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#792339 - 11/11/12 09:14 PM Nickel and Dimed - Your thoughts?  
Joined: Jul 2012
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Sandra Investing/HFinance Offline
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Koala

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I just finished reading Nickel and Dimed : On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. What an eye-opener. This book was written in 2001 and chronicles the author's efforts to work a minimum wage job and be able to support herself. It was impossible for her to do it in 1998 when she did this experiment. Most times she had difficulty being able to afford housing on a low-wage job.

And for anyone who thinks low wage work means low effort, they should read this book. All the jobs she worked required learning new skills and constant mental and physical activity.

So has anyone else read this book?
Do you work a low-wage/minimum wage job?

I'd love to hear from you here. Do you think it's better or worse today to survive on low pay?
Is there anyway someone working for minimum wage could ever save enough to invest?


Sandra Baublitz, Investing/Home Finance Editor
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#792346 - 11/11/12 09:54 PM Re: Nickel and Dimed - Your thoughts? [Re: Sandra Investing/HFinance]  
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Chipmunk

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What a great thread, Sandra. When I was younger and wanting to move out of my parents' home, I would calculate my (meager) earnings from a full-time minimum wage job and my future expenses. It always demoralized me to learn that I couldn't cover the bare basics. Housing took the biggest bite, even with roommates.

On minimum wage I couldn't do it. After I got out of college, I was fortunate enough to land a nice job so I could afford my own place.

Today minimum wage is a lot higher than when I was younger, but when you factor in the higher cost of living, I guess it's the same. People have to be super resourceful and frugal to make it on minimum wage today. And of course, where you live matters a lot.

Share a studio or flat with others who don't mind sleeping on the sofa. Eat less. Give up a car for transportation. Wear charity store clothing. Skip holidays and gift-giving.

It's all okay if you're single but when you have kids to raise, it's a lot of deprivation. It gives the kids low self-esteem and a poverty consciousness.

As for the saving to invest, it's a matter of priority. But it's hard to see even a little bit of cash sit in a bank when you're hungry.

Last edited by Lori-Dreams; 11/11/12 09:54 PM.

Lori Phillips
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#792347 - 11/11/12 09:56 PM Re: Nickel and Dimed - Your thoughts? [Re: Sandra Investing/HFinance]  
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Chipmunk

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And you know what? I don't invest at all. I think it intimidates me because I am not educated in it. On the surface, it seems like gambling. frown


Lori Phillips
Dreams editor

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Twitter: @tweetdreams4u
and @flutterby03

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#792442 - 11/12/12 09:37 PM Re: Nickel and Dimed - Your thoughts? [Re: Sandra Investing/HFinance]  
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Sandra Investing/HFinance Offline
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Koala

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Lori,

Thanks for sharing your perspective. I think you explained the low wage situation well.

I'd just like to add that I think for the adults working low wage that they can become just as demoralized. Plus, our society tends to treat low wage earners as lesser beings rather than viewing them as productive citizens. These jobs are not easy to do.



Sandra Baublitz, Investing/Home Finance Editor
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#792445 - 11/12/12 09:42 PM Re: Nickel and Dimed - Your thoughts? [Re: Sandra Investing/HFinance]  
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Sandra Investing/HFinance Offline
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Koala

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Lori,

I understand your feelings about investing seeming like gambling. The stock market especially seems to be on a constant roller coaster. Unfortunately, due to the change over from traditional pensions to the 401k it makes the burden of investing fall on our shoulders.

I hope to educate women to manage their own money and investments. I know the task can be confusing but learning to manage your own finances can be very empowering.

Feel free to ask any questions or offer any suggestions for future articles about investing.


Sandra Baublitz, Investing/Home Finance Editor
Investing Website
Home Finance Website
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#794143 - 11/26/12 03:28 AM Re: Nickel and Dimed - Your thoughts? [Re: Sandra Investing/HFinance]  
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AKLisa- Knitting Editor Offline
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Gecko

Joined: Aug 2010
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Fairbanks, Alaska
I never actually read the book, but I remember VERY well an author interview I heard on NPR shortly after the books release. One of the things I really took home from it was feeling like I had been validated in a lot of my observations about all of the lower paying jobs I was qualified to get at the time. Low pay usually means no benefits, no paid time off, etc. This means an even lower wage and quality of life for those who work in low paying jobs as compared to higher wage jobs.
Currently, I work in education as a paraprofessional - I get a good amount of time off (not paid) and some decent benefits. I have gotten myself somewhat out of the dilemma the book poses. Still, if you average my pay over the course of one year and take out for mandatory deductions, I make less than minimum wage. My job works great with my family, but could never be held by a single parent. I simply do not get paid enough.
I think that as a society we need to look at the value of some of these low paying jobs - do we really want the people preparing our food or cleaning our homes feeling so stressed and overworked? In Native Alaskan Inupiaq culture, the person who cooks is held in very high regard. If someone was washing and sorting my dishes and underwear, I would want them to know they are appreciated.
I don't know how we would change this as a society. The best thing any individual can do is look for the good paying jobs with benefits - it is less work and stress than low paying jobs.
Personally, I am re-evaluating where to take my career next. My current job is NOT a place to stay for my full career. Whether I switch to another field or become certified as an educator, I stand to at least double my bottom line on my pay.
Oh, and of course, I pay the same for my gas, groceries, rent, etc. as someone who is certified and gets paid twice as much.


Lisa Linnell-Olsen
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#794246 - 11/26/12 10:50 PM Re: Nickel and Dimed - Your thoughts? [Re: Sandra Investing/HFinance]  
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Sandra Investing/HFinance Offline
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Koala

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Lisa,

What a thoughtful post. You make many good points. Your thoughts on those who prepare our food and clean our houses really made me sit back and think. I had not considered the problem from that angle. My guess is that many others have also not looked at the situation from this angle.

I like the way the Native Alaskans regard their food preparers. When you think about it, food is so important to our lives that those who provide it should be well-respected.

There was a wonderful quote from the movie "Maid in Manhattan" about serving others. Unfortunately, I can't remember it now. The gist of it was that to serve others is to be of help but not to be like a slave. Others who are served should be thankful for the service they are given.




Sandra Baublitz, Investing/Home Finance Editor
Investing Website
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