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Job Offer Negotiations: Benefits Besides Salary

written by: johnsinit•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/28/2010

Finding your ideal employer isn’t just a matter of salary. You have to know what to negotiate for other than salary. Whether it’s a pension plan or flexible hours so you can leave early for those mountain biking weekends, know the benefits you want and don’t be afraid to ask for them.

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    Salary? Benefits!

    If you’ve received a new job offer, then if you’re like most people, the first thing you want to know is the salary they’re offering. But don’t make a decision on accepting a job or not based solely on salary. Benefits are extremely important, particularly in America where your job may be your only way to access affordable health care. It is vital that you know what to negotiate for other than salary.

    Benefits can make up 40% of your total compensation, so make it a point to know what your options are. Before negotiating, define what your benefit needs are and investigate their availability within the company offering you the job.

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    Dress Code and Working Hours

    Did you know that two of the most popular benefits that Americans negotiate on are dress code and flexible hours? It’s true. Most people don’t want to have to wear a neck tie or stockings if they don’t have to, and most would like it to be OK if their 8-hour day runs from 10 to 7 rather than 8 to 5. Of course, this is not possible in some jobs. Attorneys must look professional in the courtroom, and factory shifts start and end at certain times. But in many cases, there may be room for flexibility if you know what to negotiate for other than salary. Dress Code Brochure 

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    Medical Coverage

    If you have a family and your spouse doesn’t have family medical coverage, make sure it is available and affordable through the job offer. You may also want to check the company’s policy on things like time off for caring for sick children. There are a lot of companies that like to claim they are “family friendly," but when it comes down to it, they frown on those unexpected days when you have a sick infant you must care for. Be sure to get as much information as possible about such things in advance.

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    401K Saving Plans

    Knowing what to negotiate for other than salary means knowing what your potential employer’s retirement options are. Some have defined benefit retirement plans, while others will match some contribution to 401K savings plans. If you’re down to two companies that are equal except for one matching a percentage of 401K contributions, go with that company. It could mean the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career. 401k Investing Saving 

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    Education

    Continuing education options are other benefits that could be very valuable over the long term. If you are in the early part of a career with a bachelor’s degree, find out if the company provides any help with courses towards a master’s degree. With the cost of higher education spiraling upward rapidly, this can be a very valuable benefit. Graduate 

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    Summary

    Knowing what to negotiate for other than salary depends on many factors, such as your age, whether you are married, whether you have children, and what ages those children are. Some benefits are popular across the working population, such as flexible hours. If you are approaching middle age, you may want to see what kind of disability benefits the company offers, whereas if you are in your 20s, you may want your employer to help your retirement fund grow as gainfully as possible. Never let salary alone dictate which job you take. There are some benefits that all the money in the world can’t buy. You know what those are in your case, so don’t be afraid to ask for them.