I have professed several times my hate of the corporate world, how I loathed the rat race, the petty office politics, the brown nosing and long hours just to show you are there… you get the idea. Actually, one of the jobs I have been most happy at was flipping burgers at McD when I was a student. After talking to a reader who makes about $2,000 a month, but spends over $800 in car loan, insurance and gas just to get to work, I told her that she would be better off taking a minimum wage job closer to home.
How often have you gone home thinking about work, or worse, with work to do? When you flip burgers (or stack potato chips), it doesn’t happen. You go home, and you get to have a life. You are responsible while on the job, but once you hang your uniform (which you get a tax credit to wash at home, or have washed at work while other people have their clothes dry cleaned at their own expense), you know you are fully done for the day.
Paid to the minute
In France, the legal workweek is 35 hours, but most people work more than this, without compensation. Most of my friends do 10 hour days instead of 7, or a 50 hour workweek, bringing down their actual wage quite a bit. If you are paid $1,000 a week for 35 hours, you earn $28.5 an hour. Work 50 hours instead and your actual wage dropped to $20. That is a lot of lost money just for a pat in the back.
At McD we had a time card, and if we would stay 1 minute more, we would get paid for that minute. Most shifts we would be asked to stay 15-20 minutes, and if a co-worker was sick, we could stay a couple of hours, or pick up a full extra shift. If you racked up a certain amount of hours, overtime would be paid at 125%, and bank holidays were paid 200%. Minutes here and there added up, while a secretary staying late would not get compensated at a normal office job.
Close to home
As I told my reader, if I were to take a minimum wage job, it would be walking distance from home. There is always a convenience store, a supermarket, a coffee shop, any store, that you can walk to. No commute means no car expenses, no buss pass, no costly repairs, no insurance. And that five minutes after leaving your job, you will be home. Add 45 minutes of commuting to my example above of 50 hour weeks vs 35 hour. 7.5 hours of your week just disappeared right there, bringing your actual wage for a 57.5 hour workweek to $17.4. That is before adding the cost of gas or your bus pass. You should never consider a minimum wage job that forces you to commute for hours, as there are surely plenty within walking distance.
Easy to get
People rarely fight for minimum wage jobs. McD or Walmart have a huge turnover, so they are not really picky when hiring you. I am confident that I can get a minimum wage job whenever I want, which has given me a lot of flexibility to leave other tedious jobs, knowing that worst case scenario, I could always go back to flipping burgers.
At McD, we would get fed once for a half day shift, twice for a full day shift. That was quite a dent into my student food budget. And in France, McDs have lots of salads, yogurts, even fruits and other healthy options. Supermarket workers would get the products with a short shelf life for free. You can find another chain you would love to eat at every day, or if you are into cosmetics, or clothes, go work somewhere your employee card will score you a 40% discount.
Being part of a big company has more perks beyond free food. They were part of a scheme to help you find affordable housing to rent or buy. We would get discounted movie tickets, discounted holiday rentals, a company saving plans where you would buy shares at a discount, and as it was in France there was no need for healthcare but many big companies offer extra dental and vision cover on top of social security.
Try to find out the perks that help you save the most, depending on your lifestyle.
McD’s career website is filled with success stories about burger flippers with high school degrees who never went to college and just climbed the corporate ladder step by step. The company often ranks as one of the best places to work, and is pretty far from the greasy hell with abusive managers people sometimes depict it as.
While I never considered becoming a branch manager, I was promoted twice in my short career, and got a 15 or 20% raise. 20% over minimum wage is not so bad as a student.
I am not familiar with the way it works in other countries, but as a low income earner in France, you get extra perks. Like a government help for your housing, of 150 or 200 euros a month. A tax refund if you worked full time most of the year. A check to cover daycare if you have kids, and discounted school meals. Between making minimum wage with benefits and making 10% over minimum wage and saying goodbye to the benefits, if you have little room for career improvement, you are better of sticking to minimum wage.
The real cost of a non minimum wage perfect job is your salary – taxes – commuting costs – unpaid extra hours – hours spent commuting – work clothes – dry cleaning – work lunches – other perks you don’t have if you work for a small company instead. A very interesting calculation to make, that may help you realize you are not making as much as you think.
I am not factoring daycare as the minimum wage job won’t cover it either.