True Value of Your Job Offer

401k Matching — Almost every company matches your contributions to a retirement plan, but not every company matches equally. (A quick lesson on 401k plans in case you haven’t heard of them before: a 401k plan is a pre-tax contribution you make to an account that you can then invest in a number of different ways. The money you accrue goes with you when you change jobs, and when you retire, you start withdrawing it to live off of). The differences you will find between companies are in the amount they will match, some will match nothing, some up to 15% (i.e. if you contribute 6% of your salary each year, they will “match” your contribution by contributing 6% as well, making your contribution a total of 12%). Obviously, the higher the match, oferty pracy the more money you will end up with in the end. However, don’t be discouraged by a company that doesn’t offer a very high match, as they may also have a company pension plan to supplement the 401k plan. These pensions are usually based on years of service to the company; the longer you work there, the higher the eventual payment. The downside is that in today’s world, not many people are staying with the same company for 30+ years. I heard recently that the average stay at a company is now down to around 5 years. Keep this in mind when you weigh a pension plan to supplement a 401k.

Company-paid Car — My good friend Tom had a company car for the first 12 years of his career, and it really made the difference in his wealth building. You can roughly estimate that the value of the car is at least $350 per month, plus gas (about $100 per month), plus insurance (about $150 per month). Add all that up, and it’s a $600 value per month that you do not have to pay. Not only that, but the money you would spend on your vehicle is after-tax money, meaning that instead of it costing you $600 per month, it really costs closer to $900 per month. Add all that up, and it amounts to at least $10,800 per year. Imagine what you could do with that: save it, invest it, pay down student loans, buy yourself jewelry, go on a luxury trip to Hawaii. You can see why I say it’s underrated.

Company Discounts — Be sure to ask about these! Most companies have a deal with cell phone providers for a monthly discount on plans, usually 10-20%. Some companies have supplier-discount arrangements with automotive manufacturers, which amounts to getting cars at invoice prices (without having to negotiate!)-That allowed me to get a car for $21,000 including tax, license, etc, when MSRP on it was $24,500. Most companies give you a discount on their own products too. Other companies have an employee stock purchasing system, where you can purchase company stock at a reduced price (Think along the lines of a 30% discount or more!). This just scratches the surface of what might be available if you ask the question to your company recruiter.

Travel — With some jobs requiring traveling multiple weeks in a row, some companies allow you to fly anywhere you want over the weekend, provided the ticket cost is the same or less than it would be to fly home. This can mean a free company-paid vacation (without the hotel of course). Also included with high-travel jobs are the frequent flier miles and hotel points you accumulate. Several people in my company who travel significantly rarely have to pay for their hotels or flights when they go on personal vacations. Think about that, a near-free vacation!

Company Location — Clearly cost of living is what matters here. Locations like the east coast and southern California can require 10-20% more compensation to achieve the same standard of living that you can have elsewhere. More tangibly, a nice house in Houston, TX can be as inexpensive as $100,000. A comparable house in Los Angeles is $500,000. Can you afford the difference?

The list goes on, and you probably get the picture by now. The general idea when comparing multiple offers is that you really need to do your homework with companies before making a decision. Take the time to make the phone call or send the email to ask what benefits are available at that particular company. I can’t imagine a company that would not tell you what is offered, as they will be trying to create the most value to you that they can.

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