Tales from the Wallet: Negotiating a Great Salary

salary negotiationReader A, a CPAA with 12 years of experience, writes with some great questions…

How does one negotiate a good compensation package? I have only ever worked for local firms. The salary data online seems to reflect “big 4” or equivalent pay scales. I have talked to a few headhunters and they all seem to think I should be making more than I am. What do I do when a prospective employer asks point blank what I am making now? I don’t want to lowball myself.

This is a particularly apt question in light of this post on the Bucks blog, calling attention to another blog posting wherein the author admitted to “bumping” her current salary up $5,000 when her interviewer asked what she was paid, and then asking for another $5,000 when they offered her the job with a “matched” salary.  Long story short:  it’s illegal to lie about your salary in job interviews! So… don’t try that tactic.

Pictured:  Fossil – Weekender Checkbook Clutch (Bright Orange), available at Zappos for $48 in orange, black, camel, espresso, green, and fun florals. Love the colorful insides and all the pockets.

Our recommendation would be twofold.  First, let’s say that you’re at Company X.  if you can get TWO job offers from Company Y and Company Z, you can sometimes play them against each other — we would probably avoid naming names, at least unless pressed, and see if company Y will increase your salary to match what company Z is offering.  Don’t leave Company X out of the mix, either, unless you’re looking for a new job because you hate your old one — rather than quitting outright, talk to the Powers that Be at Company X and say, “Company Y has offered me $__ to jump ship!”  And see if Company X will match it… and then go forward from there.

A second recommendation would be to really look at what your lower-salary job is actually giving you.  Do you get four weeks vacation?  How are your health insurance benefits?  Are there other perks, like discounts to a local gym, or on-site daycare?  We would factor that into the discussion, once the interviewer raises the issue.  For example: “I currently make $__ in dollars, but there are a number of perks that I’ve enjoyed for years and that you don’t offer.  To be honest, I would probably put a pricetag of $5K on those perks.”  Be totally honest — and KNOW what perks the interviewer does and does not offer.  In fact, this discussion might be a good time to assess those intangible perks.

This great article from CBS MoneyWatch also suggests classics like asking for a signing bonus, a performance bonus, stock options, or asking for more perks.

Readers, what are your best tips for salary negotiation?  Any great victory stories to share?

The Intern with the $9,000 Handbag

hermes to work2018 Update: We still stand by this advice that if you’re an intern with a $9000 handbag, it may be a bit too much — but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion of dressing better than your boss by carrying a “higher” label of a designer bag…

We got an interesting e-mail from reader N:

I am an intern at the equivalent of a BigLaw firm in Singapore. I have a Birkin bag (a small one, 30cm) and am wondering if it is appropriate for me to take it to the office. I’ve heard two conflicting opinions: (1) you should dress what you would like to be, ie, if you want to be a partner one day, dress as such; and (2) dress appropriate to your level in the firm.

We have MANY different opinions on this issue, actually, so we’re going to try to put them in cohesive format.

First: No matter what reader N decides to do, we beg of you — please do not walk around the hall with your handbag unless you are entering or exiting the building.  We have seen women do this carrying multi-thousand dollar bags, and we have seen women do this carrying $50 bags, and it is never a good look. If security is a concern in your office, lock it in your office drawer while you move about the halls.

In general, we don’t have a problem with dressing for the job you want to have — or even with carrying an expensive purse.  But here, where the Birkin bag is known for being an exclusive, highly sought after bag (complete with an only recently debunked “waiting list” myth) that costs more than some cars — and where it has been popularized more by socialites than businesswomen — we’re just a bit hesitant. The fact that you have one of the smaller ones, which will not fit work papers inside it, doesn’t help matters. (We’ve heard the $9,000 figure quoted, but in all honesty we don’t personally know how much they cost, and the Hermes website does not report the fact.) [Read more…]

Open Thread: Charitable Giving

how-much-to-donate-to-charityWe got this question from reader C, and it struck us as an interesting topic…

I have an article/poll idea: How much do Corporette readers donate to non-profits and which types of non-profits?  I tend to donate $25-100 to all of my alumni associations (high school, college, law school), and then I have an assortment of other causes I like to support.  I also support friends who are raising money for causes or running for office.  My biggest donations go to organizations of which I sit on the board of trustees.

I’m very curious about what percentage of their salaries Corporette readers donate to non-profits.  Also, do people donate strategically, e.g., for networking or business development purposes?  I tend to feel guilty about some big-ticket fashion purchases when I think of all the needy non-profits out there, so I know this is relevant to your subject matter!  Also, given how popular your posts on finances have been, I think this might be an interesting topic for your readers.
We suspect the answer will be deeply personal to each person, so we’re going to do this as an open thread.  For our $.02, research is what generally slows us down in terms of charitable donations.  We’ve heard that oftentimes charities take a lot (like 80-90%) for administrative costs, and the money doesn’t actually go to the cause — so the question is always, which charity?  Most of our charitable giving tends to happen to the same causes that we’ve donated to in the past, or if (after a funeral) a family suggests a donation in lieu of flowers; we’ve also joined a lot of associations/societies where some of the membership fee is treated as a charitable donation.  Readers, what are your thoughts?
(Pictured: Salvation Army, originally uploaded to Flickr by zieak.)

Reader mail: How to buy off-season suits…

Today’s reader mail has to do with off-season clothing…

Do you have suggestions for places to get an off-season suit? Have to prep for an interview in SoCal in January…

As the kids say, srsly? Man, do we have suggestions for you. Off-season is the best time to shop for clothes, in our opinion. First, hit up any outlet stores near you — we’ve had great success with the Chelsea Premium Outlets (Leesburg, Woodbury, etc.) — it’s a chain with centers located around America, so check the website to see if any are near you.  If you go, you may want to check out the discount racks — fall clothes will probably be prominently featured at the moment, meaning the more summery clothes will have moved to the discount racks.  [Read more…]

Tales from the Wallet: The Emergency Fund

Picture 22014 update: you may want to check out our latest discussion of emergency funds.

We noticed that our post on savings seemed to be a popular one, so we thought we’d start another discussion on money and investing. Today we’re wondering, dear readers, about your emergency funds: how did you calculate the amount, how do you store it, and how often do you reevaluate the amount and the storage situation?  (Pictured: Comme des Garcons Large Zip-Around Wallet, available at Saks.com for $325.)

A caveat, at the beginning: we are not experts in financial advice.

The emergency fund, though, is one of those basic topics that you read about.  If you’re in debt, they say, save for your emergency fund first, and then begin paying off debt.  If you’re not in debt, they say, save for your emergency fund — and keep it liquid — before you start investing in the market.  The emergency fund is supposed to be there as a a cushion in case you or your spouse lose your job, or if some other emergency comes up, such as medical needs or a car accident. [Read more…]

Open Thread: Let’s Talk Saving

Wow, we were not expecting that response to the “how much do you spend on clothes” thread — among a lot of our friends we’re the cheapskate.  (We run with a lot of well-dressed ladies!)  Keep in mind, however, that we haunt the sales — as we tried to make clear, there’s a difference between what you think a work-appropriate item of clothing should cost and what you’ll pay for one.  For example, yes, most of our bags cost around $600-$700 — but we figure out which brands we like, and then stalk the sample sales (both online and in NYC); we’ve also gotten some ridiculously great deals.  In general, we end up paying around $200 for a bag.  But that’s part dedication, part talent, and part ego, also — we enjoy getting a good sale on things we think are high quality.  Pictured:  Money, originally uploaded to Flickr by AMagill.

But how much you spend on clothes should, obviously, be less than what you’re saving — for retirement, for a down payment, etc.  So let’s talk about this.

[Read more…]

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