This is a guest post from Stephen A. Smith.
My fiancée, Kerrie, has a good job. She works for Hachette Book Group (formerly Time Warner Book Group), where she gets three weeks of paid vacation every year and pays only 1% of her salary toward health insurance. But her primary preoccupation is with raising her net salary, and she found some additional benefits that helped her do just that.
Like most companies, Hachette offers a 401(k) program to all employees over age 21. If you’ve read this blog, you know that interest favors the young and there are a dozen good reasons why you should take advantage of a 401(k) to save toward retirement — but Hachette offers another. After a year of employment, Hachette will match two-thirds of your 401(k) contributions for up to 6% of your salary. Kerrie does just that: She contributes 6% and Hachette matches with another 4%, which is money that she wouldn’t get otherwise. In other words, by doing herself a favor and saving now for later, she gave herself a 4% raise.
Even better, Hachette encourages its employees to go to school by offering full tuition reimbursement if your area of study is directly related to your job, and half reimbursement if you can indirectly relate it to your job. Since college tuition has skyrocketed beyond the reach of the middle class, corporate programs like this have gathered steam — and it makes all the difference. The days of paying your way through full-time college with a part-time job are long gone, but this offers a chance for weekend students to attain higher education without acquiring debt.
Kerrie has been working toward her MBA by taking night classes at UMass Boston, two per semester. Take a look at her last three tuition bills, up to the one we just paid for the coming fall:
- $2,671 — Spring
- $1,890 — Summer
- $2,468 — Fall
You see where I’m going with this. The value of her MBA will be significant: a 2003 analysis by MSNBC concluded that professional degrees were worth their weight in gold, and that specifically, the average salary for someone with an MBA was $375,780. The Graduate Management Admission Council released a survey in May offering similar optimism, that the average starting salary for MBA graduates is $92,000 — but even discounting the eventual value of her degree, Kerrie has managed to get total reimbursement for $7,029 worth of tuition in the last year. That’s about 21% of her annual salary.
By taking advantage of two optional benefits, Kerrie gave herself an effective 25% raise. As a comparison, her last promotion came with an 8% raise. She has optimized her conditions to make her job work harder for her: In the case of her 401(k), she’s getting an extra $1,340 that she wouldn’t otherwise; and in the case of her tuition, she’s getting reimbursed for money that she would have spent anyway. Investigate what “added value” programs your company offers to its employees. You just might be able to give yourself a raise today.
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