Want to earn more money? Negotiating salary is only one (admittedly very important) part of the equation.
The dollar amount on your paycheck is only one part of your total compensation. If you fail to optimize your benefits package, you’re leaving money on the table. Similarly, you’re missing out if you don’t take advantage of perks that have the potential to save you money. And, if you turn away from opportunities for advancement, you could be missing out on higher earnings down the road.
If you’d really like to earn more money, there’s good news. The opportunities to do just that might be right under your nose.
10 Ways You Might Be Leaving Money on the Table:
1. You Don’t Save Your Receipts
Some companies reimburse employees for their work-related expenses. Generally, employees save their receipts when they incur a business expense and then submit them, usually along with some kind of form, for reimbursement from their employer. Work-related travel expenses are often considered reimbursable, as are supplies that are required to do your job.
These kinds of policies are great. But, they’re of little benefit to you if you don’t take advantage of them. You might feel like a light lunch or a tank of gas isn’t a big deal and decide to just swallow the cost yourself. But, these things can really add up.
2. You Don’t Take Time Off
Your paid time off has real value. And, if you don’t use it, you lose that money.
Unfortunately, this is a common way that today’s workers fail to maximize their earnings. According to a report from the U.S. Travel Association in the summer of 2019, workers let 768 million days of vacation days go unused the year prior. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed did not use all of their PTO. That adds up to $65.5 billion in lost benefits, according to the report. Plus, even when workers do take time away, many bring work with them. It’s not uncommon to check work email or even call in for meetings when you’re supposed to be on vacation.
You may not feel like taking time off is encouraged at your company. But if you feel you have the power to challenge that, taking your own PTO can help move the needle for everyone. Remember that if you don’t take your vacation time, you’re missing out on something of real value.
3. You Don’t Maximize Employer Matching for Retirement
Among those who responded to a survey conducted by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), 56% of respondents said that an employers’ 401(k) match was one of the most desirable workplace benefits. In fact, it was ranked as highly as health insurance, tying for the number one slot. It seems that many employees understand that this kind of financial opportunity is an important part of their total compensation.
It would be shortsighted not to take advantage of employer matching programs for retirement. Of course you could use the money now. It might feel difficult to withhold a portion of your salary for retirement. However, if you don’t, you’re missing out in a big way — literally turning down money from your employer that you won’t receive later. When you think about compensation, also think about the future. Spending a little now to earn more later is definitely a good decision.
4. You Don’t Negotiate Salary
Not everyone negotiates for a higher salary. In fact, according to a 2018 study conducted by staffing firm Robert Half and reported by CNBC, just 39% of workers say that they negotiated their salary during their last job offer. However, failing to negotiate when you’re first hired comes with a cost over the course of your career. Because annual raises and bonuses are often determined based on salary, the price of not negotiating grows year by year.
Negotiating your salary can be a little scary, especially if you’ve never done it before. PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide can help. And, be sure to do your homework. Take the PayScale Salary Survey to find out what peers in your industry are making in similar jobs.
5. You Skip Out on Optional Wellness Perks
Some companies offer benefits to their employers that are meant to keep them healthy and well. These kinds of perks range from free gym memberships to chair messages to free health screenings. Participating in these programs comes with some real advantages.
“Workplace wellness programs have been shown to deliver big benefits to both employees and employers,” Sammy Courtright, COO and cofounder of Fitspot Wellness, a corporate fitness and wellness program, told Zenefits. “Research shows that health screenings and physical exercise can help people lower important health markers such as their blood pressure, body fat, and stress levels.”
Of course, it isn’t always easy to rally for these kinds of things. But, perhaps reminding yourself that you’re leaving money on the table at work if you skip out on that free yoga class can help motivate you to attend.
6. You Don’t Go Back to School
Some companies offer tuition reimbursement programs to their employers. But, not all workers take advantage of the opportunity to go back to school.
More education and training leads to new and improved skills and qualifications. And those could lead you to a raise, promotion, or help you to navigate your way to a new and more lucrative job altogether. Education equals opportunity. And, there’s no reason to turn down the chance to have more choices in your professional future. Even if you already have the only degree/s you think you want or need, consider taking advance of tuition reimbursement programs and expanding your skillset.
7. You Turn Down Opportunities to Advance
It’s not always the right decision to take a promotion when one is offered to you. However, turning down the opportunity to advance because you feel intimidated or nervous about the challenge usually isn’t a great decision either.
If you find yourself in this situation, consider the monetary cost of declining a promotion. And, remember that there’s a snowball effect here. You aren’t just turning down the additional money this year, but every year after. It’s definitely worth thinking twice before you say no.
8. You Don’t Go to the Doctor
Workers understand that health insurance is expensive and they value this aspect of their compensation. Fifty-six percent said that health insurance was one of the benefits they valued most, according to the AICPA survey. Among Millennials, 48% prioritized it in their top three benefits along with 54% of Gen Xers. And, Baby Boomers said health insurance was one of the three most important benefits 71% of the time.
It’s understandable that workers value this aspect of their compensation more and more with age. However, all workers are leaving something on the table when they don’t actually use the health insurance their company has provided.
At the end of the day, going to the doctor isn’t just important for your health and well-being. It can also save you time and money. Taking care of yourself when you’re sick allows you to get back on track (and back to work) faster. And, seeing a doctor regularly, as well as keeping up with required testing, helps to keep you healthy which saves time and money in the long run.
9. You Stay in the Same Place
The days of staying with the same company from graduation to retirement are over. People tend to change jobs fairly often — about once every four years, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This can be a good thing financially, as some job hopping can often help workers earn more. Annual raises come in at about 3%. However, when you switch jobs, there’s the opportunity to benefit from a much more significant pay bump.
Of course, if you change jobs too often, you might find it harder to land jobs over time, as hiring managers are understandably reluctant to invest in someone who’ll leave in a year. So, it makes sense to consider these kinds of moves carefully.
10. You Work When You Should Play
No matter how important your job is, you shouldn’t be expected to be on the clock 24/7. If you routinely work when you ought to be taking time away (e.g., checking emails on nights or weekends) you’re giving your employer your time for free.
It’s important to enjoy downtime and rest and recover so that you can be at your best when it is time to work again. But, there are lots of good reasons to prioritize balance. Again, try to remember that your employer is not compensating you for all the work you’re doing after hours. It might help you to cut back! And, get away from work when it’s time to get away. Otherwise, you’re selling yourself and your loved ones short.
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Have you found ways to maximize your earnings, with or without negotiating a raise? We want to hear from you! Share your story in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter.