Frugal Living 
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Try Living On Minimum Wage

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Stacks of CoinsWant to learn how to be frugal without having to resort to the extremes of spending only a dollar a day on meals? Try living on minimum wage. I’m not recommending that you pull a Morgan Spurlock but you should try to put yourself into the shoes of millions of Americans working a minimum wage job and try to figure out how they’re surviving. They do it every single day and they, through trial by fire, have learned what it takes to truly be frugal. You have to walk a mile in a man’s (or woman’s) shoes to truly understand.

Minimum Wage

So, how much is minimum wage and how much can you spend? The Federal Minimum Wage is currently $6.55 an hour, set to increase to $7.25 an hour on July 24th, 2009 (it may be higher in your state). If you assume an 8 hour day, that’s a grand total of $52.40 in earnings that day.

Taxes: If you worked 2,000 hour (the standard number of hours budgeted by companies) year, $6.55 is only $13,100 a year. Once you deduct the standard deduction of $5,450, we’re talking $7,650 of taxable income assuming no other deductions. According to the 2008 IRS tax brackets, you would be taxed at 10% for a total tax of $765.

Your $13,100 a year is effectively $12,335 after taxes. That’s a little under $1028 a month.

Rent: It’s difficult to assume what your rent is because it varies across the country but let’s take a nice round number of $500. Deduct $500 from $1028 and you’re left with $528. Divide that by 30 to figure out how much you can spend each day.

How Much Can You Spend?

The answer is $17.60. (if you assumed rent of $300, that would still leave you with only $24.27 a day to spend)

That’s right, if you work eight hours of minimum wage and have a $500 a month rent payment, you can only spend $17.60 before you start going into debt ($25 if you pay only $300 a month in rent). This is why so many people working minimum wage work two or three jobs, because eight hours is simply not enough. (There may be other social programs to help, like food stamps, but I didn’t want to get overly complicated in this discussion)

Eye opening huh? Try living on less than $18 a day for an entire month, I mean really try, and you’ll discover some things you didn’t think were possible.

(Photo: ppdigital)

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127 Responses to “Try Living On Minimum Wage”

  1. daub815 says:

    I wish I could do that, but my base rent is $11,000 a year! Minimum wage is a joke IMHO.

    • tom says:

      Is it really a joke?

      Many people do it, and you can definitely learn a lot and start to appreciate things.

      • daub815 says:

        A joke in the fact that people can barely get by because inflation has surpassed minimum wage. Minimum wage needs to be increase and stay at least close to inflation.

        Just because my rent is high doesn’t mean I don’t try to be thrifty.

  2. Michael harr says:

    I did a quick calc on how much a career minimum wage worker would have IF his/her social security deductions were invested in the American Funds Investment Company of America (used this because it’s an old sturdy fund). The amount of money in that account AFTER the market collapse last year would still be over $500,000!

    As for the minimum wage, it should be set higher and indexed for real inflation including transportation, energy, etc. I think of Kennedy when he spiked the minimum wage and if we had adjusted for inflation since then, we’d be looking a much higher minimum wage.

    By the way, there is no reason for people to live on minimum wage their entire lives unless they are disabled in some way. We have educational opportunities that are subsidized by government loans and someone making the minimum would certainly qualify for a subsidized Stafford loan and could easily find a community or technical college to acquire a skill.

    • Anonymous says:

      Um stafford loans are capped as to how much you can borrow. They don’t usually cover the tuition, and you still have books, technology fees, parking sticker (I live in the country with no bus service) and as far as grants, I did work for minimum wage when I went to college, and did NOT qualify for grants because I MADE TOO MUCH!! I don’t know how but it is not as easy as you think. I had to work 2 jobs the entire time I was in college and borrown the maximum to cover my tuition and beg & borrow books.

    • Patrick says:

      I am a College Graduate, I am working in the field and I have been working for minimum wage for almost a year. I understand the need to make a profit, but I live on way less than this article stipulates, because of student loans $1500 will take me several years to pay off, rent, car payments/Insurance and internet. Want to talk about frugal, try living off $20.00, a week on groceries. You know all the national holidays I never get to take those off either because I cant afford to. Even when I work those holidays I do not make as much as a government worker, in two weeks. How do I know this? I used to be one!

  3. And yet so many lobbyists cry out when somebody tries to increase the minimum wage. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to live on $18/day.

    Btw, I think you may have left out the $3,500 exemption when calculating after-tax pay. Not that it changes the situation substantially…We’d still be looking at less than $20/day.

  4. tom says:

    This of course trains ourselves to be more frugal and committed. We will learn to manage the money we have a lot better.

    But I think people should try to not get themselves into this situation because it is almost like a no return zone.

    My friend recently is having financial issues because she has a 20K car, renting an apartment and no job for a few months. And she is about to loose the car.

    if you ask me, she got herself into a messy situation from the start, without proper planning.

    Working multiple jobs will not help because you are working the jobs to stay alive, and is that really your purpose as a human being?

  5. I'llDoIt says:

    I think I could do 18.00 a day.

  6. Devin Elder says:

    That’s an eye opener.

    We trim everything we can to get out of debt (halfway there on $90k), but we’d have to trim a lot more to get by on minimum wage.

    I think getting out of debt is all about perspective… thanks for this one.

  7. velvet jones says:

    I took the monthly after-tax income and tried to work it from my perspective, living in a large city with a HCOL and extensive public transportation.

    $550–Rent (from Craigs list. includes heat)
    $30–Electric (guesstimate)
    $30–Cooking gas (guessimate)
    $30–Hot water (doesn’t say if included in rent)
    $50–Cell phone
    $25–Renters insurance (some places make this mandatory)
    $86–Monthly pass for train/bus system in city and a couple burbs
    $25–Laundry
    $30–Angel Food Ministries (instead of groceries, if managed well could last a single person for just about a month)
    $50–Household/supplemental food groceries

    That still leaves me with a little over $140, however this is for a single, healthy person. You’ll notice health insurance isn’t included. I’m assuming this person will have some kind of furniture. I’m sure I’m missing a few things also, but this is just my first blush, and I know this would be extremely difficult for most people on minimum wage. Something else to note, this rent is low, however this was one of maybe two rents I could find in this range. Whis so many people struggling, and so few low-income housing prospects, who’s to even say this apartment would be available? Add children, illness, and/or debt and the game completely changes. Pretty cool exercise to get you thinking. If anything, that most of use who read these blogs are pretty luck.

  8. Dreamer says:

    This is a very interesting article. I’ve never really given a thought to how difficult it would be trying to live making only minimum wage. It would be an interesting experiment for me to see how close I could come to living off of so little every month but I doubt my wife would go for it.

  9. Of course you’ve seen the Morgan Spurlock show 30 Days where one episode he does exactly this. He and his wife move to Cleveland with just his identification and no money and tries to live for 30 days. It’s an eye opener.

  10. Jim says:

    Michael, how did you do that calculation about social security? Did you take into account that minimum wage was $1-2 and SS tax rates were 3-4% in the 60′s and 70′s? Did you figure the 5% load fee on that mutual fund? And also very importantly did you use the AVERAGE annual rate of return quoted by the fund or the actual compound annual growth rate? Using the average annual rate could make the figures off by 10-30% pretty easily over a 2-3 decade period.

    • Michael harr says:

      I used the actual performance from the fund year by year with a lump sum deposit equal to 15% of pay. This is roughly the equivalent of today’s Social Security tax paid either fully by those self employed or half and half from the employer. The purpose of the calc was not in looking back, but in looking forward to where we could be with private accounts which I am a big proponent of. The load is irrelevant since I could have used another fund with similar performance. I elected for AIVSX because it’s old and I didn’t feel like looking elsewhere. You can see the article at http://www.waldenadvisors.com/20081018NN. The point of the analysis is to demonstrate that if you work for 40+ years, your retirement should look a helluvalot better than what we see today. Hope that answers your questions.

      • Jim says:

        Michael, Good analysis. I agree that the choice of fund won’t make a big difference. I think the S&P500 returned something in the 10-12% range long term, so you could just go with that. Your analysis did however assume 15% tax rate and the withholding from SS has not been that high in previous decades. Back in the 60′s and 70′s the withholding rates were 4-5% range. And today the SS withholding is 6.2% so double that is 12.4%. If you use the actual historical SSA tax rates then your total will drop to something around $340k rather than $500k.

  11. Rev says:

    Wow. I pay more than $13,100 a year in rent alone. That doesn’t include any utilities, phone or cable. But then again I could get a significantly cheaper apartment if I made less.

    • Jim says:

      How does how much you earn affect how much you pay in rent?

      • Manuel says:

        That’s quite easy, you rent what you can afford… where I live, I pay almost $20k/year in rent, but I live in a nice place. If I moved about two miles south, I’d pay less than $8k, but I’d be living in the ghetto and would have to fear for my live. I prefer to pay more and live safer.

        • Justme says:

          I am in college, I work minimum wage, my rent is only $630/month……and I live in the suburbs. There are lots of wealthy people in my area, and I dont have to fear for my life. The statement YOU made was offensive.

          And FYI! You shouldn’t assume that you will have to fear for your life just because lower income families live in a particular area. That is not always the case. I can tell there is a reason behind your statment and I know what it is.

          • Manuel says:

            Well, it all depends on where you live, of course, however, from my experience, and that of many of my friends, generally, the more rent you can afford, the better and safer an area you will end up in. I have friends that live in very rural areas and $425 a month in rent is too much for them, however, that $425 rents in a very safe area.

            Interestingly, things have changed much since I originally posted. I no longer live in the $20k/year place, and, that is due in large part because rent actually decreased, drastically. When I left there in May 2009, the average new renter would have paid around $1000/month, compared to the $1650 I was paying. Additionally, policies like “no rust on your car”, no playing in the road, etc disappeared almost overnight. The tenant crowd quickly turned over from upper middle class white collar to multi-family section 8 level housing. It got so bad that my car was vandalized, which was the final straw for me, I was the second to last white person to leave that neighborhood, my poor next door neighbors had just moved in sight unseen from South Carolina and were ready leave again also. The ghetto did successfully push in and took over, I don’t blame the landlord for this though, they were hurting for business and I suppose it made sense to fill the properties rather than to leave them empty.
            Now, you can call me racist if you want, but I’ve seen this first hand, I never thought something like this could happen, but I saw it happening, an entire area turned over in the matter of a few months.

  12. Jessica says:

    I’d like to think it’s not too difficult to find a job that pays more than minimum wage. Gosh a waiter or waitress makes more than that in tips alone at even a a sub par restaurant(I know, I used to be one. I’d average at least $12/hr). Even something like a mail sorter starts out at more than minimum wage if you’re willing to work early morning hours.

    Still it never hurts to strive towards frugality. That said, I also think that rewarding yourself for all the hardwork and discipline it takes to get through college, find a good job, keep the good job and earn good raises is necessary (or why work so hard?). You can’t take it with you when you die and if you raise your children right, they won’t need it either.

  13. Phil says:

    How many minimum wage workers have their own apartment?

    Why should they be paid more or less than minimum wage?

    Should someone without any training be paid the same as someone with many years of training?

    If you are working a minimum wage job, then why not go to school? Community college is there. College loans and grants are there.

    I truly believe that anybody can get ahead in this country. If you seek to better yourself and have the discipline to make the right choices you will live a comfortable life. If you want to coast through life then you should not expect to pick yourself out of poverty.

    • mindy says:

      You should be paid on how well you can do the job. A willing person who desires to work, but can only get a minimum wage job, should not have to suffer like someone who doesn’t care about working.

      You can only get college loans, if your credit is good. You can only get grants if you fall in the guidelines that often leave people out.

      Income based housing has extremely long waiting lists… as does programs like Medicaid. And some gals, like myself don’t really feel safe in some of those areas.

      I say this all from experience. I am living it right now. I have two children, one with Autism, and I cant afford his medications. I must choose between food for the month or a trip to the Er when the baby gets Pneumonia.

      I drive a 15 year old car, with no heat, and the windows don’t work. But no extra to get a newer one, or repairs. Then there’s insurance, and fuel.

      No not everyone can get ahead in this country. Some people just do well to survive, not thrive.

      I guess you are pretty well to do. You probably made good choices in your younger days, and reap the benefits. I on the other hand married and had babies young. Instead of getting an education. I also made mistakes, and now I reap.

      But I say again… no one should have to remain down by circumstance if they desire a hand up to help them. In my sleepy little town I have called agencies for Job seeking/ searching/bettering myself help… and was told that doe to the “economy” those programs were shut down.

      I guess I am just a bit tired, I am tired, and I am jaded. I could pick up myself out of poverty if I was a single individual, but I am not, my arms are full and they are heavy with my babies, and the dreams that I have for them to have better than this.

      • Coreelyn says:

        Just beautiful. Keep your head up honey. I have a couple of degrees and made good choices in my younger days. It wasn’t until I was 30, met a jerk, had a baby, and now making so little money. I live with my parents so I have a little bit of wiggle room. I don’t know how I would do it if I had to pay rent and childcare. May God richly bless all of low paid workers. Making minimum wage doesn’t make us any less of a person.

    • Justme says:

      I agree in a way, yes people do have to be strong enough to make the choice to do something better with his/her life. Then again, what if there is a unique situation that doesnt enable a person to move out of poverty without sacrificing something/some one that is extremely meaningful to them?

  14. ben says:

    Been there, done that. I would walk 5 miles round trip to the Wendy’s where I worked to save the $1 buss fee each way.

    Now-a-days I’m out $8 in tolls plus $4 in gas just to get me to work and back.

    I think life was simpler then and I miss it sometimes.

    Ben

  15. nickel says:

    You left out state taxes as well as social security/medicare, so it’s even less.

  16. Ed says:

    Yeah, but one thing you forget is that many people working on or near minimum wage either don’t live independently or take advantage of economies of scale when it comes to their housing. Being such a person myself (masters degree notwithstanding), I’ve been spending the last year figuring out lots of things that bite into costs like that. Just a thought.

  17. Miss M says:

    You think the mortgage company won’t mind if I’m late in paying cause I’m trying this experiment? Unfortunately my fixed expenses are too high to make it for a minute on minimum wage. But it’s useful to think about, I would feel more secure if I knew a minimum wage job could carry me for awhile.

    Another thing to think about, many minimum wage jobs don’t give you 40 hours a week. Mr M is unemployed and looking for work, I’ve noticed that most of the minimum wage jobs here start at $10 an hour but only offer 20 hours a week. He might as well stay on unemployment.

  18. ssnoozz says:

    I enjoyed reading the article and the responses as well, and couldn’t resist replying.
    I live in Phoenix, and have been living on S.S. Disability for a little over a year (after waiting two years+ before seeing any of my hard earned money returned to me for the reason it was taken out of my pay in the first place, for 40 years). I am not ashamed of the fact that I exist in the “below poverty” level (as calculated by our government), but I have found that I cannot find decent or nearby health care for the fact that few doctors accept medicaid. My monthly income is a whopping $1,025.00. My rent is $650.00 per month, not including utilities or any other necessities. Thank God I rent a nice townhome from my daughter, and if I become a little short on funds, she is always understanding. I know for a fact that the federally subsidized housing offered here has a two to four year wait before obtaining any help, and the living conditions in most that I have seen are pretty scarey places, especially for an older woman who lives alone. Thank goodness I have 2 big dogs to watch over me!
    But…all in all, there is no other country I would ever contemplate living in.

    • Jim says:

      Thank you for sharing your story with us. So many times people assume that those living at the poverty level are doing so because they choose to or they are lazy or something (it’s known as the fundamental attribution error, we don’t realize that there are a myriad of situations and circumstances that often force someone into the situation they’re in.

  19. I saw the 30 Days episode that you are referring to when Morgan Spurlock and his fiance did it. It was pretty revealing. They were doing okay until they hit a bump in the road. Basically he went to the ER once and they all of a sudden had a debt they would never be able to pay off. Imagine trying to raise kids with no bumps in the road.

  20. Saver Queen says:

    My rent alone costs way more than the minimum wage monthly earnings… scary. So many people have to get by on so little.

  21. Brad says:

    As noted above, who says you can/should live alone if you only make the minimum wage? Shouldn’t someone in that situation find a cheaper living situation? Self-education, as noted above, is also a key that is left out. Few people should get stuck with a minimum wage job if they will improve themselves. (Yes, some exceptions exist, but those are the exceptions, not the rule.)

    A minimum wage is a joke all around. Even if it provided “enough to live on,” who would guarantee that an employer can afford to employee someone at the arbitrarily decided wage?

    A job is worth what its worth. A business owner that cheats his employees would lose out in a truly free market system that allowed people to change jobs.

    I could ramble a lot, because the situation is much more involved than just “force those greedy companies to pay low-end workers more,” but I won’t now.

    Will an upcoming post also chide us that workers driving on frozen streets (as it was in my area today) get in more accidents, which they can’t afford, so we need a federal law to require companies to let people work from home in such cases?

    BTW, water is wet too!

    Brad

  22. Unfortunately, as a social experiment, this isn’t really practical, the bills still have to be paid this month! If I made minimum wage I wouldn’t live where I live or how I live. Although I do live pretty frugally, I have no interest in living the way I would have to live if I did make minimum wage. Living in a cheap little apartment with a big bank account isn’t a trade-off I’m willing to make. There has to be a happy medium.

    People live at minimum wage for a variety of reasons, some have the power to change that and some do not.

  23. netta says:

    The people here who think getting an education is the answer to a higher wage make me laugh. So easy, right? You’re already working two or three jobs just to put food on the table or a roof over your head, and you’re supposed to find time/energy to research grants or loans, then take on a course load? Yeah, right.

    Even at $12 an hour, before taxes that’s less than $25,000 a year.

    I know people with degrees that are unemployed, working minimum wage jobs, and struggling just like the rest of us. Education doesn’t seem to mean as much at it used to. It certainly is no guarantee to a better life.

    One thing about poverty: the less you have, the less you have to lose. You develop Mad Survival Skillz. You become stronger than you think you can, and you appreciate the things that *really* matter, which don’t include shiny cars, fancy gadgets, or ostentatious houses with more unused rooms than used rooms.

    People need a wake-up call. When you live on the edge, where one bump can sink you, there are bumps everywhere, especially when children are involved.

    Sorry for the rant. I’m sick of the snobbish attitude toward people who work their asses off for next to nothing. These are the people that wait on you at McDonald’s, give you change from filling up your SUV, scan your goods at WalMart or Gordmans. Take a good look, next time. Everyone has a story, we’re all struggling. Some of us a lot more than others, and we’re too busy trying to survive to have anything left over for a luxury like education, or the luxury of a belief that it will make a difference.

    /rant.

    • Jim says:

      I totally agree. I think that people don’t fully understand what it’s like, I know I certainly don’t (but I’m aware that I don’t), to live at that level of income where a small bump can send you spiraling out of control. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it’s certainly a valid point.

    • Zoey says:

      You make a good point about some of the people who go to the McDonald’s and other similar place to eat and shop. As far as wages go, these workers should be given a living wage. Education is important, but not everybody is able, academically or financially, to do higher education. Also, think about it in terms of you, the consumer accessing the service industry…if everybody went out to get a college or university education, who would be left working at the gas stations, take-out restaurants, and the Wal Marts of the world?

    • Billy says:

      If you want to think of something really scary, immagine if everyone in the country was working 20$ per hour high class jobs? No matter what happens there will be the slaves of society. And when the slaves start to outnumber the rich the rich will start to hold the slaves close to the edge in a very fine line. When that line gets out of reach of the rich, the poor shall retaliate wherever they can. My dad makes a good 500k per year. Owns a huge house, lots of kids, LOTS of shiny cars, and works maybe one day per month, (he works full time but its pushing a button on the comp, writing a line of code, surfing youtube, and luch breaks. Only once in a while does a situation occur. He never went to college and He expects the same from me, I have minnimal college, I program fluently in 15 different programming languages, I have a substatial portfolio on projects, and an excellent resume…. Also, I should add a list of over 500 companies across the us who I applied and called and only about 30 interviews. I now work part time at sears at minnimum wage. I have lost faith in the world. I work hard every day to do well at my work, I am good at my work. My next three pay checks are gone for car repairs. Parents rent, and phone/internet/computer device bills. (I use a blackberry instead of a computer.) What have I done wrong? I still apply for even the puniest of computer jobs with no prevail. I’ve worked as a cart pusher, over night crew stocker, car sales, and now retail. And all I have seen that is the same is these rich folk looking down on me like I’m a dumb piece of meat. I hate it. Also in high school I graduated early wiith a 3.5gpa. Its like god just put me on the earth to work less than 900 per month. The system is flawed. Sorry for the rant… This is some bull crap. Wow, and its late, there’s prolly some gramar errors here.

  24. Brad says:

    If you are working at the low end you will never get ahead without improving yourself in some way. What is your solution? Arbitrarily paying people more than they are worth?

    Keep in mind that improving yourself takes time, no matter how you slice it. That improvement is the only way to ultimately change things.

    Some truly are working every possible hour, but how many are spending hours in front of the TV? Even some of those who work hard can put some “free” learning in with what they are already doing.

    Netta, I am sick of the attitude that says I am at fault because I don’t favor raising something that will ultimately lock many of those unskilled people out of the workforce (since they still won’t have enough skills to earn their pay). I am sick of being told that so many people don’t have any choice in their situation.

    Their life may suck, but they are where they are. The only way to get out of their hamster wheel is to make some change that does so. Sure, they may get a bit banged up when they first step out, since the wheel hasn’t stopped yet, but they have to get out if they want to get out!

    Note this says nothing about it being easy. If anything, it is downright hard, but what alternative do you propose?

    In case it matters, I grew up with a single mother who worked her rear off to keep us provided for. We didn’t have a lot, but she advanced as far as she could with what she had. When she finally had the chance to go to school again, it was too hard for her, but she was frugal enough that she managed to make it anyway.

    I refuse to be patronizing to the poor, insisting that their life is out of their control!

    I don’t have an SUV either! Just a paid off 95 Odyssey minivan that the car place says I should replace. But its paid for!

    Brad :)

    • netta says:

      Who said you were at fault, for anything? It’s so interesting to me that people who *have* feel some kind of guilt over people who *have not* and it ends up translating into a patronizing attitude of “Oh, well, you’re poor, just work harder and you can fix it.”

      It doesn’t work that way. And honestly, there’s no reason to argue with ignorance. No one blames you, but a minimum wage that doesn’t even keep up with inflation? No national health care? C’mon, man, you know that ain’t right.

      I sincerely hope that you, Brad, never ever know the kind of life I’m talking about. Most people take the things in their life like iPhones, Wiis, even three meals a day, for granted. Their loss, I say.

      As far as poor people, according to you they are not allowed to watch TV, don’t work hard enough, and expect an easy life? Are you effing kidding me??

      For the record (as if it matters) my mother was also a single mother who raised five of us on practically nothing. Your point?

      I don’t have a solution. I’m just an uneducated, unmotivated, lazy-assed poor person running on the hamster wheel.

      Sheesh.

      • Michael Harr says:

        Netta:

        I understand this is a bit of a lightning rod subject, but the fact still remains that virtually every person that gains a measure of success has earned it in some way. The statistics bear out that the higher one’s level of education, the higher one’s paycheck becomes. Of course, this education has to be translated into value for a company, organization, or the government that employs them later.

        While it’s not an easy road to go to college while working to support a family, there is a tangible reward at the end. Plus, once enrolled in college, there is a definitive amount of time that the pain of school + job + family will end.

        As an example, I have a friend that is in school full time in night classes, works full time in a warehouse, has two children one of which has a serious kidney disease and a mother with cancer living with her. She has already filed bankruptcy, makes just enough to disqualify her from state assistance, and has a multitude of medical bills that she will never be able to payoff. This is not what I call an easy road, but she’s doing it. She just finished her associates degree and is continuing on to finish her bachelors. I look at her and I look at your comments, and I’d much rather push people to go down my friend’s path because there is an end to the suffering.

        To believe that anyone is locked into their situation is ridiculous unless they are living with diminished capacity. Federal and state grants are available and with a public librarian’s help, anyone can find them. We have an abundance of opportunity if only one is willing to make a finite, short term sacrifice and weather the storm.

        While we can all talk about it, my good friend is doing it. She does it with every hour worked, every book she reads, every paper she writes, every test she takes, every doctor she sees, every surgery her son receives, every chemo visit she takes her mom to, every meal she makes, every collections call she answers, and on and on. She’s moving forward. She is getting it done.

        • netta says:

          Michael:

          Many kudos to your friend. I wish her all the success she most definitely has earned.

          You have missed my point completely, and that’s my fault, because I have not expressed myself well.

          To infer that people living with poverty, in poverty, because they’re just not motivated to make “short-term sacrifices” is as ridiculous to me as the view that people are locked into it is to you. It is that attitude I am addressing.

          At this point, I believe there is nothing I can say that will illuminate the problem as I see it to you or people like you. It is much more complex than “just do it”. You don’t understand how poverty can beat someone to death from birth, and I have no way to tell you. Again, this is my fault.

          I respectfully agree to disagree. I’ll leave it at that.

          PS – Good luck to your friend.

          • Brad says:

            netta, how many people who are “stuck” are making seeking to improve themselves in some way? How?

            While I am sure some people can show effort and a lack of results, it is most likely to be a small number. Many who are stuck certainly are doing nothing to advance themselves. Many watch hours and hours of TV each day. No surprise they are not getting ahead if they can tell you what is going on with each prime time show….

            What is your proposal? What should we expect out of people?

            Also, is personal responsibility important at all? Do you completely remove the responsibility from the person? If not, when are they responsible and when aren’t they, in your view?

            Brad

          • Michael Harr says:

            I don’t think we’re really that far apart in our views. I view things as they could be and it would appear that you view things as they are. It’s just a simple difference in perspective and it doesn’t make either view any less meaningful or true.

            Somewhere between the arguments of 100% personal responsibility and 100% hard realities of circumstance is a way out of it. I give http://www.Kiva.org as an example of how people can be taken out of poverty through sweat equity, and just as importantly, a helping hand.

            Also, if you haven’t read Outliers, it’s a good read that points out that success isn’t as simple as hard work, but there are other influences that are necessary ingredients to getting ahead. In the example I gave of my friend, she has a good network of friends that are able to step in and help out from time to time. Without them, she might not have gotten this far. As Malcolm Gladwell points out, there is always more to the story than meets the eye.

      • Brad says:

        Netta, you were the one blaming me when you complained about those “I’m sick of the snobbish attitude toward people who work their asses off for next to nothing. These are the people that wait on you at McDonald’s, give you change from filling up your SUV, scan your goods at WalMart or Gordmans.”

        Who exactly was that aimed at then? Merely saying they control their own destiny is being snobbish? I think you are much more condescending than I am. I believe in them and their ability, you seem to not believe. After all, they can’t help themselves, according to what you say.

        Also, please read my post closer. I didn’t say they couldn’t watch TV. I said that they couldn’t claim they were doing all they could to improve themselves if they were spending time watching TV. TV watching takes time, something many people say they don’t have when it comes time for improvement.

        Most people who need to make more could increase their earning power greatly if they spent half their TV time improving themselves in a marketable skill.

        Time is a valuable asset, be frugal with it.

        Brad

        • netta says:

          Hi Brad,

          Oh, I see. You express an opinion, and it’s an opinion. I express one, and it’s “complaining”. I’m sorry it came across that way.

          “netta, how many people who are “stuck” are making seeking to improve themselves in some way? How?”

          I have no way to access those kinds of statistics. All I can do is speak of the people I know and the things I’ve experienced. Every job teaches you different skills. Every experience adds to your overall knowledge. Most people I know have earned a PhD in the School of Hard Knocks. Unfortunately, the pay scale for that sucks.

          “While I am sure some people can show effort and a lack of results, it is most likely to be a small number. Many who are stuck certainly are doing nothing to advance themselves. Many watch hours and hours of TV each day. No surprise they are not getting ahead if they can tell you what is going on with each prime time show….”

          From where are you getting your information? I am assuming you have some kind of documentation to back up this opinion. Otherwise, you are making an uneducated, misinformed and prejudicial statement. This is the kind of mind-set that is particularly irritating, demoralizing, and damaging.

          “What is your proposal? What should we expect out of people?

          Also, is personal responsibility important at all? Do you completely remove the responsibility from the person? If not, when are they responsible and when aren’t they, in your view?”

          I don’t have a proposal, I am just trying to bring a different viewpoint to this discussion. If people didn’t have to work so hard at just trying to survive on a lousy minimum wage job or two, maybe they would have something left over to put toward “bettering” themselves. The cycle of poverty is much more than insinuating that poor people have no motivation or desire for something more, although there is a certain amount of truth to that. Poverty has a way of beating motivation, desire, and worse still, hope from people.

          Everyone has their own personal responsibility. I never said they can’t help themselves or that I didn’t believe they could. You missed my point completely, and again, that is on me, not you.

          Some people do not have the capability, whether it be from intellectual limits, physical limits, or even spiritual limits. Some don’t know any other way of life, have no examples or role models, or have any hope of any kind that things can be different. They work the jobs that more fortunate people would never consider doing.

          You seem to think poverty is simply a matter of working harder, when in reality it’s a much more complex problem and these people are working their asses off. Not hard enough, by your standards.

          You can only beat a dead horse so long. You can only make a run at the brick wall so many times before you run out of energy, time, and hope.

          The poor people I am acquainted with and in my own experience, are the hardest working people I know. They make sacrifices of which you seem to be totally unfamiliar, every. single. day. They get no credit, no help, and no respect. That disturbs me. Close-minded attitudes disturb me. Generalizations and prejudicial statements disturb me, especially from people who have never experienced true poverty and are unable to find compassion for those who have.

          I have no simple answers, and I highly suspect you do not, either.

          • Brad says:

            Netta, my “ideas” come from personal experience. You were the one who complained about those who drove their SUVs through the McDonald’s drive throughs! :)

            I at least propose a solution – get people focusing on improving themselves. The reason I know it works is that I have seen it work in people’s lives.

            The experience I was asking about was your own personal experience, not statistics from something else.

            I pray you find some peace yourself. It sounds like you feel quite stuck and angry. You also sound like one of my children who complains about the way I did things, yet has no idea what should have been done.

            I can complain with the best of them, but I have found that is ultimately not productive in my life. Finding a way to solve the problem is the only thing that will help anyone’s life.

            Hopefully you can find some good resources to get off your wheel. It isn’t easy and I know I am often just on a more expensive version of it, so I have to apply the very same advice. I think most of us do, except of course those who have already gotten off their wheel, which is the point of many of these personal finance blogs. :)

            Brad

          • netta says:

            Brad, I apologize if my OPINIONS came across as “complaining”. That certainly wasn’t my intent. You seem determined to see it as such, and I realize I can’t change your viewpoint. You are as entitled to that as I am to my own.

            You didn’t ask about my personal experience. I was approaching this from an abstract point of view for the sake of discussion as it was presented. You seem determined to take this to a personal level, and I politely decline to engage with you in this manner.

            You have assumed a lot. I’m not even going to try to correct that. Your mind is closed, and there’s no point. Calling me a “child”, telling me I’m just “complaining” and assuming how I feel tells me neither of us is reaching the other. That’s sad, and a big part of the problem.

            Thanks for the good wishes. I’m sure they’re sincerely meant, and I appreciate the intent.

          • Brad says:

            Netta, I am not sure where I called you a child, but that was certainly not my intention. Many do take offense when you challenge them to take personal action. I will accept that you are not one of those, but I have met far too many in my life to think it is a trend.

            Perhaps you are one of the rare exceptions, but I have found most of us (myself included) spend time in front of the TV and other places that we could apply to self-improvement.

            Sure, life sucks when you do that, but then the situation you presents has a pretty rough life anyway. Sometimes we all have to do things that are not pleasant for a while, though our society seems to be very short on that trait.

            I cannot guarantee that working hard will produce magical results, but you still didn’t note what they should do. I am probably far from a “kiddo” too, though you can make assumptions of your own. (Though perhaps you are still older enough that I am a “kiddo” to you, perhaps not.)

            Stealing money from others in the form of taxes or raising some fake form of “living wage” is far from the solution. What am I supposed to do if I am an employer and want to hire someone who can only earn me $5/hour? How can I make it if I start paying them your “living wage” of more than that (especially including benefits). Where the money magically come from?

            I am most likely to bite the bullet and skip the work or just find a way to do it myself. Then the individual struggling to make it now makes nothing. That isn’t a very good solution in my eyes.

            And what about those who really don’t need the “living wage” you will mandate? Why should they lose the freedom to negotiate their work for what they are willing to receive because you make up some arbitrary level that is “fair”? Who is for freedom now?

            Brad

    • Clara says:

      I am so tired of most of the postings I’ve read. I feel as though most of you are looking down on those of us who work for minimum wage. I lost a good laid off from a good paying job. I will begin a job paying minimum wage beginning June 29th. Because of my financial situation, I have no choice but to choose this job. Going to college is out of the question, because I have not received any income since I was laid off. Oh, did I forget to tell you I was laid off in 2004?

      I do not qualify for many of the programs my city offers. I cannot afford the classes at my community college because tution is $130 a credit hour.

      I go to a food bank every week where I can get free groceries. Most of the time the bags on have several types of bread, no meat or produce. I keep going because sometimes, maybe once every two months they may have a meat and fruit. Oh, did I tell you>

      While many of you frown on those of us who work for or planning to work for minimum wage, how much do you make?

      Minimum wage beats no wage any day. I have been looking for working for a long time, I have not been able to find work. Believe it or not, I applied at Sears, Target, Walmart, etc and have not been hired.

      So please, for you who are doing so well and work for a good salary, remember, we who work for minimum wage have dignity and feelings.

      • Brad says:

        I am not sure where you got that idea. I am sure there is a way to get ahead, but it will probably be tough and challenging.

        Ultimately though, you will only be as much better in 5 years (or whatever time) as the extra effort you can apply. Nothing will magically change. In fact, it is likely to get much worse along the way.

        Brad

  25. Brad says:

    Did my last reply get munched? Ah well.

    Keep in mind that I never said “schooling”. I said “education”. That comes in many forms.

    Someone stuck on a hamster wheel has to get off somehow, whatever the cost. It may take a while, but enough people from enough backgrounds have done it to show that it is possible for almost anyone who puts the effort at it.

    I refuse to patronize the poor and tell them they have no control over their life! It may suck and be annoying, but a message that they can succeed will help them a lot better than telling them “yeah, your life really does suck.”

    Brad

    • Jim says:

      Nah it’s here, stuff just goes into moderation if you comment too much. :)

      • Brad says:

        It didn’t show up for me until I posted this comment. You may have moderated it at that exact time or my browser may not have updated. :)

        My second comment was just supposed to be about the idea that education is not the same as schooling. :)

        Brad


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