. The new job was close to home. He saved 50 miles a day on his vehicle, reducing tolls, fuel, maintenance cost and recovering 75 minutes a day from his commute. His dental coverage for his son’s braces was running out just before his job transition. With the new job, he received a new dental plan, which paid the remaining 2-year orthodontic bill. His educational benefits and 401k were both better. Finally, within two years he was making the same salary as before and his total compensation was much higher.


When a Pay Raise…Isn’t


Mike took a well-paying defense contractor position in nearby state. He received a $42K uplift in wages over his military pay and $5k signing bonus which he used toward the move. But his new company’s medical insurance was very expensive, and the deductibles were high. Accustomed to paying neither city nor state tax; Mike was simultaneously being forced into a higher federal tax bracket. Housing was more expensive; his commute was 50 minutes longer each day and he had to pay to park. With the very nice salary bump, he thought he was making a lucrative financial move for his family. He was wrong!

The lesson? As you look at your job offer, closely review the total compensation. Ask your future employer lots of questions. If they get irritated or illusive and the salary is low, maybe the job is not the right fit. Don’t be intimidated. Many benefits can be negotiated with a little personal finesse, if the company finds you desirable.


With regard to your salary, perform some research. Check out websites including the ClearanceJobs Salary Calculator to get smart on appropriate salary for your level in various locations around the country.


If your first salary offer is low, study the bonuses, medical, dental, education, PTO, and 401K match and negotiate. For example, if a bonus is part of the package, make sure you have the program in writing and understand exactly how the bonus program works. If PTO is important to you and the company is rigid about the number of days or hours off, ask if you can buy more. Look at the total cost of your medical, dental, short term and long-term disability insurance. How much life insurance will you get? Can you buy more? Is the insurance a good value compared to your other life insurance policy. Finally, study the location for tax, commuting, parking, housing, crime and schools. All these total compensation elements are essential to review.


Be assured, you are highly desirable. Commercial companies want you. Take some time for research and you will make a great choice for your family as you transition from the military.

Wishing you a lucrative transition.

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