If you find yourself looking for a new position in a higher or lower cost of living location, you want to make sure you come with the right tools when it comes to salary negotiations. Now more than ever, candidates hold what seems to be the majority of the cards during these negotiations, but you still need facts to back you up! As a Co-Founder of Froot Group Staffing, a church staffing company, I have been involved in many salary negotiations and I want to share with you a few things that may help you if you find yourself in this situation in the near future.
Know Your Worth
This is the first measure you need to identify before factoring in the cost of living differences. In my opinion, your worth is not based on how much debt you have, whether or not your spouse works, or how many kids you have. Your worth is based solely on what YOU can bring to the table. Sure those other factors may cause you to make different decisions when it comes to finding the right job, but having more responsibility on your plate means you need to bring more to the table if you want to be worth more to an organization that is willing to hire you. Education, years of experience, the quality of experience you have had in the past, staff you have overseen, ability to relate and connect with people, and other competencies are all factors that organizations will look at when factoring your worth. Knowing the results of some of these factors will help you (and the organization) determine what you are worth paying.
I always receive questions from candidates I speak to about whether it is alright to move up in salary when transitioning from one place to the next. We always need to check our heart on this before diving into justifying it to ourselves, but in short I believe the answer is yes. Many organizations are not actively keeping up with inflation year to year in giving their employees raises, so use this transition as an opportunity to correct your worth with how inflation has grown. Our number one ministry we are called to take care of is our families, so as long as our increase is in line with what we believe our worth is and how inflation has affected that worth, then I believe our hearts are in the right place when asking for this increase. Remember, 1 Timothy 6:10 says “For the LOVE of money is a root of all kinds of evil…”, not money in itself.
Cost of Living Differences
Finally, this is the final factor in determining what salary number to present to the organization you are applying for. There are typically two different scenarios you will find yourself in. One, you are moving from a higher cost of living area to a lower cost of living area, or vice versa. Both can be difficult pills to swallow!
Housing costs are the largest factor in the cost differences, which often is driven by…you guessed it…location location location! If you are moving from Elkhart, IN to Miami, FL where the cost of living difference is around 53%, you can’t always expect a 53% increase in salary, because part of what you are “paying for” is the benefit of the location. Now you might look at that difference and say a 30% increase in salary is more reasonable, but maybe you’d need to find a house 20 minutes from your organization instead of 5 to expand your housing search.
I believe that the hardest move to make is from a higher cost of living area to a lower area. Making $80k in a city like Houston and a similar position in Canton, OH is going to equate to around $62k for a lateral move. However the same $400k house in Houston may translate to $250k in Canton, which is a HUGE difference and may actually give you more room in your budget after paying your mortgage. These are all factors to consider!
The best tools I use to come up with some of these calculations are very simple to use. The first place I like to go to is bestplaces.net to give me a general idea of the cost of living differences. The site allows you to put in your current city, future city, and current salary to give you a rough estimate of what your current salary should laterally translate to in your future city.
Zillow is the next place I go to. I always try to cross reference what bestplaces.net is telling me the median home cost is with the actual types of homes I would consider purchasing through Zillow. Make sure those numbers align and adjust your cost of living differences as needed, though make sure your calculations are all lateral! Again, you’re not worth more because you want a larger house!
ChurchSalary.com is the final resource I typically use. This is one of the most robust tools because it calculates many factors, including the church specific position you are applying for. It does require a subscription, but many churches subscribe to this resource as well as search firms. If you become a Froot Group candidate, I would be more than happy to run a free report through ChurchSalary.com for you!
Written by: Alex Purtell
Alex is a co-founder of Froot Group, a church staffing company, and a worship pastor at Lifepoint Church in Lewis Center, OH.