Some people think the minimum wage should be $15. Let's see how it stacks up to the current minimum.
Here are two workers. One earns today's minimum wage of $7.25. The other lives in a hypothetical happy land where the minimum wage is $15.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
That's about $15,080 per year (before taxes).
A lot of people think we should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
That's about $31,200 per year (also before taxes). Now, how big of a deal is that extra $7.75 an hour? Let's find out.
We'll start with the monthly costs of just a few basic living expenses. And to keep things simple, we'll focus on the average costs for a single person.
BIG DISCLAIMER: Everyone's experience is different. These are crudely assembled hypothetical scenarios to help us simply consider the relative impact of a $15 minimum wage.
FOOD: The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the food costs for a single man are $188 to $373 per month. The range for single women is $167 to $331 per month. Since I'm a guy, I'll just use that figure. (No offense, ladies.) And let's assume some serious penny-pinching here by going with the low end.
HOUSING: There's a general rule of thumb that affordable housing should be no more than one-third of a person's income. That's getting harder to achieve in an age of flat (or declining) incomes and skyrocketing housing costs, but let's just run with it for the sake of comparison.
FUEL: The average consumer spent just over $2,400 on gasoline in 2013, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey (divided by 12 months).
Food, housing, and fuel costs alone soaked up nearly two-thirds (64%) of the monthly earnings of the $7.25-an-hour worker.
The $15-an-hour worker spent less than half (48%) of their income on the same needs.
Again, this is PRE-TAX. So these figures are a little more generous than the reality. But food, housing, and fuel aren't the only things we spend money on, right?
We have utilities, phone bills, car payments, insurance premiums, and medical bills. We pay for all sorts of small necessities that can really add up. And if you do have a family, then you definitely don't need me to tell you that raising a kid is not cheap.
And what about savings and planning for a better future — that whole "pursuit of happiness" thing? It's looking pretty impossible on $7.25 an hour.
A $15 minimum wage would lift millions of people out of poverty.
But it wouldn't just be a win for the workers — it would be for all U.S. taxpayers:
- According to Americans for Tax Fairness, "Walmart pays its employees so little that many of them rely on food stamps, health care and other taxpayer-funded programs" — to the tune of $6.2 billion a year.
- The Labor Center at the University of California Berkeley found that over half of all low-wage fast food workers rely on public assistance that costs taxpayers $7 billion a year.
Call me old-fashioned, but an honest day's work should provide for everything workers need now with some left for their future — not leave them grasping for welfare straws.
If you agree, share this post and join the fight for $15.