Salary Offer Not Enough? 10 Situations Where a Salary Sacrifice Might Be Worth It

Sometimes it's a good idea to consider a salary sacrifice. Here are ten times when the dollars in the salary offer aren't the whole story.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to consider a salary sacrifice. Here are ten times when the dollars in the salary offer aren’t the whole story.

When you’re looking at new jobs, there’s a lot to consider, but the salary offer and the total compensation package are top priority for many people.

Some people believe that taking less salary is always a bad move, but money really isn’t everything… and in many cases, it’s not even near the top of the list.

Sometimes a salary sacrifice is in order.

The truth is that even very similar jobs might bring a widely different pay range. Many factors are at play, including the size and stage of the company, its profitability, the industry it’s in, and how hard they have to compete for quality people. So it’s possible you’ll find what seems like a dream job… but the compensation is not what you want.

That’s when to look for the tradeoffs. What can you get out of a job that makes up for taking less money?

Here are ten situations where taking less salary could make a lot of sense:

1. You are changing careers.

This is a bit of a no-brainer, but when you change careers, you also start at the bottom (or maybe the middle, depending on which of your skills are transferable), and that includes your pay package. So while you might have been highly paid in your old career, you have to happily accept less in the new one.

2. Your past pay was on the high end anyway.

I interview people all the time who are paid very, very well for what they do. We call that “golden handcuffs” because it can trap you in a job that you’re afraid to leave because of the money. If you’re in this situation and feeling a little spoiled, remember why you are looking for a new job in the first place… a better boss? Easier commute? More chances to learn? Money is never enough of a reason to stick with a job when it’s time to move on.

3. You’ll get valuable new education and experience.

It’s amusing to me that the same people who will go into debt paying tens of thousands a year for college education will balk at a lower salary where the potential on-the-job experience will teach them things they’d never get somewhere else. Experience is worth money.

4. You are getting stock options or equity, too.

In my recruiting practice, I specialize in finding senior executives for startups, and in every single situation, we’re looking for someone who will trade off some (and sometimes all) of their salary for equity in the company for the possibility of a bigger payoff down the road.

5. You want to build something from the ground up.

Startup companies have tight budgets, and salaries are always on the lower end, but when you are one of the first employees in a company, you really get to influence how things go in a way you just cannot get in a big company.

6. You have the opportunity work with a specific mentor.

Again, education is expensive, and if you are building your career, the chance to work with someone who can teach you how to be great at what you do is priceless.

7. You’ll get tuition reimbursement.

If you are eligible to go to school part-time for an MBA, other graduate programs or expensive certifications, the value of tuition reimbursement can add a lot to your actual compensation package. Make sure you know the rules first; many companies require that you’ve been there for a year first, require you to meet minimum grade standards, and have a period of time afterwards where you can’t leave or you have to pay them back.

8. The job has a more flexible schedule or requires less hours.

The ability to set your own hours, waste less time commuting or work fewer hours will affect your bottom line in different ways, including the quality of your life.

9. You’ll be developing valuable new contacts.

When given the choice between a high-paying job where you’re isolated and a lower-paying one where you will be rubbing elbows with powerful people, the lower-paying job is a better option for someone who is building a career and a network.

10. The benefits are great.

I know a woman who took a job with a retail grocery chain with not-so-great hourly wages, but fully paid medical and dental benefits for employees and their partners. That medical coverage wouldn’t have been available to her privately, and would have cost thousands of dollars a year if it were.

Choosing a salary sacrifice isn’t for everyone, of course. You may have high expenses, two kids in college or be the sole family support. If that’s the case, the right salary offer will be high on your list.

But if not, then consider how you can make the compensation package more flexible so you have options for jobs that are really awesome, even if they don’t carry a high paycheck.

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