For many new college graduates, the idea of “working from home” can be very appealing. Before 2020, remote work situations were hardly common, with 57 percent of working Americans saying they rarely or never worked from home prior to the pandemic, according to Pew Research Center. A recent FlexJobs survey shows that two years later, as many companies have begun to nail down their return-to-office plans, the majority of employees (58 percent) have found that they prefer a full-time remote position.
“Whether you’re hoping to negotiate a permanent work-from-home situation with your current employer or intend to find a new role that’s fully remote, there are a few financial factors you’ll want to consider before giving up office life for good,” said Jing Lee, Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Advisor based in San Jose, CA.
If you plan to work in a different location than where your employer is located, the first thing to ask is if this will have any effect on your salary. Some companies compensate certain positions differently based on where the candidate is located, while others take a more blanket approach where a job pays the same regardless of where a candidate is physically located.
But while you should expect to be paid less if you live in an area with a lower cost of living, the problem is more acute if you are settled in a very high cost-of-living area and accept a remote job with a company that doesn’t adjust salaries to take that into account. Make sure you understand what factors impact your salary based on where you live now and the repercussions of any potential future moves.
STATE INCOME TAXES
You’ll also want to find out how your taxes will be affected if you plan to live and work in two different states. You may be taxed in the state where you are a resident, the state where your company is based, or a combination of the two, but you most likely won’t pay as much as you think because most states offer a tax credit for workers in this situation. A tax professional can help you navigate your specific situation.
If the company you work for offers a health plan, you should be able to enroll regardless of where you live (assuming you’re located within the U.S.). However, if you determine that you aren’t satisfied with the options in the company’s plan, ask if they would consider including a health insurance stipend in place of enrollment in the plan so you can choose your own. Note that a stipend is typically subject to taxes, so be sure to weigh the costs before deciding to pay out of pocket.
In an office, your company-provided setup typically includes office furniture, computer hardware and Wi-Fi, so you should have access to the same in a remote position. Typically, companies will want to treat all remote workers the same in terms of the home office support they provide for consistency’s sake; ask how they’ve handled this for past hires, and if the answer doesn’t seem like it would sufficiently meet your needs, add it to your negotiation list.
“Be aware that even with reimbursements, there may be personal costs that go up for you as a result of working from home permanently,” said Lee. For instance, while you may be saving on gas and a work wardrobe, you may end up with higher energy costs.
Even with a fully remote arrangement, your employer may still expect you to make the occasional trip to the office for meetings or other company events. Ask for a clear picture of the frequency and duration of any required travel and if the company will cover your travel costs for those instances.
Many companies are still figuring out the logistics of how remote travel arrangements will work, so if they can’t give you a clear-cut answer, ask for what you think is fair. Then agree to revisit it as time goes on and you have a better grasp of how travel factors into your position.
While you shouldn’t expect a benefit like reimbursement for commuter costs, you may be eligible for other perks. Many remote companies still offer things like gym memberships to their employees to support their overall wellness. As you discuss your compensation, see if you can negotiate comparable benefits that are offered to local employees.
About Northwestern Mutual
Northwestern Mutual has been helping people and businesses achieve financial security for more than 165 years. Through a holistic planning approach, Northwestern Mutual combines the expertise of its financial professionals with a personalized digital experience and industry-leading products to help its clients plan for what’s most important. With more than $561 billion in combined company and client assets, $34 billion in revenues, and $2.1 trillion worth of life insurance protection in force, Northwestern Mutual delivers financial security to nearly five million people with life, disability income and long-term care insurance, annuities, and brokerage and advisory services. Northwestern Mutual ranked 97 on the 2022 FORTUNE 500 and was recognized by FORTUNE® as one of the “World’s Most Admired” life insurance companies in 2022.
Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM), Milwaukee, WI (life and disability insurance, annuities, and life insurance with long-term care benefits) and its subsidiaries. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC (NMIS) (investment brokerage services), broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company® (NMWMC) (investment advisory and services), federal savings bank; and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company (NLTC) (long-term care insurance). Not all Northwestern Mutual representatives are advisors. Only those representatives with “Advisor” in their title or who otherwise disclose their status as an advisor of NMWMC are credentialed as NMWMC representatives to provide investment advisory services.