Should You Stay or Go?'s Tips Let Workers Compare New Job to Old Career

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How to compare total compensation for an old job vs. a new one.

With U.S. unemployment fairly low at a level of 4.5 percent in recent months, companies must compete for good workers -- and co-founder and co-CEO Andrew Housser offers workers a seven-point checklist to compare a job offer with their current position.

"If you are looking to upgrade your career, and have one or more opportunities, compare pay and benefits from each," Housser advised. "Ask each employer -- current and prospective -- for a complete, itemized list of salary and benefits for which you are or will be eligible. Then, create a list with two columns, one for each job. Mark the monthly or annual total for each of the following elements of compensation in each category. Then add them up to calculate the best financial offer."

1. Salary. "Salary is obvious: More is better," Housser said. Consider how much financial stability you require, and carefully investigate positions that require a move from salary to commission. Before taking a commission-based position, be confident that income levels will maintain your financial footing. Profit sharing and bonuses are not a guaranteed part of compensation. And vesting requirements might demand loyalty to reap benefits.

2. Retirement. In the long run, retirement benefits can make a huge difference to financial well-being. Does the company have a pension plan? Does the employer match 401(k) plan contributions, and to what extent? Consider any contributions by current and prospective employers to calculate total income.

3. Health care. Does the employer pay employees' health care premiums? If so, add the contributions to gross compensation. "Also, check into the type of plan offered," Housser suggested. "Some small employers now pay for employees to purchase individual coverage. For most, this is fine. But be aware that if you have a covered family member with a pre-existing medical condition, it might be difficult, expensive or impossible to locate new individual coverage. If that is the case, be very cautious before changing employers."

4. Vision and dental insurance. Not all employers offer these coverages. Compute the amount you spend each year minus the amount of coverage. For anticipated expenses like a child's braces or dental surgery, call the insurer to determine coverage of those items.

5. Cafeteria plan. Also called a qualified benefit plan, this plan allows employees to save pre-tax money for certain benefits, such as dental, vision, life and disability insurance, health care, adoption assistance and other benefits. Multiply the anticipated savings by the income tax bracket to make a broad guess at savings. Find your tax bracket at

6. Time off. Add vacation time, personal days and holidays. Divide days off by 261 (the number of working days in 2007) and multiply the figure by annual salary to determine the value of time off at each job.

7. Gut check. "Do not discount the value of your instinct, and remember that finances alone do not constitute the right position," Housser said. "If the job is a dream job or an amazing stepping-stone to future opportunities, it might be a good move even if won't improve your financial standards tremendously today."

"Once your list is complete, you can make a decision -- not to mention be prepared to negotiate if your employer makes a counteroffer," Housser said. "Whatever you decide, you can be confident about your choice if you know you've considered the full package before making a move."

Based in San Mateo, Calif., is a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. The company blogs about consumer finance issues at Since 2002, and its partner company, Freedom Financial Network, have served more than 15,000 customers nationwide while managing more than $350 million in consumer debt. The company's co-founders and CEOs, Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh, were named Northern California finalists in Ernst & Young's 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.


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Aimee Bennett
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