Freebies are for Suckers (Or, Why It’s Not Always Worth it to Take the Benefits Package)

It’s a marketing ploy you see every day. “Buy one, get one free,” or “Call for your free consultation.”

The fact of the matter is that people love to get stuff for free… or feel like they’ve gotten something for nothing. This phenomenon doesn’t end when buying shoes, either.

People all over the country take jobs that offer them less money than they’re worth, with the logic that they’ve got great benefits–are getting “stuff” for free. And companies shove this theory down employees’ throats. “Sure, we’re paying you $20,000 less than you qualify for, but we offer you 2.5 weeks of paid vacation, health insurance from Insurance Partnership and a 401K!”

I’m here to tell you to do the math.

Know your worth

First, you have to know what you’re worth. Sure, we’d all like to make a million dollars, but in reality what is your experience and knowledge worth to a company? Many job websites offer a salary comparison section, where you can use your experience, the area where you’ll be working, and the position you’ll hold to find out what the salary range is. Before you ever step foot into a salary negotiation, you’d better make sure you know what you’re capable of getting for a salary.

Trade all of the “perks” in for cash

You have to take a logical look at a job offer and weed out the fluff (benefits) from the facts. Why should you work for less than what you’re worth? Why should you go with a company that is offering you less in cash and a lot of fluff when you can go with an opportunity that allows you to grow and advance your career, even if you’re getting a few less perks out of the deal?

Let’s look at some examples and then break it down logically

Sam Seller is comparing two job offers. Company A is offering him $50,000 (when the average salary for his position is $60,000), but they also offer two weeks of paid vacation, an on-site gym for its employees and health insurance. Company B is offering Sam $65,000 per year, but doesn’t include any of the benefits that Company A is offering.

What should Sam do?

Sam can get a gym membership at a local gym for $20 per month ($240 per year). He is in good health and can get a medical insurance policy for $200 per month ($2,400 per year). And at a salary of $60,000 per year, two weeks of paid vacation is equivalent to approximately $2,306. So if Sam pays for all of these “benefits” himself, it’s only going to cost him about $4,946. Why should he give up getting paid what he’s worth, as a trade for the company’s so-called benefits when he can take the $65,000 a year job, pay for all of these benefits, and still have $15,354 more to show for it?

Trade all of the “perks” for growth opportunities

It’s not all about the cash you receive right away, either. Some companies offer growth opportunities where others don’t. Career growth is something else you’ve got to take into consideration.

Sam Seller is comparing two job offers. Company A is offering him $50,000 (when the average salary for his position is $60,000), but they also include two weeks of paid vacation, an on-site gym for employees, and health insurance. Company A is a growing company and is expected to continue to grow over the next several years. There is opportunity for advancement, promotions, and bonuses. The other company, Company B, is offering Sam $65,000 per year, but doesn’t offer any of the benefits that Company A has put on the table. It’s a small company that hasn’t grown much over the past few years, and Sam will be working in the top position in his department… no room for advancement or growth.

How does this change Sam’s situation?

The monetary factors remain the same, but career advancement and growth is significantly different for the two companies. In this situation, it may be worth it to Sam to take the slightly lower salary with the opportunity to advance his career over the next several years. In the long run, his income will be higher for it.

There are two points you have to keep in mind when deciding which career move is the best one for you. First, you should know what you’re worth and accept positions where you’re paid what you’re worth, regardless of how much fluff the company adds to make it seem like you’re getting “paid” in benefits. Second, you’ve got to consider the career path you can take with the company. If your career is at a dead end with the company, then it may not matter what the salary is because you’re going to be stuck in the position unless you leave the company.

Don’t mistake benefits for getting paid–especially in these hard economic times. It’s better to work for what you’re worth than to be soft and complacent.

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