When Salaries Shrink, Here's What You Get Instead

We joke, but millennials really will make compromises about how much they're paid if a company supplements salaries well. Whether those perks are always worth the stalled wages is another story.

This week, a new analysis of federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed that just 68 percent of workers' total compensation now comes from wages and salary. In 2000, that number was 72.5, a high. The rest is all about benefits, whether that's a gym membership paired with a wellness program, free food, or even paying off our student loans. Moreover, we want this: According to reporting by MarketWatch, 88 percent of employees would trade in a higher-paying job for flexible hours, better health insurance, and the like.

One ongoing generational trend among millennials is our desire to work for a company that aligns with our values. When we say in surveys that we'd take a pay cut to feel better about our careers, good benefits may be both saving grace and mitigating factor. However, if this holds for you, make sure your employer isn't simply getting your labor and time on the cheap. Just 2.9 percent of labor costs in 2017 came from raising salaries. For those who get one-time bonuses, that's nice, but it's only 12.7 percent of why labor costs rose.

There are optimal times to ask for a raise, and you can plan for it and script it out. If your employer balks, consider asking for incremental raises, which have been shown to keep your own satisfaction higher than a single big raise. Fight for a good salary early and often — benefits will keep your quality of life up, but more money can guarantee more.