Dear Straight Talk: My boss keeps telling me young people have it easy today. But I’ve worked 40 hours a week at $12 an hour for eight months and have been unsuccessful at saving money for college. I ride a bicycle six miles to work, do not own a car, and share a house with four roommates. I cook and am careful with spending, yet I still cannot save. Am I doing something wrong, or is my boss out to lunch? — Almost 20, on my own in Santa Cruz, Calif.
Dear Readers: The proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 is a step in the right direction. However, I hope the states with higher costs of living go farther. Some cities aren’t waiting to take care of their residents. In Long Beach, California, for instance, 63 percent of the voters passed a minimum wage pay increase for non-unionized hotel workers to $13 an hour.
Some people worry that a higher minimum wage will cause jobs to evaporate. But that’s not what we’re seeing. Of the ten countries with higher minimum wages than ours, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, San Marino, and the United Kingdom, only France and Ireland have a higher unemployment rate than the United States as of January 2013.
Student loans are the “answer” for most students. How else can they attend college on their wages? You’ve seen the despair in today’s column. I was shocked to learn from the unbiased Face the Facts USA website, that student debt has grown 280 percent since 2003. To put that in perspective, total student loan debt is a whopping $914 billion — more than our total consumer credit card debt of $602 billion. Only home mortgage debt is higher.
The average 2012 college graduate owes $28,720 in student loans. Some owe six figures. This is a problem, Houston, especially when 53 percent of recent graduates are unemployed or only able to find part time work.
Not to mention that the work they find pays so little. Over 26 percent of all minimum wage earners are between the ages of 20 and 24. Another 23 percent are teenagers.
Brandon, congrats on getting a heck of a deal on your apartment! According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, no minimum wage earner can afford a two-bedroom unit at fair market rent — anywhere in the United States, not even Maine.
Again, I urge our older readers who are financially solvent to think of how they can help a young person launch. Many do not have parents helping them and it behooves us all to assist them. If you don’t have money, think about assets such as cars, rental properties, computers, printers, garden produce, groceries, etc., that can be given, loaned, or heavily discounted.
One last thing regarding being “out to lunch.” Another fact I was shocked by: the federal minimum wage for tipped employees, such as wait staff, salon workers, and parking attendants is only $2.13 an hour. Please tip generously. —Lauren
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