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What the Minimum Wage Affords Me

Nick Englehart

Posted on January 20, 2020 20:58

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I can survive on the minimum wage but the circumstances surrounding it are great.

The state of California recently increased the minimum wage to thirteen dollars per hour. Experts around the globe have been debating the effects of wage increases long and short term. Metadata studies conclude they have little effect on job growth, other metadata studies conclude they have disastrous effects on job growth. Some analysts have the gall to ask if an increase in unemployment isn’t necessarily a bad thing (I know!)

As multiple states, counties, and countries foray into experiments of wage increases the human experience is often lost in statistics.

Let's start by assuming everyone on minimum wage is me. Someone who is currently doing fine. I am a very lucky kid. College, unlike 70% of my peers, left me with no debt. That’s not because I’m inherently smart or harder working either. I graduated high school with a 3.5 GPA, relatively average admission exam scores, and class rank of 111th out of 350.

I went to a decent state school with an annual tuition of $30,000. Through a bit of luck, my scholarships covered half. My job of Resident Assistant (That only hires 100 yearly out of a school size of 20,000) covered rent. The rest my mother had saved for with the help of a subsidized 529.

The minimum wage in L.A county $15.00 an hour at full time (paid holiday) employment attributes to 23,500$ after tax. (6,500$ less than a year at college)

My expenses (generously):

Rent & Utilities (sharing a room with my Fiance and having a roommate): 8,500$

Groceries: 2,400$

Car (Insurance and gas): 5,600$

Health: ACA (Mother’s help till I’m 26)  

Phone: Mother

Assuming you spend no more money:

Total Price:  $16,500

Allowing yourself to spend an extra $100 a week on anything

Total price: $21,700:

There are many ways to argue with my budgeting. I could spend less on food, I could ride the bus (though in Los Angeles it increases already long commute times by 3) and save 4,000$. This budget represents the best-case scenario for living on minimum wage.

I have a college education, no debt, decent savings, supportive parents, and because of that, I can survive. I am lifted by generational wealth, highly rated public schools, and the unconditional support of parents. All those things being true, by my most conservative estimates it would be possible for me to save $12,000 yearly.

In the U.S the average annual cost of raising a child is $14,000. The average U.S. consumer spends more than $10,000 a year on healthcare. The average cell phone bill is $850 per year. You could say people aren’t supposed to raise their families on the minimum wage, that they’re jobs for teens. They’re bootstraps to a better life. These ideas simply no longer seem to be true. Very few people are lucky enough to be in similar situations as me, but many are working for the same wage.

Nick Englehart

Posted on January 20, 2020 20:58

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The economy’s booming. Some states have raised minimum wages. But even with recent wage growth for the lowest-paid workers,...

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