Thursday, December 9, 2010

Signs That You Need To Get Out More

There's an old joke about a overprivileged young man who gets his first job with an advertising agency because his father works there.  During a discussion of when to buy advertising space for the client's product--beer--the young man objects to the idea of running the ad on TV on Sunday afternoon.  "Who will see it?  Everyone will be out playing polo!"

One of the "living wages" groups (presumably union backed) has just put out a report about the severe shortage of jobs in Idaho that pay a "living wage".  From the December 9, 2010 Idaho State Journal:

The appalling disparities between people and corporations are brought to light by findings in this annual report Job Gap report. The report, which supplies data for all counties in Idaho, calculates a living wage for a variety of family sizes, and then measures how many job openings in Idaho pay that wage.

A living wage is a wage that allows a family to meet its basic needs without public assistance and provides it some ability to save money for emergencies and to plan ahead. The report finds that in Idaho a single adult needs to earn $29,642 a year to meet his or her needs. A family of four with two working adults needs $75,372 a year.
If you live in Seattle, or San Francisco, $75,000 a year to raise a family of four is indeed cutting it pretty tight.  But in Idaho?  Even in the Boise area, that's actually a pretty decent income for a family of four.  Back in very prosperous 2006, median family income in Boise was $58,489--and I suspect that the median family here was not four, but 4.5 or 5.  Even in Boise, which is among the more expensive cities in the greater Boise area, you can buy a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house for under $70,000.  It may not be the nicest house for that price, but the mortgage on that is going to be about $500 a month (less, if you get an adjustable).  Do you really need $75,000 a year to raise a family of four here?  I don't think so.


  1. I wonder if that $29,642 for a single adult assumes living alone?

    Seems like, in my experience, housing is the most expensive thing for subsistence - and if you try to live alone on little money, rather than sharing an apartment two ways or a house four, you end up paying a lot more than you need to to "live".

    At this point my heuristic is "anyone talking about a 'living wage' is trying to sell my something and should be disregarded".

    That heuristic has not yet failed me.

  2. As I've looked at my debts, and considered what it would be like to own a house without a mortgage, I came to a stark, but beautiful, conclusion: You can live on a surprisingly small amount of income, and still have enough left over to save for emergencies, and save for the future!

    Getting rid of debts, and getting the house, are the tricky parts, though.