When we were kids working minimum wage jobs at $7.25 an hour, we dreamed of the days when we’d grow up and earn adult salaries. At that time, $15 an hour seemed like a dream.
We’d know we’ve made it if we earned $20 an hour.
$20 Barely Enough These Days
Our wishes may have come true, but it was like we wished upon a monkey paw. We got the most twisted version of our desire possible.
Many now earn between $15 and $20 per hour, but it’s not enough to survive. $15 is the minimum wage in some states, and some poor saps in the country still try to make it on a paltry $7.25, as the federal minimum wage hasn’t increased in over a decade.
One person came to Reddit to express their frustration at the warped result.
“I was 17 years old and thought to myself: If I want to succeed in life and live comfortably, I need to get a job that pays at least $20 an hour,” they shared.
Now, at 30, they’ve achieved that goal and then some. But it’s not enough.
“13 years later, here I am making $34 hourly/$70,000 salary, and I’m still struggling to pay a 2 bedroom apartment, car, and utilities,” they lamented, adding that their new goal is a $130,000 annual salary.
When $70,000 isn’t Enough
$70,000 per year used to be the dream salary for many. A 20-year-old study said happiness peaked at a $75,000 per year salary. Average salaries are 10K per year lower than what the Redditor brings home yearly.
And yet, it’s not enough.
Housing prices have exploded all over the country. Inflation eats away at our earnings, making everything from food to healthcare to insurance cost more than just two years ago.
“This isn’t what I worked so hard towards, what has the world come to?” asked the Original Poster (OP).
The Shifting Goal Posts
Many users commiserate with OP in the comments, saying it’s more difficult than ever to “make it” in the United States.
“When I was a child I believed that 50k was the dream,” said one, adding, “Now the number is more like 150k.”
People Making Six Figures Struggling
A six-figure salary used to leave folks in awe, but nowadays, people earning the low end of six figures struggle along with everyone else.
“I’m at 120- between taxes, student loans, and other deductions, my take home is like 50k,” said one user, adding that after rent, utilities, and food, there’s little left for savings.
“I make $106,000 at my main job, but I still have to work a 2nd job on the weekend to pay the bills. It’s nuts,” said another.
The Cost of Living Paradox
Many point out that these high salaries don’t go far because the workers live in high-cost-of-living areas. People will claim that their money would stretch further if they just moved.
While that may be true, it’s a catch-22 because the high-cost-of-living areas have jobs. Moving to a low-cost-of-living area without employment opportunities wouldn’t solve the problem. It would only make things worse.
In addition, housing prices have skyrocketed across the country. There are precious few areas where homeownership remains affordable, and those areas lack good jobs.
The Life Our Parents Had
Many users compared their current situations to their parents, highlighting the significant societal changes that negatively affected Millennials and Gen Z.
“I have my dads EXACT same job, except he got a pension and healthcare until he dies, and I got 401K and healthcare only while I’m working. He owned three houses at 40, I’m 35 and can’t buy ONE,” shared one user.
“My dad barely graduated high school, and I still make less than him with a Master’s degree, and that money doesn’t go as far,” said another, adding that their childhood home only cost $60K.
Another said he outearned his father by age 25, but while his father owned a home and raised five children on the salary, he could barely afford rent.
An Untenable Situation
Things can’t continue the way they are. People are struggling and no longer believe in the hope of a better future. The worse it gets, the less they’ll have to lose. We can only hope that our system enacts massive change to prevent it from getting to the point of no return.