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Leveraging Total Compensation During Military Transition

Military to Civilian Transition

Congratulations! You have been offered the job! Slow down..... Breathe..... Think..... You have had some good benefits on active duty. Some companies offer great benefits; others do not!

Talk to anyone that has been out for awhile and they will tell you there is significant variety between companies for benefits such as PTO (Paid Time Off - or the equivalent of military leave) and insurance. have been offered your first job out of the service, but the pay sounds kind of low. What do you do? Sixty percent of American workers take the salary and accept the job. You can do the same. can request information, study the associated myriad of benefits and negotiate. This is where total compensation kicks in. When it comes to understanding total compensation, realize there are three components: direct financial compensation, indirect financial compensation, and non-financial compensation. You also have many quality of life issues to consider. Here are a couple of real world examples:

  1. In his second job after the Marines, a friend took a huge cut in pay and went to work for another company. People thought he was crazy. Turns out he was crazy like a fox. The new job was close to home. He saved 50 miles a day on his vehicle, reducing tolls, fuel, maintenance cost; while recovering 75 minutes a day from his commute. His dental coverage for his son's braces was running out just before his job transition. With the new job, he received a new dental plan, which paid the remaining 2-year orthodontic bill. His educational benefits and 401k were both better. Finally, within two years he was making the same salary as before and his total compensation was much higher.
  2. After leaving the service, another friend took a well paying contractor position in a nearby state. He received a $42K uplift in wages over his military pay and $5k sign on bonus which he used toward the move. But his new company's medical insurance was very expensive, the deductibles were high, and he and his family had to have the coverage. Accustomed to paying neither, he was now paying both city and state tax; while simultaneously being forced into a higher federal tax bracket. Housing was more expensive, his commute was 50 minutes longer each day and he had to pay to park. With the very nice salary bump, he thought he was making a lucrative financial move for his family. He was wrong!

Bottom you look at your job offer, closely review the total compensation. Ask your future employer lots of questions. If they get irritated or illusive and the salary is low, maybe the job is not the right fit. Finally, don't be intimidated. Many benefits can be negotiated with a little personal finesse, if the company finds you desirable.

With regard to salary, you need to perform some research. Join a professional organization like the Project Management Institute or the American Society of Civil Engineers. These organizations not only offer knowledge of your profession and great networking capabilities, but you can also use their annual salary survey to determine the appropriate pay in the locality you are choosing. If you are not a member of a professional organization, look at, or to get smart on income levels.

If your first salary offer is low, study the bonuses, medical, dental, education, PTO and 401K match and negotiate. For example, if a bonus is part of the package, make sure you have the program in writing and you know exactly how the bonus program works. Further, if PTO is important to you and the company is rigid about the number of days or hours off, ask if you can buy more. Look at the total cost of your medical, dental, short-term and long-term disability insurance. How much life insurance will you get? Can you buy more? Is it expensive insurance or a good value compared to your other life insurance policy. Finally, study the location for tax, commuting, parking, housing, crime and schools. All of these total compensation elements are essential to review and you should do so, with your spouse or significant other.

Be assured, you are highly desirable. Commercial companies want you. Take some time to study and research and you will make a great choice for you and your family as you transition from the military.

To learn more, pick up one of the great books from the "Transitioning Military Series", available on Amazon and coming to AAFES in March of 2017.

Want to know more? Check out "The Transitioning Military Series".

Wishing you a lucrative transition.


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