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Job changes are practically inevitable for the majority of folks looking to land a substantial raise.
In 2018, I made a job change that led to a 45% salary increase for me after only getting a 3% raise from my employer earlier in the year.
And I’m not alone. Data from the Atlanta Fed Wage Growth Tracker shows that the average employee who switches jobs will have more potential for wage growth than the employee who stays with an employer long-term.
However, changing jobs at the wrong time without doing your due diligence could cause you to lose a substantial amount of money that offsets any salary increase. You have to be wise and look at a potential change from all angles. (Unless the situation you’re in is toxic and affecting your mental health. Just get out at that point.)
Here are some potential costs you need to be aware of if you’re considering a job change:
1. Using Paid Time Off To Interview
You’ll be hard-pressed to find any quality job that doesn’t require you to at least come in for one interview. Actually, you’re lucky if you get away with less than 2-3 interviews for a single position.
When you’re already employed, chances are you’ll have to use any paid time off you have to attend the interviews. This can be a problem if you don’t have any remaining paid time off, however, if you’re lucky enough to live in a state that requires employers to pay unused PTO once you leave, you’ll lose money as well.
A way around this one is to have quality phone screens where you ask lots of questions. You’ll also want to be bold enough to decline interviews for positions that aren’t a great fit for you and work to schedule as many interviews as possible on the same day.
2. Lost Bonuses
Being in sales, this is a huge one for me. Any time I’ve left an employer, I’ve had to be mindful of when any commission or bonus checks were being paid out.
Without doing my research, I could lose thousand dollar checks as most companies require you to be an active employee in order to receive such pay.
Also, if you have received any type of sign-on bonus, you may have to pay it back if you leave the company within a certain time-frame.
One of the worst things you can do is leave thousands of dollars on the table because you didn’t take 10-15 minutes to verify any important dates.
Also, ask your new employer about a later start date if necessary. It’s usually okay to be pretty firm on that especially if they’re aware that you have a major bonus that you’ve earned coming your way.
3. Vacation Time
As I already mentioned, some states do not require employers to pay out unused vacation time once you leave the company.
Another thing to be aware of is whether or not your company will charge you back for already used vacation time.
With some employers, your vacation time is accrued throughout the year. This means if you’ve used all 4 weeks of vacation time and quit your job in June, the company can deduct half of your used vacation (2 weeks) from your final check.
Also, your new employer may offer you less vacation time than the previous one. This is often negotiable once you have the offer though.
When it comes to vacation, the key is to communicate. You need to ask questions of your HR department and with any potential employers.
4. The Retirement Hit
This was a big one for me. When I left my last job, I left thousands of dollars on the table because my company was on a 5-year graded vesting schedule.
This essentially means that it would take 5 years for all of my company match to be fully mine. However, since I left just before year two, I was only able to take a certain percentage of the company match with me to my next job.
The pay increase more than made up for that loss, and my new plan has much better investment options even though I won’t be eligible to participate for 6 months. The best part is I’ll get a higher match and be fully vested on day 1.
Your retirement options are a key part of the wealth-building process. Before accepting a new offer, you should have a general idea of the investment options, the company match, and the vesting schedule. Going from a 6% match to a 3% match is a big deal over the long-term.
Also, any balance on loans you’ve taken out against your retirement plan could be due in full immediately. If you currently have a 401(k) loan, you’ll want to ask about that before leaving your job as well.
5. Healthcare Expenses
Let’s say you have a baby in February and hit your health insurance deductible. Something happens and you decide to leave your job in May.
Guess what? You could be restarting your progress towards your deductible and out of pocket maximum for the year. And to make matters worse, your new employer may not offer you health insurance for 90 days.
Usually the only way to keep your progress is to enroll in COBRA coverage, however, the high cost of COBRA doesn’t make sense in every situation.
This is where you may have to do a little math and see what makes sense.
Also, you need to consider not only the cost of coverage with your new employer, but the quality of coverage as well.
When we were on my wife Taylor’s insurance, her medications for Lupus were hundreds of dollars per month each. With my current employer, we don’t even spend $100 for all of her meds combined.
This is something we have to consider when looking into new jobs. Usually I explain the situation and ask for a copy of the years healthcare options.
If the options raise our expenses, I’ll add that cost into my counter-offer for my salary.
I’m also bold enough to ask for any 90-day waiting period to be waived. That’s a long time to gamble on your health. Anything can happen during that period, and again COBRA coverage is crazy EXPENSIVE.
6. New Wardrobe Expectations
This one probably isn’t as common as it used to be, but the fact that it still happens often is reason enough for it to make the list.
Maybe you’ve completely changed careers and you’re going from a casual, laid-back environment to a more buttoned-up office setting.
Or maybe your last employer provided company uniforms and your new employer is business casual.
Either way, you’ll need to do some shopping before starting the new gig.
Depending on the level of change and what you already have in your closet, this could become a massive expense for you.
The key here is to start with versatile pieces that can be styled in many ways to create different looks. You may be doing laundry or stopping by the dry cleaners more frequently, but it beats going into debt for new clothes.
Also, don’t be ashamed to shop thrift stores in high end areas for deals on name brand clothes as you build your new professional wardrobe.
7. Delayed Pay
This is one of those that people really don’t consider. Usually there is a long gap between your last paycheck and your first paycheck.
Sometimes pay cycles don’t line up properly or some employers just hold your pay for a week.
Either way, you should prepare for a longer than usual gap between checks by saving extra money from each check starting the moment you decide to interview for new opportunities.
This could save you from racking up debt to cover basic living expenses for a few weeks.
You need to know policies of both employers, ensure you have adequate savings to cover any gaps between checks, and create a plan to minimize the impact of some of these hidden costs.
If you’re in a toxic situation that’s affecting your mental health, you may care a little less about some of these things, however, for the average employee, sticking around a few weeks longer in order to time your transition just right may be the best thing.
Have any tips for minimizing costs associated with leaving a job? Feel free to share in the comments below.