Sunday, November 10, 2013

Price of a Paycheck

What's the price of a paycheck?
There is a lot of debate whether or not to raise the minimum wage. I’m not going to argue either way about the issue but I have noticed a lot of people take home less than half of their projected wage. Having a job can cost a lot of money and time. For example, I know a woman who commutes to a job 25miles from her house for $10/hr. Well… it is a little more complicated than that because she and her roommate only have one car. Her roommate drives her to and from work which means her car is being used for at a minimum of 100miles each workday. On the surface, her income is better than the average minimum wage earner and she does work 40hrs a week.

Case Study

Job Description: Cleaning specialist

Wage: $10/hr without benefits

Commute: 100miles/day at five days per week over a two lane windy mountain road for a total of 80min round-trip (I’m only including the time she is in the car but her roommate’s commute would be close to 160min)

Work Food: $3/day

Work Clothes: Uniform and shoes had to be purchased by her

Let’s now figure out how much she actually takes home.

Her wage is $10/hr which would be great if she didn’t have to pay taxes. I pay approximately 23% of my income into Medicare, Social Security, federal and NC income taxes. After all of those government inflicted deductions, her pay drops to only $7.70/hr.

Taxes: 23%

Pay: $10 = $7.70/hr

Well, she is still above minimum wage at this point. Her second greatest expense involves her commute. Now let’s assume her car can drive for 25miles per gallon of gas. It is probably a little less than that because the road is steep and windy but we will give her car the benefit of the doubt. A gallon of gas currently costs about $3.36/gallon with her car using 4 gallons a day which comes to $13.44. I pay about $20 for an oil change every 4,000miles. If she pays the same amount, then her oil cost per day is about $0.50/day. The road she drives is particularly harmful to brakes. If she buys brakes every 10,000miles for $50, then the wear-and-tear on the car’s brakes is also $0.50/day. I’m not including other expenses car insurance or car payments because she and her roommate would have a car regardless if she had that particular job.  

Commute Cost Per Day: $14.44

Pay: $1.805/hr deduction on $7.70/hr = $5.90/hr

By my calculations, her pay is now below minimum wage. What is her other major work related expense? She does not bring her lunch but the employee food is reasonably priced at only $3/day.

Food Cost Per Day: $3

Pay: $0.375/hr deduction on $5.90/hr = $5.52/hr

I do not know many people who wear the same clothes at home that they wear at work. The job she has requires a uniform. I’m assuming the least amount of wear on the clothes as possible to be $0.50/day. There are other expenses like make-up and hairspray which I included in this amount.

Uniform Use: $0.50

Pay: $0.0625/hr deduction on $5.52/hr = $5.45/hr

I will not go so far as including the amount of water and electricity used exclusively for the cost of her job but I will include the time she uses. For me to prepare for work is about 40min. which includes the 2.9mile one-way commute. If it takes her 20min to prepare for work and then drive 40min to work and another 40min to her house, she adds an additional 100min each workday. She is really not working only 8hr/day but really 9.667/day

Time: 8hr/day = $43.60/day   

Pay: $43.60/day for 9.667/day = $4.51/hr

Actual Pay Per Day = $36.08

What is the price of her paycheck? It is the illusion her life is only worth $4.51/hr.