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The Hidden Costs of Working

The expenses associated with being a working professional can sometimes outweigh the net income you bring in, especially if you are only working part-time. It's important to be aware of the hidden costs of working so you can make the best employment decisions.

Military spouses decide to work for many reasons, including:

  • Personal and professional growth
  • Opportunity to leave the house a few hours a week
  • Increased income

If you are considering going to work and are not sure if a potential salary or hourly rate is enough to make a difference in your family's budget, you will need to think about the hidden costs of working before making your decision.

Commuting expenses. According to the United States Census Bureau, the average commute time in the United States is about 26.4 minutes each way. With gas prices, these commuting miles can quickly take away from your net income. You also need to factor in the wear and tear on your vehicle and determine how long it will take before it needs to be replaced. If you need to rely on public transportation, do not forget to factor in how much you will pay each day to commute. Ask your potential employer if they have a policy in place to cover transportation costs for their employees.

Professional attire. Most workplaces have a dress code. Some companies will provide a uniform, but more than likely, you will have to purchase professional attire for your job. You will also need to consider any dry-cleaning or other professional laundering costs.

Child care. Child care can be extremely expensive. Depending on your child care arrangements, you could be paying as much for day care as you are making by working. If military child care programs are an option in your location, you should look into using this benefit. They can be significantly cheaper than the same level of care you might receive from a private child development center.

Meals. When you are not working, it can be easy and convenient to eat your meals at home. When you are working, it can be easy to give into the convenience of eating out. Many people try to brown-bag their lunches every day, but even eating out a few times a week can cut into your net pay.

Taxes. Your income alone is taxed at the rate of your salary. What you may not know is that once you combine both spouses' incomes, you may fall into a different tax bracket, requiring you to pay more in taxes.

The MySECO website provides tools that can help you determine whether a potential position can benefit your family financially. You can research salaries by occupation, education and location by using the Research Occupations tool. You can also find information related to hidden costs by exploring the Financial Planning and Budgeting section of the Employment Readiness lifecycle stage of MySECO.

For additional information and assistance with your employment decisions, contact a SECO career coach at 800-342-9647 or use the Live Chat feature on MySECO.

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