Should You Stay at a Job for a Cash Bonus? Experts Weigh In

Worker employee recieve salary with working overtime bonus money payday work in factory warehouse.
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It’s a tougher job market out there than it was during the difficult days of the Great Resignation, with mass layoffs happening (mostly in tech) and people quitting their jobs in droves. A new report from LinkedIn found that 61% of U.S. workers are considering leaving their jobs in 2023, CNBC reported. What will it take to get them to stay? A suitcase full of cash — or, something pretty close to it.

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A new survey from Keep Financial found that 86% of employees would take an extra cash bonus in exchange for a time commitment at their company. Additionally, of those respondents who receive stock options or other equity, 76% say they would rather receive all, or a portion of, that equity as cash in exchange for a time commitment at their company.

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“I am absolutely not surprised to see workers’ willingness to stay with their company for a cash bonus,” said Peter Rahbar, employment attorney and founder of The Rahbar Group. “Interest rates are at an all time high, cost of living has increased and many workers feel that they have been undercompensated for their efforts during the pandemic and beyond.”

Equally unsurprising is the employee preference for cash over equity compensation.

“The majority of employees have historically valued cash over equity compensation simply because they do not know how to value equity,” Rahbar said, noting the following additional factors: “More experienced employees are less likely to value equity because they do not trust companies to treat them fairly, thus decreasing the value of any equity in their eyes; The current high interest-rate environment, and the high monthly cost of carrying debt; and in today’s workplace, it is much more common to hear about workers viewing potential jobs with a one to three year time frame as opposed to a ten-year time frame, and choosing cash over equity preserves their flexibility to move within that time frame.”

But is staying at one’s job in exchange for an extra cash bonus a good idea?

“An extra lump sum cash bonus can be beneficial for paying off high-interest debt or saving for a down payment on a home,” said Michael Samuel, career consultant and VP of human resources at CEOMichaelHR. “However, employees should consider the trade-off of giving up future earning potential or becoming locked into a job they may not be happy with.”

It turns out there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. Everyone should weigh the options for themselves and carefully consider what’s available. The same goes for deciding whether or not to choose cash over equity.

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“If you’re making a decision to stay for equity or cash, factor in how long you will have to stay for both options,” said Malinda Coler, founder of Roadmap. “If you have to stay longer to earn cash, then you may wind up missing out on larger pay increases.”

“Equity schedules may give you more flexibility than upfront cash time commitments,” Coler explained. “Employees vest (or fully own) a portion of their equity within six months to a year of working at a company, and then continue vesting more each month. It’s common practice in tech to join a company, vest a portion of your equity package for a couple years, and then find a new job with both a salary increase and a new equity package. This practice gives you regular salary increases and equity in multiple companies so that you have several opportunities in play for larger cash payouts.”

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“As you make these decisions right now, factor in that we are at the outset of a recession,” Coler said. “The economy is transforming as we go. Cash is king in unstable times. Make decisions based on your personal finances, risk tolerance and earning potential.”

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But there’s also something to be said for taking your time and really thinking about your future.

“In general, I believe that workers should spend more time thinking about their career plans and how they can get to their final destination,” Rahbar said. “They should then revisit this plan every six months. In that exercise, they will find that choosing a job solely because of money is not a winning or successful strategy.”

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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