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Tough Employment Decisions…


Do you remember that government job my husband applied to get? He was one of well over one thousand to apply.

We were elated when he received a call back and a position test date… that is, until they dropped a bomb. The job market in Southern California, like in most places, is a tight one. They are only offering the very bottom pay bracket. If my husband received the position, he would take a 25% pay cut.

Short term, this is a bad decision. This job would put us back to making minimum payments on our debt. Our finances would become the tightest they’ve ever been.

Long term, the position offers a retirement and health package unrivaled by the private sector and offers more stability. On top of that, my husband is at the highest position he can go with his current employer. The new job is one he can stay at and grow in for the next 30 years.

What would you do?


  • Reply Twiggers |

    At this point there is no guarantee he’ll even be offered the position. They probably called back over a hundred people. I would continue to pursue the position…at the very least he will be in the system and may receive calls for other positions.

    If he were to get the position…..well, there are pros and cons. If he is unhappy with his current job then he should jump at it. Perhaps there are other things you can do (cut back in some areas, etc.) to make up the difference.

  • Reply Catherine |

    I would keep pursuing the job, mainly to find out more information. If it is something he would love, it would be worth the pay cut. My husband has stayed at a job that doesn’t pay as much as he could make elsewhere for 13 years because he loves the work. That intangible is truly priceless. But changing a job only for benefits and security is just as bad an idea as changing strictly for more pay. Rarely does a person stay in that position longer than they have to, just to save their sanity.

  • Reply Inky |

    Congrats to your hubby for getting a callback! I agree, continue pursuing it and take the test, – and still try to negotiate a higher base pay if an offer is given.

    Is there locality pay associated with this job? That adds to the base pay and I think San Diego is 23.44%. Also, the increases in civilian gov’t jobs are regular as clockwork every year, plus performance awards might apply. He could make up that 25% fairly quickly.

    It’s a lot to suffer through at the beginning, but the job security is unparalleled once you make it past that first year. Assuming we have confidence in our government, that is 😉

  • Reply Carol |

    I agree with Twiggers first thought – pursue it and see what happens. If offered, he can make a decision at that time. If not, he can express to them that he may suit their needs for other openings.

    But don’t make this an either/or situation. Send out more resumes. It may take a long time but usually what you need is waiting for you, if you keep looking.

    Best wishes to you both on this. It’s something that a LOT of us are acting on (or are in the preparation stages.)

  • Reply Gretchen |

    We already did that, a little over 2 years ago. My husband switched from a local gv’t job to a state gov’t job and took a pay cut in the process. It was also a job he likes much, much better, and he’s now makeing more than he was at top of grade before.

    So, keep pursueing it, the decision point isn’t yet.

  • Reply Beth |

    Any chance they dropped this little bomb to try and thin out the applicants a little? If a lot of people received call backs, I’m sure quite a few of them were discouraged by this news.

    I’d say keep at it — That way the employers know he’s committed and not just interested in the cash. He can always so no later.

    But a word of warning — Don’t take the job assuming the pay will go up. I took a pay cut on my current job thinking I could make back the money in a year or so with raises. Thanks to the bad economy, that didn’t happen! Nothing is guaranteed.

  • Reply Abby |

    I took the government job.

    Seriously, I was in the exact same position a few months ago. Since then, I’ve been pleased by a few things:

    1. My government job came through with a 2% COLA (cost of living) raise, while my husband’s private sector job froze salaries – and might cut them next.

    2. Our health care co-pays dropped by more than $100/month when I switched to the government-sponsored plan.

    3. It turned out that the total retirement benefit package was better than what I’d initially calculated – meaning that we can defer putting additional after-tax cash into our retirement savings and still meet our goals.

    4. The hours are remarkably steady, and comp time is real. While we still pay babysitters sometimes, especially when my husband’s job is busy, it is nothing compared to what we’d fork out with both of us in the private sector.

    5. Starting next year, I’m eligible for skills pay – basically, bonus checks that I get for certain qualifications.

    Factor in that annual reviews almost always result in a step up the payscale and lay-offs are quite rare, and it is tough to argue with the security of a government job.

    My husband is now looking for a government job, too! Still, I understand your sticker shock – the actual starting salary can make for a tough first year or so.

    Good luck with your decision.

  • Reply Another Reader |

    You two should look at the structure of the department he would be working for and the typical promotional path. For example, this may be an entry-level trainee position. He may get a raise in 6 months and a promotion to the next level after completing the first year. He would then receive the COLA increases annually and be eligible for promotion fairly quickly. Find out what supervisors and managers make and how long before he could compete for those positions. I tripled my salary in 10 years in a local government agency this way.

    Also, you need to look at the benefits. The health insurance and the retirement system are important considerations. Once you have paid off your debt and increased the family income, he may have access to a second retirement savings vehicle, the deferred compensation plan.

    That being said, I would be extremely cautious about taking a position with the State of California. The state has continuously cut employee benefits over the last 15 or 20 years and the current budget situation will mean layoffs and more cuts.

  • Reply Just_Write_A_Check |

    I guess my view is different. Too many agencies are cutting healthcare and retirement benefits, and I think it’s highly improbable that those benefits will still be in place 10 years from now, much less in 30 years when you’re ready to retire.

    If he takes a cut now, he’s low man on the totem pole, so first to get cut if there are layoffs. Bad plan in this economy.

    To take the cut while counting in future money/benefits is a huge risk. What happens if they discontinue these plans? Even if it’s in a contract, I would be very hesitant, too many other companies AND government agencies have been able to get out of these commitments. Be careful!

  • Reply Margot |

    First, you should be more positive given your previous post essentially declaring he won’t get the position. Second, you shouldn’t worry yet – he still has a long process to go through before worrying about whether he even gets the offer. If he does get the offer he should, within reason, do what he loves. Following money only works in the short-term. If it’s a job he’ll love, he’ll do well and make more over time.

    Finally, there’s no excuse for going back to only making minimum payments on your debts. You’re both able-bodied people. Even if he takes a pay cut, both of you can get second, part-time jobs to bring in extra money for a set period of time to pay off debts.

  • Reply Jen |

    I agree with others who say he should still pursue the position. He could be considered for another position. Also, interviewing will help him stay in practice for future job interviews.

    If he’s offered the job, try to take a close look at the benefits for both the govt job and his current job. Is it possible that once you factor in medical co-pays, insurance premium deductions, and 401(k) matches that he could break even or come out ahead? For example, if he pays $200/month pre-tax for medical insurance, and he’d pay nothing with the govt job, then depending on his witholding rate the hit to his net pay might not be as bad as you think.

  • Reply John |

    Having one of you working toward a government pension would really be a good thing longterm. It is a stable financial foundation onwhich to build a retirment…. plus health insurance for life.

    Plus once in, moving up and around will be a lot easier than getting in.

  • Reply jennifer youngblood |

    I’ll be entering the job market soon and while my situation is different, I’m very much considering positions that may pay 15%+ less than other opportunities. The lower paying jobs seem like a better fit for me, where I would be the happiest and most productive.

    If there is nowhere to grow at his current position that may become frustrating and his current job may get boring (or perhaps it already is). It all depends on what makes him happy. For me, when I have jobs where there is nowhere to grow, or no way to take on additional responsibility I get bored/frustrated pretty quickly. My top criterion for job positions actually have nothing to do with pay. Now, I couldn’t accept a position that was a SEVERE underpayment (something like 40% less than some of the top paying offers) because that would hurt my career. It’s all a balancing act. But, for me, 20%, 25% difference? I can handle that. I want to enjoy my life. 🙂

  • Reply Sara |

    I agree…pursue the job. govt jobs, or any job for that matter, in this day are few and far between. 🙂

  • Reply NoDebtGuy |

    I would continue the process for the job and if it is offered make the decision then. There is much to be said about a pension and government job stability.

  • Reply Caitlin |

    I agree with almost everyone else. Keep pursuing the job, and make a decision if you are offered the job. At that point, you’ll have a lot more information about the job and will be able to make a more informed decision.

  • Reply Da Big D |

    Have him check the contractors in the area. SD is full of government contractors who are always highering. And they pay a lot more then the government ever will.

    Also do the math. Add his salary to retirement. Then add benefits / pension to a certain age (say 85?) then add how much money he will make now, and save till he “retires” from that job. Does it make sense to take the lower paying governement job?

  • Reply Kin |

    25% sounds like a lot. At this point, it would be wise to ask yourself (well, for you as a couple) what is enough?

    If the pay is “enough or more than enough” even after the cut, what’s not to like about it.

  • Reply Nicole |

    I’d take the new job. Better to go somewhere where the sky’s the limit than stay at a dead end job.

  • Reply Abigail |

    I actually kind of empathize. It’s not the same situation, but my husband and I are considering a move to Arizona. We’re still in debt and we’d need to afford a car before we could go down. But his health problems up here in WA act up so badly, he can’t really work. Down there, he’s fine. So we may have to make what, on the face of it, appears to be a bad PF decision for our longer term financial health.

    I’d say to keep going through the process, for sure. Worry about taking the job once it’s officially offered to him.

    The fact is he’s clearly not happy at his current position. Rather, with his current position’s prospects. Eventually you’ll have to make that move. At least with a government job, it’ll probably be steady, assured work.

  • Reply Tvents |

    People sometimes have to face some difficult problems in their lives. And sometimes people also have some choices to solve the problems. Since people are given potential skills, they can choose and do the right ways. I’m sure you can do this.

  • Reply Mary |

    My brother is 46 and has been in a govt job since age 18. He can practically retire…but his job is currently on the “reduction in force” list…if the job goes away, he returns to a 3rd shift job working a machine, assuming there are any openings for him to do so.

    You can’t necessarily count on retiring from a gov’t position in our current economy.

So, what do you think ?