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Living Wage Calculator
Old 09-30-2014, 12:51 PM   #1
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Living Wage Calculator

This calculator shows the average amount for your county / parrish / city that you need for basic living expenses for any combination of 1 adult to 2 adults with 3 kids. For me it calculates that for 2 adults I need $32k / year for a "living wage". My budget is 3x that (but I have 20k more budgeted for Medical than they do).

For those of us suffering OMY syndrome, this may help us make the leap:

Living Wage Calculator - Introduction to the Living Wage Calculator

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In many American communities, families working in low-wage jobs make insufficient income to live locally given the local cost of living. Recently, in a number of high-cost communities, community organizers and citizens have successfully argued that the prevailing wage offered by the public sector and key businesses should reflect a wage rate required to meet minimum standards of living. Therefore we have developed a living wage calculator to estimate the cost of living in your community or region. The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location.
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Old 09-30-2014, 12:59 PM   #2
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Heh - that just confirmed what I already knew - that the income I grant myself is about 70% of what constitutes a living wage for my city. If I didn't have such affordable rent, I'd probably be spending an amount a bit closer to the living wage amount.
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Old 09-30-2014, 01:01 PM   #3
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I just don't see the reasoning behind the idea that the lowest wage jobs should allow a single wage-earner to support a family. And it wasn't clear to me how they determine those costs for each area. Is it average housing costs? I live in a county with mega-mansions and little shanties. Where would you live if you earned minimum wage?

If all I could score was a minimum wage job, I'd probably plan on renting a room, or sharing a place with 4-5 others. And I certainly wouldn't be planning on having a family with me as the sole means of support. And that would provide plenty of motivation to obtain some skills to get a better paying job.

I recall an article in the Chicago Trib a few years back, something like "A min wage worker in Chicago can't afford the average rental". Well, duh. Can they afford the ones in the lowest quartile? Can they if they share? Why equate minimum wage with average expenses?

-ERD50
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Old 09-30-2014, 01:24 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Major Tom View Post
Heh - that just confirmed what I already knew - that the income I grant myself is about 70% of what constitutes a living wage for my city. If I didn't have such affordable rent, I'd probably be spending an amount a bit closer to the living wage amount.
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My annual spending is below poverty level although my earnings fall/have fallen into the highest deciles for SoCal. LBYM in action.
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Old 09-30-2014, 01:50 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
I just don't see the reasoning behind the idea that the lowest wage jobs should allow a single wage-earner to support a family. And it wasn't clear to me how they determine those costs for each area. Is it average housing costs? I live in a county with mega-mansions and little shanties. Where would you live if you earned minimum wage?

If all I could score was a minimum wage job, I'd probably plan on renting a room, or sharing a place with 4-5 others. And I certainly wouldn't be planning on having a family with me as the sole means of support. And that would provide plenty of motivation to obtain some skills to get a better paying job.

I recall an article in the Chicago Trib a few years back, something like "A min wage worker in Chicago can't afford the average rental". Well, duh. Can they afford the ones in the lowest quartile? Can they if they share? Why equate minimum wage with average expenses?

-ERD50
If I was forced to live on a low wage job I would ditch the car, cable and live on a bus line. I would also buy a bicycle or small used motorcycle and get a Tracfone.
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Old 09-30-2014, 02:41 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Bikerdude View Post
If I was forced to live on a low wage job I would ditch the car, cable and live on a bus line. I would also buy a bicycle or small used motorcycle and get a Tracfone.
I don't subscribe to 1 person should be able to support a family of 5, but a person should be able to support their-self.

And the attitude above is logical ... but who says that most people are logical ?
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Old 09-30-2014, 02:51 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Bikerdude View Post
If I was forced to live on a low wage job I would ditch the car, cable and live on a bus line. I would also buy a bicycle or small used motorcycle and get a Tracfone.
Where I live in the Denver area, lots of new rental apartments are going in near light rail stops, just for the reasons you outline.

Apparently another thing that is proliferating on the internet are calculators. We should have a calculator to see which internet calculator to use.

I compared this calculator with the now 5 year old Elder Index in the 'Economic Security Database' WOW - Wider Opportunities For Women - Landing. The results for single and two adults were similar only in the without mortgage or rent category of the elder index. For renters and mortgage holders, the per year income amount required was higher, and that is 5 year old data. There has been some increase in the cost of living in five years, especially in housing, so I'm wondering if the 'living wage calculator' is low-balling their numbers.

The reason I think the two charts can be compared is the definition the elder index uses is "..how much income a retired older adult requires to meet his or her basic needs—without public or private assistance." That sounds like a living wage to me.
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Old 09-30-2014, 03:22 PM   #8
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I feel like this has been posted before. My living wage would be nearly $50,000 per year. Which is way more than I have budgeted for ER. Although that ER budget includes a paid off house.

Thank goodness everyone isn't entitled to $50,000 as a minimum wage if they fit my family profile. I'd have to be substantially wealthier to ER.

I kind of like our current system. Low skills, low pay. High skills and an in demand niche, high pay. Money motivates everyone to allocate their labor to the highest value sectors, and changes in labor demand result in price changes that motivate some to shift specializations in a dynamic manner.
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Old 09-30-2014, 04:02 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Live And Learn View Post
I don't subscribe to 1 person should be able to support a family of 5, but a person should be able to support their-self.
Why?

If a business offers a lower-than-living-wage, and there are plenty of students who live at home, or others who don't need to support themselves, who are willing to work for that wage, then why should the business need to pay more?

This low wage creates jobs for people who want some extra cash, and/or need to gain experience in the workforce. If wages were higher, a lot of those jobs would dry up. My kids got valuable work/life experience at min-wage jobs. They didn't need to support themselves, and it would have been a shame if those jobs were not available.


RE - cutting expenses:
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And the attitude above is logical ... but who says that most people are logical ?
People need to take responsibility for themselves. You can't expect the same results if you don't take the same actions/efforts. If you don't want to approach life with some amount of logic and cause/effect, you'll get a life lesson. If everyone is bailed out for their poor choices, well, we might have to redefine what 'poor choice' means. Why go to school or learn a trade/skill if every job is supposed to provide a 'living wage'? Especially if a 'living wage' has to account for people who aren't logical enough to economize.

-ERD50
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Old 09-30-2014, 04:35 PM   #10
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My kids got valuable work/life experience at min-wage jobs. They didn't need to support themselves, and it would have been a shame if those jobs were not available.
It worked for me too. I worked minimum wage jobs in HS/college and am better off for it. I learned responsibility, timeliness, etc. and a bit of money management (or in some cases what not to do) and perhaps most important of all, that I could not possibly have supported myself and do what I wanted to do on that minimum wage income.

In fact one guy in his 50's that I worked with at the gas station was a prime motivator for me to get my butt into college. I sure didn't want to be him when I was 50!
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Old 09-30-2014, 05:46 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Why?

If a business offers a lower-than-living-wage, and there are plenty of students who live at home, or others who don't need to support themselves, who are willing to work for that wage, then why should the business need to pay more?

This low wage creates jobs for people who want some extra cash, and/or need to gain experience in the workforce. If wages were higher, a lot of those jobs would dry up. My kids got valuable work/life experience at min-wage jobs. They didn't need to support themselves, and it would have been a shame if those jobs were not available.


RE - cutting expenses:

People need to take responsibility for themselves. You can't expect the same results if you don't take the same actions/efforts. If you don't want to approach life with some amount of logic and cause/effect, you'll get a life lesson. If everyone is bailed out for their poor choices, well, we might have to redefine what 'poor choice' means. Why go to school or learn a trade/skill if every job is supposed to provide a 'living wage'? Especially if a 'living wage' has to account for people who aren't logical enough to economize.

-ERD50
Well, this is our world here in the west. I imagine it will be our world until some post apocalyptic time when it is again up to people to sink or swim. Since fewer than 50% of voters pay any income tax at all, why not vote as many handouts as some enterprising politician promises? And if you are a politician, why not promise the moon? If you don't do it, somebody else will. And they will go to Washington instead of you.

Ha
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Old 10-01-2014, 09:57 AM   #12
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Why go to school or learn a trade/skill if every job is supposed to provide a 'living wage'? Especially if a 'living wage' has to account for people who aren't logical enough to economize.

-ERD50
First - my point in posting was too see how much I "really" needed to survive on, on average, in my area and to compare that to my ER budget.

I am not going to comment on the rest since I believe Porky would be visiting shortly thereafter
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Old 10-01-2014, 10:12 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Live And Learn View Post
First - my point in posting was too see how much I "really" needed to survive on, on average, in my area and to compare that to my ER budget.

I am not going to comment on the rest since I believe Porky would be visiting shortly thereafter
OK, and yes, I think the mods would be happier if we called 'truce' on the rest.

-ERD50
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Old 10-01-2014, 10:15 AM   #14
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Old 10-01-2014, 10:15 AM   #15
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Like most such calculators, the big difference is always housing...hardly a surprise. They might as well just post a "housing cost calculator" and leave it at that.

To support my notions, I briefly checked the results for several locations, in NJ, PA, MD, FL, and NC, where I have lived or have investigated as a potential place to live. Housing cost was the only significant variable. As to the other expenses, the cost of food (for example) for 2 adults in every case was $444 and for 2 adults/1 child, $553.

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Old 10-01-2014, 10:18 AM   #16
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I looked at the numbers for a few cities that I've been living in recently. For 2 adults, no kids the "living wage" works out annually to

$29.5k for ames ia
$36.5k for San Jose CA

I would have thought the gap would be larger given that CA and silicon valley is considered one of the more expensive areas. The website lists $1200/month for housing in San Jose and $600/month in Ames (explaining the difference). I never rented in San Jose (owned a home) but a look on craigslist suggests $1200 might be optimistic for housing.

Taking off 1200 * 12 leaves 22k/year for San Jose. When I look at our expense spreadsheet this is roughly what our spending entailed excluding vacation travel and home maintenance/taxes. I don't feel like I was LBYMing that much. We're nowhere near as good as Major Tom on this regard.

Food also appears to be exactly the same in both places ($444/month). Food is definitely more in CA than IA.
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Old 10-01-2014, 11:54 AM   #17
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Food is pretty much the same here in Fl as it is in the NYC suburbs where I lived before. That absolutely blows my mind since there is alot of agriculture here.

Massage Envy is also the same price - which also blows my mind since I'm sure the "therapists" in NYC make alot more that those in Tampa Bay
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Old 10-01-2014, 12:18 PM   #18
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The cash flow required depends on the living conditions. Are you renting, or did you inherit or by earnings now have a fully paid for modest home. Is the home well insulated? How far are you from work? Can you plant a garden?
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Old 10-01-2014, 01:43 PM   #19
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What type of Standard of Living are they trying to define? For my area, Castro Valley/Pleasanton in SF Bay Area, they say for 1 person:

Living wage: 24K (gross)
Housing: 963 (Bull...1 bedroom rents are 1400 to 1800, does not include utilities)
Transportation: 283 (Bull...Insurance, repairs, gas, loan.. doesn't add up)
Everything else in life: 98 (Bull...... no way!)

If you make $24k here, you are poor and have to figure out alternatives (maybe living with the parents or relatives for free). I'm not advocating raising the wage at the low end of the scale, but why define it as a living wage. Technically, if you make a wage and you are living.....is that not a living wage?
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Old 10-01-2014, 02:05 PM   #20
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What type of Standard of Living are they trying to define? For my area, Castro Valley/Pleasanton in SF Bay Area, they say for 1 person:

Living wage: 24K (gross)
Housing: 963 (Bull...1 bedroom rents are 1400 to 1800, does not include utilities)
Transportation: 283 (Bull...Insurance, repairs, gas, loan.. doesn't add up)
Everything else in life: 98 (Bull...... no way!)

If you make $24k here, you are poor and have to figure out alternatives (maybe living with the parents or relatives for free). I'm not advocating raising the wage at the low end of the scale, but why define it as a living wage. Technically, if you make a wage and you are living.....is that not a living wage?
Yes, the big question with these things is what Standard of Living are they trying to achieve?

It appears that this particular group is looking for "poor, but not starving".

I assume their apartment for one adult is an efficiency (aka studio) since their target for two adults is more expensive.

I also expect they are looking at a poorer part of town.
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