How much money do you want?

This past week, students have been participating in real and mock interviews. Interviewers often start with simple questions, then move to tougher questions, like “How much money do you require?” or if you have been in the field a while, they often ask “How much money do you make?”

As an interviewer, I am looking for a straight, no-nonsense answer: “I expect to start at a wage that is comparable to others within your organization who have my education and experience,” is an acceptable first response, as long as the dollar follows: “$36,000 would be acceptable.”

But how do you get to a number? First of all, do your homework. Ask for informational interviews at the companies in which you want to work. Research the occupation. Go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Check out the averages. Then, know the statistics of those graduating from that college.

Then, you need to know how much money you need. Go to the “Jobs Now Coalition” to do a little calculating. One of the reasons this is a good tool is that it lists things like medical care. This is good because you can use this to calculate the value of benefits a company offers. For example, health care for 1 adult in the 7 county metro area costs that person $134/month on average. This is how much the person pays out of his or her pocket, including deductibles. So if the employer pays 100% of medical deductibles, that is like money in your pocket. (See to get an idea of medical costs)

Be aware that some costs are not listed on the above web site, so you’ll need to add some costs…like loan payments!

Let’s start with financial aid. How much did you borrow or are you planning on borrowing? The more you borrow, the more payments you’ll be making. Go to the “Financial Aid Calculator” if you don’t know the amount of your payment. The Federal Stafford Loan has a fixed interest rate of 6.8% and the Federal PLUS loan has a fixed rate of 8.5%. Perkins loans have a fixed interest rate of 5%. The max loan length is 10 years.

Want a new car? I hear that a lot from new graduates. It may not be the wisest decision. The average rate for a new car loan in the twin cities area is 8% for a $20,000 fixed-rate loan (assuming you have “very good” credit, which means making your student loan payments on time). Your payment would be $400 each month for 5 years. Let’s say you don’t have such good credit. See for up to date rates and payment calculations (based on your credit worthiness).

To summarize: don’t sit there like a deer in headlights when someone asks you how much money you want. Research both the pay of that job and your needs. This will help you make an informed decision and look prepared in the eyes of the interviewer.