When a dollar isn’t a dollar

When my accountant did my taxes this year (I almost always file Form 4868 to extend my due date, which is why I’m talking about taxes in October), he included a comparison sheet, comparing 2009 to my previous years.

One thing jumped out. I made almost 12%  less in 2009 than I made in 2008. My salary for both years was supposed to be the same.

I worked for different companies, but had the same job title and comparable responsibilities. Once company was relatively generous with its benefits; the other extremely stingy.

When I worked for that company in 2009, it seemed like they were nickel and diming me on my benefits, but I never attached a number to it. He did. No wonder things seemed so tight that year.

I didn’t really negotiate the salary. The negotiation started with the hiring executive asking what I make. I told him. He asked if I could produce a couple of pay stubs. I did. And that was pretty much the end of it.

I should have asked more questions, like what the benefits were, and what they cost. Then I should have used those numbers to figure out how much I’d have to make in order to keep my take-home pay more or less constant, because I basically threw away four years’ worth of pay raises when I signed on the bottom line.

Of course, my fear at the time was that if I played hardball too much, they’d just hire someone willing to work for less. I’m not certain that fear was unfounded. And at the time, my phone wasn’t exactly ringing with job offers, even though I was looking aggressively.

So it’s hard to be too regretful. In effect, I took a pay cut. In 2009, so did a lot of people. When I was shopping for clothes for my interviews, I ran into a former classmate at Dillard’s. Working there, not shopping there. I took the job, waited for a better opportunity, and when that happened, I took it.

But when you get a job offer and the time comes to talk salary, it probably makes sense to ask more questions than I did.

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One thought on “When a dollar isn’t a dollar

  • October 18, 2010 at 6:55 am

    The book “Being Geek” by MIchael Lopp has a chapter on salary negotiation which sounds a lot like what you just said. It’s pretty good overall, I recommend it.

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