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Muhammed Goolab, executive committee member of the South African Reward Association (Sara), answers frequently asked questions about your pay.

* Why do my friends get paid more than me if we do the same work? Several factors determine individual pay levels. Some industries pay more for a specific skill, or may even pay a premium for skills on which they place more value.

A company's financial performance, as well as the individual's performance, can also contribute to different salaries for the same skill.

* How do I get more cash out of my salary? Most organisations in South Africa offer cost-to-company packages which indicate the total direct and indirect (for example, pension and medical scheme benefits) pay that an employee receives in a year.

Cost-to-company packages generally allow employees to adjust some of the benefits of their package, such as pension fund and medical scheme contributions.

Reducing your contributions can lead to more cash in your pocket each month, but employees who do this often sacrifice some of the benefits towards which they were contributing.

It is important to understand the benefits that you want to receive and make sure you are making an appropriate contribution towards your retirement and healthcare each month.

* Why is my salary increase less than the increase in my medical scheme contribution? The drivers that determine salary increases within a business are different from the drivers behind medical scheme increases.

Medical scheme inflation is defined as the annual increase in claims received by medical schemes and has generally increased by more than the Consumer Price Index. This is driven by the rising cost of medical services, as well as the demand from clients on medical schemes.

Salary increases are driven by company performance, individual performance, union agreements, industry trends and salary market movements.

* Why do I have to be on a company-appointed medical scheme? Whether or not an employee must belong to a company-appointed medical scheme depends on the company for which you work.

Companies that make medical scheme membership compulsory for their staff are typically able to admit new members without paying late-joiner penalties or being subjected to waiting periods.

Medical schemes would typically not grant automatic membership to new staff without underwriting them unless membership is compulsory.

* What medical scheme/retirement fund should I choose? This depends on your individual needs. Companies that offer medical scheme benefits as part of their employment contracts generally have an appointed adviser within the scheme to guide employees on the most appropriate plan for their circumstances and family situations.

Speak to the adviser to make an informed decision. Similarly, retirement fund contributions will differ depending on your needs.

Discuss your retirement goals with a financial adviser, to make sure you are on track to meeting your retirement goals.

PERSONAL FINANCE