Liz Weston: Is a new job the right financial move?

·4 min read

Whether you call it “The Great Resignation,” “The Great Reshuffle” or just high time for a change, millions of American workers are looking for new jobs — and some have already quit the ones they have. Better pay isn’t necessarily the motivator, labor experts say. Many people are seeking greater flexibility, the ability to work remotely or other nonfinancial benefits.

Still, money is important, and a job change can be a great time to significantly improve your financial prospects. In addition to the pay a new job offers, you should consider the value of a wide range of benefits and other compensation. Once you have a clear picture of what you’re being offered, you may be able to negotiate a better deal.

TOTAL YOUR CURRENT COMPENSATION

Start by calculating the compensation package of the job you currently have, or your most recent job if you’re unemployed, says Seth Mullikin, a certified financial planner in Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition to salary and any bonuses, commissions, profit-sharing or stock options, you should include employer-paid health and life insurance premiums as well as company contributions to health savings accounts and retirement plans. (These contributions are often listed on your pay stubs, or you can ask the human resources department.)

Include any other perks you enjoy — cell phone reimbursement, employee discounts, gym memberships or company-provided day care, for example — along with the value of benefits you’re likely to use in the next one to three years, such as infertility coverage or tuition assistance, Mullikin suggests.

Next, contemplate what you might give up by leaving now. Some benefits vest over time, such as stock options, 401(k) matches and traditional defined benefit pensions. This compensation may not be enough to handcuff you to your job indefinitely, but you may not want to walk away prematurely from a significant payout.

“If you were leaving a company where you had stock options that were close to vesting, would you be better off waiting another year?” Mullikin says.

HOW DOES THE NEW JOB COMPARE?

Perform similar calculations for a job you’re being offered: Add to the proposed pay any employer contributions for benefits and other perks you’re likely to use. If these benefits aren’t clearly laid out, ask for details and specific numbers.

Then check to see if you deserve more. Your current salary may lag what most other employers pay if you’ve worked at the same company for many years, says Lazetta Rainey Braxton, a CFP in Brooklyn, New York. She recommends using sites such as Salary.com to get a feel for what similar jobs pay so you can better assess the offer.

TAKE A DEEPER LOOK

Benefits can take vastly different forms, depending on the company.

Some employers offer a range of health insurance plans from which to choose, while others don’t. If the only option is a high deductible plan, for example, that could be fine if you’re a young, healthy person — or a disaster if you have substantial medical costs and not enough savings to cover the deductible, Mullikin says. Similarly, a plan with a limited network of providers could become expensive if your doctors aren’t included.

Ask about waiting periods, too. Employers can make you wait up to 90 days for health insurance coverage or a year to contribute to a 401(k). Parental and other leave policies can have waiting periods, as well.

Company policies about time off vary enormously, and smaller companies may be exempted from laws that apply to larger ones. For example, companies with fewer than 50 employees typically don’t have to comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act that otherwise provides covered workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for caregiving or serious health conditions.

USE YOUR LEVERAGE

Financial considerations must be weighed with all the other aspects of a prospective job. Are there opportunities for advancement? Flexible scheduling and work locations? Is the workforce diverse and the culture engaging?

Risk tolerance matters, too. You may be willing to accept a smaller salary and fewer benefits in exchange for stock options that could deliver a big payoff someday. Or you may prize job security and the opportunity to save for the future more than rolling the dice.

If the job is tempting but the offer is lacking, see if you can negotiate a better deal. You may never have more leverage than you do before you formally accept an offer that’s been extended, says negotiating expert Kwame Christian, director of the American Negotiation Institute in Columbus, Ohio.

Christian recommends negotiating salary and the other financial aspects before you ask for more time off, a flexible schedule or other “creative options” that don’t cost your employer directly.

“You always want to go for the money first,” Christian says. “Because we know that money is exhaustible, but with these creative options, those are really largely inexhaustible.”

______________________________

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and the author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston.

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Liz Weston Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press

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