How Do I . . .

Sunday, March 30, 2008

. . . negotiate for benefits and pay?

¿ First, remember what you're worth, said Jennifer Folsom, who runs the Northern Virginia office of Momentum Resources (, which places women in flexible and part-time positions in the D.C. area. "You have good value in the industry," she said. So "think about the things you want and need, and ask for them."

Start big and negotiate down if the company isn't willing or able to meet your desires.

¿ Emphasize what you're saving the company by going part time and taking a smaller salary.

¿ If you can't get full benefits, aim for proportional benefits. For instance, if you work an 80 percent schedule with 80 percent of your current salary, you could get 80 percent of your benefits.

¿ Look for alternatives and be creative. If your company can't pay for your health insurance, offer to stay on the plan but pay the employer contribution -- if that's cheaper than paying for coverage on your own.

¿ Some employers will be reluctant to allow part-time schedules. "Challenge them," Folsom said. "Be prepared to counter all of their cons." For example, promise that if you leave at, say, 3 p.m. to greet your children coming home from school, you will be available by cellphone or will check back after dinner and work then. "Address what you think the concerns will be up front."

¿ Offer a trial period, suggests Donna Klein, president of Corporate Voices for Working Families, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization. "People are more comfortable agreeing to something on a three-month time frame rather than a year," she said. "It gives you a time to pilot it to see if it will work. It usually does."

. . . work out my finances?

¿ If your salary is decreasing, so will the contribution to your 401(k).

¿ If you can't enroll in or keep your 401(k), save for retirement yourself with a Roth IRA. Have automatic monthly deductions set up from your bank account so it's almost like a 401(k) (but with taxes paid up front instead of upon withdrawal).

¿ If you have access to a flexible savings account or a health savings account -- tax-free money put into an account for medical expenses -- increase your coverage there, particularly if your health coverage decreases or disappears.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company