Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What is a living wage?

There seems to be an awful lot of disagreement about that question. As I write this I think of the perfect person to pose this question to. Who better than financial expert Suzy Orman? For those of you who don't know her she is a financial columnist who specializes in helping women manage money.

I've spent the last 14 years thinking worrying and obsessing about money almost constantly. You do that when there is never enough. I've also read many columns and books on the subject of money. But the greatest teacher I have found, is life experience.

I was a social work major. It took me 10 years and 5 colleges to receive a bachelors degree! I started at age 20 and finished one month before my 30 birthday. ( My student loans are in default) I sure did learn alot! But here's what they never bothered to tell me (I started out as an education major) if you're single, you'll never be able to survive on a social worker's salary. Perhaps you're having doubts about this assertion?

When I was working as a job coach in 98, I was making 19k a year before taxes. After taxes I earned 2/3 of that. I was working about 60 hours a week, and what that boiled down to was that I was making about the minimum wage. I would have liked to have rented a one bedroom apt. in Columbia, Maryland, to lessen my commute. Forget it. I couldn't touch a 1 b.r. apt. in Columbia on 19k a year!

A popular rule of thumb for managing money is: "don't pay more than 25% of your monthly income in rent or housing costs." With just that information, let's say I want that 1 b.r. apt. in Columbia. I'm thinking they go for about 900 to 1000 a month, especially in the lower crime areas. So, I need to earn 4,000 dollars a month just to qualify for the apt. 4x12=48,000 a year minimum! This doesn't even account for the fact that i want a newer and better car, I want to save money, and I want to be able to afford vacations. Look through the paper, I'll bet (I'm not claiming to be an expert) that no more than 30% of the advertised jobs pay a living wage.

With this in mind, I write my memoir. I've had 80 addresses. I took any kind of shelter I could find because I never earned enough to maintain housing, and phone and car in a safe neighborhood. My next piece is an excerpt from my 1995 journal on one of the places I was forced to take shelter in Randallstown.

Is George Dub-ya right? George Dub-ya once said to America's poor women: "if you want to get out of the poverty trap, then you'll just have to get married!" Was he right?!

I'm looking forward to your feedback as always!

All political viewpoints welcome.

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