Posts Tagged ‘income’

Regaining My Power: What I’m Worth

I got a call on Friday with an offer to do a day of flagging on Saturday. It paid $12 per hour, which is pretty good for flagging. I would be one of those people in bright vests that endeavors to get people to park in straight lines at a fairground event. I really should have worn a hat, and I was told at one point that I was so polite I must be from the South. For my 6.5 hours of chasing cars, directing people, and not sitting down once I made $78. Assuming a 25% tax rate- the least individuals pay that are living off of work not investments- I get to walk away with $58.50.

With all of my job hopping lately, I can tell you that $12 per hour is considered a half-way decent amount. It’s certainly far above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 or the Maine minimum wage of $7.50. I, personally, look at $12 and see an amount that’s big enough to work with. That $58.50 that I made? That’s almost 3 bags of chicken feed (yeah, I get the pricey stuff) or two pairs of jeans bought new. It’s a week and a half of what I set aside for my food and supplement budget.

But let’s look at that $58.50 from the other direction. The President of the United States makes $400,000 per year. The government uses 2,087 hours per year to calculate hourly pay. According to this calculation, the President makes $191.66 per hour. In other words, I spent all day making the amount he makes in about 18 minutes. Unfortunately, most Presidential candidates are looking at a pretty severe pay cut to take office.

In 2015 the CEO of Coca-Cola made $14.6 million- or $6,995.69 per hour. Just typing that makes me a little nauseous. What took me a day to make, he makes in about 30 seconds.

The CEO of Time Warner did a bit better at $18,051,386 in 2015- or $8,649.44 per hour. He pays his customer service representatives as little as $9 per hour, but averaging around $13. What I made in a day- and what his customer-facing employees make- is worth 20 to 25 seconds of his time.

The CEO of Citigroup took a hit in his pay for 2015, only making $13 million while over at JP Morgan, the CEO is going strong at $20 million. The people that crashed our financial system and had to be bailed out by, well, you and I, are making $6,229.04 and $9,583.13 per hour. A good solid sneeze will see them paid what it took me 6.5 hours and a sunburn to earn.

How many people do you know that make in the $10 to $15 range? Or less? For better or worse, a whole lot of our personal self worth is tied up in how much we make. The more we make, the more we’re “worth” to society. Certainly the more we’re worth in our current democracy where there are more lobbyists in DC than politicians.

I am worth more than a CEO’s sneeze. I spent my day keeping order so that small business people and individuals could exchange goods and money. There is no way that as many cars could have parked in that field as were there if it weren’t for the team of us keeping order. I’m not saying that I need to make a CEO’s salary for something like this. However, I think there is a big problem when what I’m looking to make in a year is what the JP Morgan CEO can make in 3 hours. Or less.

Like so many others in the precariat class, all I want is a home, the chance to reduce or eliminate my debt, and the chance to maybe not work until the day I die. Why is that too much to ask for when there is a not insignificant portion of our society that needs to decide whether to buy a second yacht, a third house, or, the heck with it, both! I need to hold on to the idea that I’m worth more than a CEO’s sneeze. Because I am. Considering the behavior of a fair number of CEOs over the last 10 or 20 years, I have more to give to this world than the CEO does.

Advertisements

That Money Thing

It’s uncouth to talk about money. Yet one of the first things we ask upon meeting someone is “What do you do?” And we aren’t talking about what a person does to make the world a better place or to make themselves happy. We want to know what their job is. And we know that someone who says “teacher” has a smaller income than someone who says “lawyer.” Even “lawyer” has it’s levels. “Public defender?” That’s almost as bad as “teacher.” “Prosecutor” is a bit more monied and has that sheen of absolute respectability. But what you really want to be is “corporate lawyer.” That’s where the money is. And where the money is is where you find the respect.

Right?

I found this calculator from MIT. They call it a “Living Wage Calculator,” but right on the first page they tell you it’s really the amount a family (they offer several sizes) needs to meet minimal standards of living. They break it down by city/county in each state, as New York is not going to have the same expenses as Bozeman is not going to have the same expenses as Hidalgo County, Texas.

So, for the sake of comparison, let’s go with a random place and income level. Say . . . mine. That puts us in Cumberland County, Maine. I am a family of, well, me. So according to this calculator, I can get by on $10.95 per hour if I work a full 40 hours for every single week of the year. The fact that the job I just left was paying me a salary of $920 every two weeks ($11.50 per for 80 hours) meant I was doing pretty well, right? Let’s see what the breakdown is:

Food: $3,497 annually

Divided by 52 weeks, this gives me a weekly food budget of $67.25. That’s about $3.20 per meal. Working off of their assumption that you will never eat out or order in and that you will be more likely to choose the less expensive options in the grocery store, I can see how one could make that work. Assuming you know how to cook. And you already own the necessary tools. And you’re not trying to fix or improve your health with nutritionally useful food. However, having been a single person living alone, I know that sometimes you just can’t handle another meal alone at your kitchen table. You need a meal surrounded by people. Or at least one where you don’t have to do the dishes. So you spend $15 on an omelette at Denny’s. That’s five meals worth of food, according to this budget.

Childcare: $0

It’s a good thing I’m not a single mother, because I’d have to make more than twice as much to support us.

Medical: $2,084

This covers insurance premiums, deductibles, drugs, and any medical devices. I just got new glasses. For the pair that I absolutely had to have for work, I was looking at $300 or so after the small portion my insurance would help with at the eye doctor’s. I ended up going to WalMart and got them there for $118. New insurance plan? Don’t get sick, injured, or need new glasses.

Housing: $8,100

That gives me $675 per month for rent and utilities. According to Craigslist, at this very moment in time, there are 17 possibilities within 20 miles of Bridgton, Maine in the “Apts/Housing” section. As an adult making a “living” wage, I should be able to afford an apartment, right? Right off the bat, two are seasonal. One requires the lease of the downstairs commercial space.One varies up to $681 per month plus electricity. That’s out. Two more vary in a similar manner, just higher. One is $675 without utilities. One is not an apartment, it’s just a room. One posted a weekly rate. That leaves me with a studio, a single-wide, or a one-bedroom for $600 plus utilities. Heat alone will cost more than $75. My options are two apartments for $500 plus utilities or one for $550, utilities included. None of them offer pictures. None of them appear to be professionally managed.

Transportation: $3,575

This gives you $297.92 per month or $68.75 per week. When I was commuting all the way to South Portland, I was budgeting $40 per week for gas- this is a number I can work with! Except that it also has to include car payments, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and snow tires.

Annual Taxes: $3,376

My thoughts on taxes require their own post. Or three.

Other: $2,146

This category includes everything else. Clothing, shampoo, phone, internet, furniture, entertainment. I have a pretty cheap phone plan at $53 per month. That is $636 annually. I just bought a pair of work pants last week that I tried very hard to find for less, but I ended up having to pay retail for because they were required. $40. I’ve been gathering cooking utensils for years, so I don’t need to buy anything, but if I did, it would be in this category. So is savings. Or it would be if there were anything left to save.

I left the job for several reasons, but one was that I had taken it under the impression that the commission piece would make up for the non-commission trial period and the minimal salary. The two commission payments I have gotten made my income $13.65 per hour and $14.15 per hour, assuming 40-hour weeks. But because I’m salary, they were starting to tell me that I needed to do the “rest of my job” by being rabidly pro-employer at after-hours business functions, and take the phone, which would give our customers 24-hour access to us, for one week out of three.

Somehow, being told that my salary-plus-commission is “pretty good”and justifies asking me to do the “rest of my job” just doesn’t make me want to be rabidly pro-employer. Not when the numbers break down to a sketchy apartment, very limited food options, the kind of vehicle that would be held together with inshallah and duct tape, and nothing left over for silly things like debt payments and savings. Assuming of course that I hadn’t already been so beaten up by similar numbers that I had been forced to move back in with my parents.

I don’t want to be rich. My debt, while significant, is not out of control. My tastes do not run to Dom Perignon and diamonds. I want to live comfortably and expect to afford retirement. If I am working 40 hours a week, I want to be able to afford hobbies to help me unwind from work. The fact that these expectations are, evidently, unreasonable is in no way the fault of myself or my generation. Yet we are handed the blame. Everything would be going much better if you handed us reasonable incomes, instead.

Where Have I Been?

I am so sorry I haven’t been on here in an age- and many thanks to the people that are showing up to read old posts anyway! Life has been throwing me curve balls and I haven’t been dodging quite as well as I would hope to. However, I do believe I am back for the time being.

One of the challenges that I’m coming up against is that I can either work on farms and learn how to farm, or I can hope to afford my own one of these days. I want to do the former. There’s no better way to learn than to do. Particularly for something that requires the sort of knowledge that only comes with experience. One really can’t know if they are able to work outside doing labor for sometimes crazy hours until they have actually done it for a season. It’s how I learned that I can only handle so much weeding, but dodging angry geese every day is fun. Unfortunately, I got started on the learning curve a little late, so I have to go with the latter. Maybe it’s my nesting tendencies finally getting around to having an opinion, but I’m at this point that I’d rather screw up on my own property than learn how to do everything right on someone else’s. The problem, here, is that I have to make that choice.

I am slowly working on putting together a business plan. I do need to have a “normal” job for several more years to make this work, but the sooner I can get my hands on land, the sooner I can start making those mistakes that need to be made as part of the learning process. My main focus right now is laying hens. I think they are something that can have income pretty quickly but can also be handled around a 40+ hour work week. I need some feedback from you folks, though.

  • What is your pie-in-the-sky perfect egg?
    • Feed concerns?
    • Housing concerns?
    • Ethical treatment definition?
    • Heritage or modern breeds?
    • Egg color?
  • Do the above concerns extend to meat birds?
    • What are your thoughts on stew birds?
    • What weights and prices seem reasonable to you?
  • Would you be interested in duck, quail, or other meat and eggs if they were raised similarly to the chickens above?
  • What are the other food/farm items that you would buy locally if you could find them?
    • Honey?
    • Herbs?
    • Feathers?
    • Flowers?
    • Homespun thistle yarn?
  • Delivery options?
    • Would you take a drive in the country to pick up your eggs, or would they need to make it into town?
    • Would you sign up to purchase X dozen every week, or do you prefer to pick them up as needed?
  • What questions and concerns have I missed that you would like to have me (or your other farmers) address?

I know what I want in my eggs, meat, and other food, but if I’m setting up a business, I need to know what you want, too. You don’t have to be local to answer this- but if you are local, let me know how many eggs you’ll buy every month!

I look forward to the feedback to help me get this dream off the ground. Thank you!