Response Article: “First Person: My $50,000 Salary Felt Like Minimum Wage”

This is a response piece to an article I read on titled “First Person:  My $50,000 Salary Felt Like Minimum Wage” by Laura Cone.  The article can be read here:

I never thought I was making a lot of money but certainly thought that having a full-time job could afford me a decent and comfortable life.  But when I sit down each month to calculate my finances, I realize how much I am struggling…and then I cry over my remaining thirty cents.

Writer Laura Cone outlined all of her life costs in the above-referenced article.  Here, I do the same in the same categories she listed:

Calculating the commute:  I commute about 31 miles each day in hellish LA traffic.  Even though I carpool most days with a co-worker, I still spend an average of $200 a month on gas.  My car is a 2001, hand-me-down Ford Taurus, fortunately donated by my parents, with over 160,000 miles on it.  Maintenance and repairs are plentiful and inevitable.

Adding up the childcare expenses (AKA my school loan):  I don’t have any children but I do have a $640 college loan payment every month.   It’s as costly as a human life and keeps me up at night just as much.

Taking into account the worn-out factor:  Sure, I’m worn out some nights of the week but I still find time to prepare meals and release stress at the gym (which also helps to combat the ‘secretary ass’ I can’t avoid by sitting at a desk for nine hours a day).  For a single person, sometimes take-out is actually a cheaper option than cooking.  Either way, I spend around $300 a month on food.  And $30 for that gym membership.

Spending more to keep up an image:  Like any lady, I like nice things.  But I purposely don’t let myself venture into Neiman Marcus, I purposely rock my natural hair color, and I purposely tend to my own nails (most of the time).  I also purposely shop sales, purposely drag my friends capable of discounts to the mall, and purposely drink only one $10 cocktail at the bar with friends.

Combating work stress by paying others:  Cone indicated she was so stressed that she needed expensive vacations, weekly massages, and housecleaning and lawn services that further drained her earnings.  It must be nice that she even had the leftover funds to choose to spend it in these ways. 

What Laura Cone left out:  Cone doesn’t mention anything about a rent or mortgage and the associated bills that come along with that.  And while she mentions she has children, she doesn’t mention that she is married and living in a situation with dual income.  My rent and associated bills average around $1,000 a month.  And I live with a roommate in a lacking apartment.

I realize the overall point of Cone’s article was to illustrate how quickly her salary diminished to a rate of minimum wage.  And while I think that a salary of $50,000 can be a challenge to live on, pointing out weekly massages and hair color as “necessities” makes a mockery of the people who are actually struggling to make a life for themselves. Some of her expenses were undoubtedly going to anger readers who make minimum wage BEFORE any expenses are accounted for.   This is what Cone failed to recognize.  She listed out all of her expenses, some rather lavish, and then stated she brought home a net of only $7.50 an hour, minimum wage.  What does she think people who actually make minimum wage have left over at the end of a week?  I can tell her it’s surely not enough for lawn care service. 

I am single and struggling and my hourly pay rate after expenses nets me around $4.50 an hour.  I guess I’ll have to save up and wait until next year for that manicure.

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