The value you get from your job is more than just your paycheck. Yes, your salary matters. But to truly assess your total compensation, you also need to consider things like bonuses, commissions, benefits, and other forms of cash and non-cash compensation.

Total Compensation

Your total compensation is the value of your salary plus all the extra benefits you receive as an employee, from employer-sponsored health and retirement plans to paid time off to a stocked office kitchen, and more. When you think about what you get “paid,” look at overall compensation to accurately assess the value you receive from your employer.


In some industries, it’s standard to receive a base salary and commissions for completing a specific task. For instance, sales commissions may be paid to employees after selling a certain amount of goods and services. Commissions are often a percentage of the sale. If you receive a base salary, your commission is in addition to that compensation.


bonus is additional compensation given for achievements or milestones, like staying a certain number of years with a company or hitting specific performance metrics. Bonuses may be given as a lump sum payment, a percentage of your salary, or even stocks awarded to you.

There are two main types of bonuses: discretionary, or not guaranteed, and nondiscretionary, or guaranteed in your employment contract. Basically, a discretionary bonus is one that’s given based on your boss or company’s judgment, not any predetermined agreement, and a nondiscretionary bonus is written into your employment contract, but may still be dependent on performance or hitting certain milestones. Check your employment contract to see what you are eligible for. Both bonuses and commissions are subject to taxes—sometimes it’s even taxed at a different rate—so not all of that money lands straight in your account.

Company-Sponsored Benefits

company-sponsored benefit is an additional perk or privilege supplemented or paid for entirely by your employer. The two biggest benefits are generally health insurance and retirement plans. While you pay a monthly premium for insurance, it’s only a small part of your employer’s overall cost of providing the plan. Most employers cover around 80% of the cost of providing insurance; some more, others less. Either way, your employer is likely paying significantly more than you.

The value of your retirement plan is more straightforward. Your employer covers the cost of plan administration, so you access the plan for free. And if your company offers a contribution match, it’s easy to see the benefit. Say you make $60,000 a year and contribute 5% to a 401(k) with a 5% employer match. Your employer is contributing $250 a month, or $3,000 a year. That’s money you don’t need to stock away—and don’t forget that an extra $3,000 a year can grow dramatically over time. If you have a pension, factor that benefit in, too.

In addition to these common benefits, there may be programs your employer offers that you don’t even pay into. For instance, it’s common for employers to cover 100% of the cost of basic life and disability insurance for employees.

Any paid time off is a value add for you. This includes vacation days, paid holidays, sick leave, parental leave, and similar times when you are paid to step away from work. The amount of PTO varies greatly from employer to employer, but it’s all a part of non-cash compensation that benefits you.

Reimbursement Programs

Your company may offer reimbursements for tuition paid on work-related courses or professional development, give you money back for participating in ride-sharing programs, or even offer health and wellness reimbursement for things like attending classes at the gym.

Non-Cash Compensation

Like the name implies, non-cash compensation is anything that isn’t part of your salary. Think of these as the fringe benefits of your job; things that benefit you but aren’t reflected in your paychecks. Even though there isn’t a price tag attached—at least on your end—these benefits could save you big bucks if you take advantage of them. Some examples of non-cash compensation are on-site daycare, stocked kitchen for free meals, gym memberships or discounts, free parking or bus passes, cell phone plans, company swag, paid retreats and team-building experiences, and more.

Chances are high that the benefits and fringe benefits you receive as an employee really give your base salary a boost. So don’t just consider that one number when you think about what you make—consider your total compensation to see where you really stand.


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