Taking Pay Cut: Smart or Stupid?

Brooklyn's Chereen Marshall did what so many of you are doing. She took a "pay cut" of $110 weekly to have a job as a cosmetologist. Now, she wonders if that was smart or stupid. On unemployment, Marshall received $325 every week. After hunting for months, she accepted a job for $215 weekly.

A number of law associates at Mayer Brown accepted pay cuts of $100,000 each to be farmed out from the law firm to work onsite at its corporate clients. Long Island teachers agreed to a $900 annual temporary reduction in salary.

So, were those moves smart or stupid? Like most realities in today's uncertain job market, there are no absolute answers. There are only guidelines to apply to your very unique situation.

Here are some factors to consider:

Benefits. Does getting or holding on to benefits trump the cash compensation gap?

Investing in your career. This particular experience can lead to the the next job, which will probably be better, especially if the economy improves.

Avoiding gap on resume. Most employers perceive working as better than not working. This job isn't forever. Sure, hunt while you're getting a paycheck.

Nature of the sacrifice.In addition to less cash, consider what else are you giving up and whether you can handle that without losing a piece of yourself -- which you are not likely to get back.

Timing. If you're at the end of unemployment, the timing indicates to grab what you can.

Tradeoffs. Less pay might mean less of a commute, shorter working hours, and more job satisfaction.

Since there are no right answers -- only better ones for you -- don't expect to feel complete inner peace with whatever decision you make.

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