When we think about what it costs to go to work every day, transportation is one of the main topics. Whether you drive to work, take the bus or utilize mass transit, it costs money and time. According to the US Census Bureau the average one way commute for workers in the US is 25.5 minutes. That’s 255 minutes a week, 12,750 minutes a year (considering a 2 week vacation). In other words, 8.85 days of your life are devoted to commuting. 8.1% of workers travel one hour each way so they lose 20.8 days due to commuting. . These are averages, so you can be sure the times are longer in metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta. Wouldn’t you love to be one of the 4.3% of workers who work from home?
The average commuter travels 15 miles one way, or about 7,500 miles a year (again, considering a 2 week vacation). Let’s assume the average worker drives a car that gets 25miles/gal. and gas costs $3.50/gal. It would cost him $1,312.50 a year in fuel alone to drive to work. This doesn’t take into consideration the cost of oil changes, tune-ups, new tires, and other regular maintenance. 22% of workers travel between 16 and 30 miles one way so their costs increase proportionately. If you must use your car for company business you can deduct $0.56 a mile which is the standard mileage rate for 2014. Wouldn’t you love to be one of the 4% of commuters who drove or rode in a company car? If that’s impossible, consider carpooling to save a few bucks.
Households with two working parents have the tough responsibility of finding affordable, quality childcare for their children. Childcare costs have increased over the years, but as a percent of family income it has remained at 7%. The average weekly cost of childcare is $143 per the US Census Bureau. Unfortunately, childcare workers have not seen any increase in wages over the last 20 years. Their median salary remained at $19,098. Some families are fortunate to live near relatives who can provide support. In 2011, grandparents cared for 24% of preschoolers.
We would all love to work in our jeans and t-shirts, but for those who work in an office, this is just a dream. There may be an occasional casual Friday, but for the most part, the dress code is business or business casual. So off we go to the mall to fit the standard. Unfortunately, most of us cannot deduct our work wardrobe as a business expense. The one exception is if you are required to wear a uniform and the company doesn’t pay for it. The IRS allows you to deduct work related expenses on your annual tax return. The one minor glitch is that it must exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income. So for example, if your adjusted gross income is $50,000, you could not deduct the first $1,000. But if you have a lot of non-reimbursed business expenses, they could add up. Think about your cell phone, your computer, travel expenses, union dues, meals and entertainment, conventions, etc. Keep all your receipts and there may be enough to deduct by the next April 15.
When you receive a job offer, the salary is your main focus, but don’t overlook the extra benefits the company offers. How much are they worth? According to Dept. of Labor employee benefits averaged $8.87 per hour or almost 30% of an employee’s total compensation. If you are lucky to work for a medium to large company you may have access to some of the following benefits and need to take this into consideration as part of your whole compensation package. Those working for small firms or working part time are not so fortunate. In the US, employers are not required to provide paid vacation or holidays. In fact, almost 1 in 4 Americans do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays.
Large companies usually provides ten days vacation leave. If you make $10/hr. that would be an additional $800 a year. Sick time is usually accrued each pay period to the tune of one week (5days) per year. If you earned $10/hr. that’s an additional $400 a year. Per the Labor Dept., 74% of full time workers and 24% of part time workers were offered sick time. 72% in medium and large businesses and 51% in small businesses were offered this benefit.
Many companies will offer six major holidays. If you are in retail or the service industry, it’s quite likely you are required to work some holidays. But in general, paid holidays add an extra $480 in your pocket if you made $10/hr.… even more if you are paid time and a half.
According to the Dept. of Labor, Medical coverage was available to 85% of full time workers and only 57% for employees in businesses with < 100 employees. It was available to 85% for medium and large businesses (> 100 employees), whereas only 24% of part-time workers had medical coverage.
Some larger companies offer 401k retirement plans. Contributions are tax free and growth is tax deferred until withdrawal in retirement. Most often the company will match a specific % of the employee’s contribution. Dept. of Labor statistics state that 74% of full time workers in private industry have access to a retirement plan while only 37% of part time workers do. This benefit was available to 49% of workers in small businesses and 82% in medium and large businesses.
Last but not least, are the government mandated benefits that all businesses provide. Social Security is the government sponsored retirement plan where the employer must contribute 6.7% of your salary. Unemployment insurance is offered if you lose your job through no fault of your own. And Workman’s Compensation covers medical expenses if you are hurt on the job.