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The Average American Worker's Total Pay, Including Benefits -- How Do You Compare?

By Todd Campbell - Jan 30, 2016 at 7:40PM

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Total compensation for American workers reached $33.37 per hour last fall.

Image source: Flickr user

Ever tear open the envelope, see the amount on the check, and wonder "What do others make?" If so, you're not alone.

Whether it's breaking the seal on the tried-and-true envelope or logging in to make sure a direct deposit hit the bank account, Americans are incredibly curious about how their income measures up. Don't let me keep you in suspense.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent report, the average American worker's wages and salaries averaged $22.88 per hour in September.

That's a healthy income, but that number only reflects two-thirds of worker's total pay, because it doesn't include the cost of employee benefits. If you include an employer's cost for benefits, the average American's compensation jumps even higher.

Benefits are a big part of a person's pay
It's probably not surprising to hear that the cost of providing employee benefits has been increasing. Rising healthcare premiums, for example, have captured a significant amount of media attention, and those rising health insurance costs are probably taking a larger bite out of your paycheck than they have in the past.

Because you're paying more for your health insurance, it may be tempting to think employers are getting increasingly stingy when it comes to paying for your benefits, but that isn't necessarily the case, because the amount employers spend on benefits grew 2.4% year over year in September, 2014, and it grew by another 1.8% year over year in September 2015.

A good portion of the money being spent on your benefits is tied to your employer's share of your health insurance premium, but health insurance isn't the only benefit you should factor into your compensation.

Other benefits that make a meaningful contribution to your pay include paid leave, supplemental pay, retirement and savings, and other legally required benefits, such as worker's compensation and Social Security.

Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Benefits by the numbers
Total up the various benefits that employers offer, and it adds an additional $10.48 per hour in employee compensation, bringing total pay for the average American employee to $33.37 per hour.

On average, employers spend $2.97 per hour on insurance, including health insurance. Paid leave, such as vacation and holiday pay, accounts for $2.32 per hour, and retirement and savings-related expenses, such as 401(k) contributions, account for an average of $1.72 per hour.

Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Fool-worthy bottom line
According to Korn Ferry Hay Group's 2016 Salary Forecast, real wages, or wages adjusted for inflation, will grow by 2.7% this year -- the biggest increase in years.

Since employee wages are expected to grow, employees ought to start planning now so any additional increase goes to securing their financial future.

After all, when you retire, it will matter a lot less what your average pay was during your working years than what you chose to do with the income you did earn. Smart money moves you make today, such as taking advantage of retirement plans, including Roth IRAs and budgeting, can lead to a retirement nest egg that's the envy of everyone. 

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