Why Big CTC Is Just a Marketing Gimmick: Understanding Salary Offers

When you're in the process of looking for a job or hearing about job offers, you often encounter high numbers related to salaries. These numbers are called CTC, or Cost to Company, which is the total amount of money a company spends on an employee each year.


Aditya Sharma

5/8/20244 min read

When you're in the process of looking for a job or hearing about job offers, you often encounter high numbers related to salaries. These numbers are called CTC, or Cost to Company, which is the total amount of money a company spends on an employee each year. When you see headlines about high CTCs, it can be exciting, but the reality is often different. This article aims to break down what CTC really means and how it affects you as an employee.

Companies often use the term CTC (Cost to Company) to display higher salary numbers, but the actual amount received by employees is often much lower. The article discusses the different components of CTC, such as fixed salary, allowances, variable pay, and ESOPs, and highlights the importance of understanding these components to determine the actual salary received. It also emphasizes the need for employees to assess their financial situation, risk-taking ability, and long-term goals before making decisions about salary negotiations and ESOPs.

Key Insights

💰 The term CTC is often used by companies to attract top talent and enhance their reputation as high paymasters, benefiting not only the employees but also the company, colleges, and parents.

💼 The components of CTC, such as fixed salary, allowances, and variable pay, play a significant role in determining the actual salary received by an employee. Understanding these components is crucial for employees to make informed decisions.

🏢 ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) can be a risky component of CTC as their value depends on the company’s performance and future stock prices. Employees need to carefully assess the risks and benefits before choosing ESOPs as part of their compensation.

📈 Long-term games and loyalty to a company can potentially lead to higher returns, especially when it comes to ESOPs. Sticking with a company that has growth potential and a strong vision can result in significant financial gains.

🤝 Negotiating salary based on personal needs, tax benefits, and long-term financial goals is important. Employees should consider their current financial situation, risk tolerance, and the market conditions before accepting a job offer.

What Is CTC?

CTC stands for Cost to Company, which is the total amount of money a company spends on an employee annually. It's the complete cost to the company for hiring you. This number is not what you receive in your bank account every month. Instead, it's a combination of various components that include both fixed and variable aspects.

Fixed and Variable Components of CTC

  1. Fixed Components: These include:

    • Basic Salary: This is a fixed amount of money you get every month before tax deductions. It usually constitutes about 50% of your entire CTC.

    • Allowances: These are extra benefits the company offers, such as housing rent allowance (HRA), travel allowance, and others. Some of these allowances offer tax benefits.

  2. Variable Components: This part of your salary can change based on your performance and other factors. It can include bonuses, commissions, and incentives. These depend on your work performance and the overall performance of the company.

  3. Stock Component (ESOPs): This portion of your compensation is tied to the company's stock and can be a risky aspect of your offer.

Why Companies Present Salaries as CTC

Companies present salaries as CTC for various reasons:

  • Attract Talent: A high CTC makes a company look like a great paymaster, attracting top talent.

  • Publicity: Offering a high CTC brings fame and attention to the company and the colleges or universities from which the new employees graduate.

  • Social Pride: High CTCs give parents and graduates bragging rights.

Components of a CTC

  1. Basic Salary: This is a fixed amount you receive each month before tax. It’s usually around 50% of your entire CTC.

  2. Allowances: These include:

    • HRA (Housing Rent Allowance): A portion of your salary meant to help you cover accommodation costs. A part of the HRA is exempt from tax if certain conditions are met.

    • Other Allowances: Leave travel allowance, phone reimbursements, food coupons, and more. These can offer tax benefits but require proof of expenses.

  3. Variable Pay: This includes bonuses and incentives based on performance. The amount you receive can vary depending on how well you perform and how the company is doing.

  4. ESOPs (Employee Stock Options): This is where companies offer you the option to buy company stocks at a discounted rate. This can be risky because it depends on the company's performance and your ability to remain with the company.

Considerations When Assessing an Offer

When evaluating an offer, there are several things you should consider:

  • Tax Bracket: Understand what tax bracket you fall into. This will help you determine how much tax you need to pay.

  • Personal Expenses: Assess your own needs for housing, travel, and other expenses to decide how to allocate your salary structure.

  • Company's Financial Health: Research the company's past performance and financial health to determine if it’s a good investment in terms of ESOPs and other variable components.

How to Handle ESOPs

ESOPs can be a risky component of your offer, so it's important to understand how they work:

  • Vesting Period and Cliff: These determine how long you have to stay with the company before you can exercise your stock options.

  • Strike Price: This is the price you will pay to purchase one share of the company when you exercise your options.

  • Liquidation Preferences: Understand who gets paid first if the company is sold or liquidated.

Other Benefits

Some additional benefits you might encounter include health insurance, gym memberships, and even travel perks. These can offer ways to save on taxes and enjoy other benefits as an employee.

Current Market Conditions

Currently, there are many layoffs and salary cuts due to economic challenges. Therefore, don't expect employers to offer huge salaries like they did during the peak of COVID-19. Understand the market conditions before negotiating your offer.


To make the most out of your job offers, evaluate the different components of your salary, including fixed and variable pay, and ESOPs. Understand your tax bracket, financial situation, and long-term goals. Choose an offer that aligns with your needs and gives you a balance between immediate cash flow and long-term growth potential. By being informed and assessing each aspect of the offer, you can make smarter decisions about your career.