How to evaluate a job offer

Consider some financial factors and then compare the new job to your current job with our evaluator.

  • Facebook.
  • Twitter.
  • LinkedIn.
  • Google Plus
  • Print

Got a sweet new job offer? Is it working at the company of your dreams? Or a big jump in salary? Sounds great, right? Stop. Before you negotiate or accept the offer, take the time to see how changing jobs could affect your lifestyle and your financial picture.

new_job_info_pop250 There’s more to a job offer than just the salary. Think about benefits like health care, maternity or paternity leave, the opportunity for career advancement, work/life balance, vacation days, and the corporate culture. Every company is different, and some of these benefits may be more important to you than others.

Don’t overlook some significant financial factors, too. How do retirement and other benefits compare? Does the job mean moving to another state or city, where taxes and the cost of living can change the “real” value of a pay increase?

There may be other, less obvious costs. For example, you may lose some or all of what your employer contributed to your 401(k) or other retirement savings plan, if you weren’t at your job long enough to be vested.

Here are some things to consider.

1. Money

Compensation is often more than just a base salary. Is there a cash bonus or commissions? While your base salary is generally fixed, a bonus and commissions aren’t guaranteed and may vary from year to year. Will you be paid for overtime? Does the company offer stock compensation?

2. Benefits

Many employers provide a 401(k) match program, profit sharing, tuition reimbursement, life insurance, flexible spending accounts, health insurance, disability insurance, and paid time off. These benefits can really add up, and it is important to take them into account when comparing a job offer to your current position. Say you currently get a 4% employer match, meaning that if you contribute 4% of your salary to your 401(k), your company will contribute 4% on your behalf. For someone making $50,000 per year, that would mean an additional $2,000 of “free” money every year.

3. Taxes

Taxes are also key. If the new job involves moving to a new state, check the state income tax rate. Let’s say you currently live and work in a state with no state income tax. The job offer is in a state that has an effective state income tax rate of 5%. For a person earning $40,000, that is an additional $2,000 a year in taxes. Some areas have a local municipal tax as well.

Your payroll taxes may change too. What if you are going from a wage-earning employee1 to a self-employed contractor2—or vice versa? Payroll taxes on workers’ wages include 15.3% for Social Security and Medicare. Your company pays half of these payroll taxes. As a contractor, however, you are the employee and the employer, which means you’ll have to pay all those taxes. 

Of course, there are some potential tax benefits to being self-employed. For example, if you itemize, you’ll generally be able to deduct expenses like the cost of using a car for business purposes or maintaining a home office. So, be sure to weigh all the potential costs and benefits.

4. The cost of living

Relocating for a new job may come with a price besides the cost of the move itself. In addition to the previously mentioned tax considerations, the cost of living in a new location may increase or decrease the real value of your compensation package.

Let’s say you are making $50,000 in your current job, and you have a job offer in another state for $60,000. The cost of living in the new state is 50% higher than your current state, so you would have to earn about $75,000 in your new state to afford the same lifestyle. On the other hand, moving to a lower-cost area may mean a small raise may go a long way.

5. The cost of leaving a job

Leaving your current job may also cost you, so to speak. You may lose what your employer contributed to your 401(k), stock options, or other stock compensation—or all three—if you weren’t at the job long enough to be vested.

For example, let's say your company contributed $10,000 to your 401(k) plan and it will vest at 20% per year over five years. So if you leave after the end of the first year, you could keep only $2,000 of the contribution. After two years, you could keep 40%, and so on.

Did you take a loan from your 401(k)? If so, you may have to repay the full amount after leaving the company, or else the outstanding balance will be treated as a taxable distribution and also may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty.

6. Other costs and considerations

If you have to relocate, you may have to pay for moving costs, real estate agent fees, or temporary housing. Some companies cover these costs for new employees, but not all. You may also want to find out when you will be eligible to participate in the new employer’s retirement plan and when you will be eligible for a company match. Your new offer may have an allowance for these costs and a make-whole provision, meaning it would make up what you would lose in unvested benefits, bonuses, and other compensation when you leave your current job.

An example

Let’s look at a hypothetical example to illustrate the impact of these things. Meet Jason, a 25-year-old computer programmer earning $65,000 in salary and bonus. His employer matches 7% of his contribution to his 401(k) and gives him 10% in profit sharing. He receives an offer from a company in another city as a contractor—so no benefits, and he would be liable for the additional payroll taxes—paying him $130,000 in salary and bonus.

If you were to just look at the salary, wow, he’s getting a 100% raise. But there is more to the story. When you factor in his employer match and profit sharing, he is actually making $76,000 a year in his current job—so the raise drops to 71%. Then there are taxes. Because Jason would be a contractor in his new job, he’d have to pay additional payroll tax, as well as higher state tax and a higher federal tax because he is making more money—so the raise drops to 38%. His new city is an expensive place to live—it is 50% more expensive than where he currently lives. So, putting all those factors together, Jason may actually experience a 9% decrease in the real financial value of his compensation if he took the job.

Run your numbers

Now that you have a sense of what to keep in mind when weighing a new job offer, compare some financial factors of the new job offer vs. your current one with our job-offer evaluator.


Of course, your decision shouldn’t be just financially oriented. There are many reasons to move from one job to another. Maybe the new job is in a place where you really want to live. Maybe it offers a chance to advance your career. Or maybe it’s in a field that you would find more exciting and rewarding. Consider the corporate culture and who you would be working for and with. Vacation days, health care benefits, and maternity or paternity leave are also valuable benefits that may be important to you. What will the commute be like, and how much will it cost? Will you be working long hours? In the end, when making a decision on a job offer, think beyond the paycheck.

Learn more.

  • Facebook.
  • Twitter.
  • LinkedIn.
  • Google Plus
  • Print
The evaluator is for illustrative purposes only.
Guidance provided is educational.
Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general and educational in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Tax laws and regulations are complex and subject to change, which can materially affect investment results. Fidelity cannot guarantee that the information herein is accurate, complete, or timely. Fidelity makes no warranties with regard to such information or results obtained by its use, and disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or any tax position taken in reliance on, such information. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.
1. Wage-earning employee is defined as receiving a W-2.
2. Self-employed contractor is defined as receiving a 1099.
Votes are submitted voluntarily by individuals and reflect their own opinion of the article's helpfulness. A percentage value for helpfulness will display once a sufficient number of votes have been submitted.

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917

Please enter a valid e-mail address
Please enter a valid e-mail address
Important legal information about the e-mail you will be sending. By using this service, you agree to input your real e-mail address and only send it to people you know. It is a violation of law in some jurisdictions to falsely identify yourself in an e-mail. All information you provide will be used by Fidelity solely for the purpose of sending the e-mail on your behalf.The subject line of the e-mail you send will be " "

Your e-mail has been sent.

Your e-mail has been sent.