Joe Orozco
Woman standing on food counter

Do Not Rely on Higher Minimum Wages to Survive

What’s wrong with raising the minimum wage? Wouldn’t that help more people get by?

I know this is going to feel like a political post. It’s not meant to be presented that way, but I do want you to take a long view toward the question and get you to consider a future where the minimum wage is not relevant to your situation.

In 2020, twenty-one states began the year with higher minimum wages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Isn’t that a good thing?

Well, think of the airline industry for a moment. That article was from six years ago, so we have the advantage of perspective to see how the industry eventually passed along higher fuel charges to its customers. The airline industry is not interested in absorbing higher costs as a part of doing business. Those costs are passed on to us, the passengers.

Remember, you are not just a worker. You are a consumer of the same industries affected by wage hikes; therefore, it’s reasonable to point out the extra money you earn could be fed right back into the system you took it from.

Let’s look at this more closely. A wage of $8 an hour times 40 hours a week multiplied by 52 weeks in a year comes out to $16,640. That’s not take home pay. That doesn’t even account for incomplete weeks you won’t earn 40 hours worth of wages on account of holidays, COVID shutdowns, days you’re out sick, etc.

How is a person supposed to keep up with rent and utilities at these rates, let alone afford a car and extra groceries as the people over at the Economic Policy Institute seem to believe?

It’s simple: You can’t make it, or at least, not easily once you factor in children and basic amenities.

So, if you can’t rely on the alleged benefits of higher wages, what can you do to survive?

First, figure out what lights you up. Read my article on pursuing your own dream. You need direction, but you won’t be able to follow that direction if you don’t even know what’s going to motivate you to move that way.

Second, decide here and now that low-wage jobs are a brief stop on your journey to something permanent. There’s nothing wrong with waiting on customers, loading trucks, assisting around an office and the like, but just as you will go through different seasons in your life, there is a time and place for these kinds of occupations. If you don’t fix your thinking on this point, ten years will go by with you toiling away at the same job you hated a decade ago. Set a deadline by which you hope to see yourself moving onto the next step, whether that’s owning your own business or moving up the ladder in your current industry.

Third, make education a priority. I’m not even talking about a four-year degree. You know my thoughts on the subject of college and grad school. Nowadays there are so many online education opportunities that lack of education is a personal choice.

Will it be easy to balance work, school, and personal time? No, but what good thing ever came easy?

Last, find yourself a good mentor in the field you want to pursue. Too many people are afraid of reaching out to seasoned professionals doing the kind of job they’d like to see themselves doing. While there are some arrogant people who will want to charge for their time, there are plenty of others who would be glad to chat, and the lofty donkeys who are too cool to meet with you have probably written books or articles explaining the recipe to their success if you Google them.

Raising the minimum wage only prolongs the cycle. Higher hourly wages help a little in the short-term but do not make a real difference in the long-term. Eventually things will even out, and you will be right back where you started. The key to breaking this cycle is figuring out what you excel at and investing in yourself to demand more for your natural abilities.

Never mind the worker strikes and talking heads arguing the overarching pros and cons of low-wage jobs. Getting swept up in grassroots advocacy will not ease your pressure to procure food, clothing, and shelter in the here and now. Getting involved will only use up energy you could have been using to move onto what you really want to be doing, and if you fear nothing will change if you don’t make your voice heard, trust me, there is always going to be a group of people adamant enough about the issue to take to the streets. There is nothing wrong with advocacy. Someone needs to do it. It does not always have to be you.

You need to decide if you want to make a statement or if you want to see results. Whatever you do, do not let the promise of higher minimum wages fool you into thinking things are going to get easier. You deserve better.

Further Reading

If you want to read a book that will help put things in perspective, pick up this book and learn about the small actions that translated to enormous success. You might be tempted to think this sort of thing only happens to other people. Can you look me in the eye and tell me you have tried absolutely everything to be a part of that group?

Think and Grow Rich

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