This is the twenty-second in a series of blogs supporting the College to Career Calendar available for downloading at Today’s blog discusses determining the amount and benefits you need to maintain your lifestyle. We have developed tip sheet on salary negotiation you might want to check out.


I frequently get asked by new graduates how to respond to questions about salary expectations. I let the person asking know that I cannot provide a number but I can provide a formula for calculating the low and high end of the salary range for a position

To calculate the minimum salary you would accept you need to calculate your living expenses for the area where your job will be located and add the taxes that will come out of each paycheck. If you are considering relocating to more than one area, calculate the cost for each city. Include in your calculations estimates for:

  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Internet Access
  • Phone
  • Land Line (phone)
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Healthcare
  • Entertainment
  • Travel
  • Gym Fees
  • Loan Payments

Once you have determined the amount of money you will need to meet your living expenses you need to add in the amount you will pay in federal, state, local, and social security taxes to arrive at your minimum salary. The amount withheld for all of these is based on a percentage of your salary. Taxes rates are subject to change and the information provided here is offered only as a starting point for estimating possible deductions. For exact number consult an accounting profession who handles employer taxes.

  • Social Security: 6.2 %
  • Medicare: 1.45% (add a .9% surtax if your salary is $200,000+)
  • Federal Taxes: the IRS provides this site to help you calculate your taxes
  • State and Local taxes: Go to the official government website for the state/city where you will be working and search for employee tax rates.

To determine the maximum amount you should ask for you can use on-line resources. The first site to check is the job listing for the position you are considering. If the salary range is posted you know the maximum salary the employer will offer. If it is not posted, check out a site like This site provides salary ranges for jobs by geographic location. A final source of salary information is state government human resources sites. Most states list job descriptions and salary ranges for all civil service positions.

A few questions to consider before you determine the salary you will request:

  • Does your minimum salary requirement fall below the minimum listed for the job? If yes, raise your minimum to the minimum listed.
  • Does your minimum salary exceed the salary maximum? Review your minimum salary calculations and ask if there are expenses you can/want to reduce. If there are not areas where you can reduce costs, you may need to consider seeking a position in a more affordable geographic location or a higher level position.

You should now be able to state with confidence a salary range you would accept. Next week we will discuss strategies for securing a salary in your desired range and the effect a benefits package can have on evaluating an offer.

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