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Why it’s getting harder for workers to move beyond minimum wage

Minimum wage jobs used to be for kids working during the summer, but it is now more common, and increasingly difficult to move beyond for higher wages.

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Moving beyond minimum wage

A number of components factor in when trying to figure out why it has become more and more difficult for workers to move beyond earning the minimum wage. While most people consider a minimum-wage job a stepping stone toward a quick promotion and pay raise, recent years have seen people struggling along in the same position for years at a time, no pay raise in sight.

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Factually speaking, 1/5 of minimum-wage workers in the mid-1990s were still earning minimum wage one year later. According to FiveThirtyEightEconomics‘ Ben Casselman, that number is now approximately 1/3. Many people earning a minimum wage who do actually receive any type of raise are simply bumped up to the next state-mandated minimum wage, say from $6.50 to $6.74.

The economy remains a tremendous factor

A huge factor for the lack of raises is certainly the 2008-2009 economic recession and its seemingly snail’s pace recovery. Because recovery has been slow, those who do receive the raises they deserve almost receive a slap in the face. Per the research done by Casselman, 2/3 of minimum-wage workers in 2013 were still earning within 10 percent of their minimum wage one year later. In 2008, 2/5 of American minimum-wage workers were still near their minimum wage within five years of checking back in on them.

America’s decline in manufacturing is another point that factors into the lack of raises from minimum-wage jobs. Americans without higher education who used to turn directly to well-paying factory jobs, are now left with no other option but minimum-wage work that is not unionized. Another problem is the deterioration of private-sector unions, which used to negotiate higher pay and raises for the unions.

Minimum wage used to be for entry level teenagers

In the past, minimum-wage jobs were for entry level positions worked by teenagers. According to Casselman, “More than a quarter of minimum-wage earners under 25 are still making minimum wage a year later, compared with about a sixth in the mid-1990s.”

Worse still, it’s even harder for older minimum-wage workers. More than 30 percent of minimum-wage workers 25 or older are still earning minimum wage after a year. Nearly 70 percent of minimum wage workers in 2008 were earning within 10 percent of their minimum wage three years later.

“That suggests that workers who are forced to take low-wage jobs later in life have a particularly hard time escaping them,” according to Casselman.

The good news for minimum wage workers

Fortunately for America’s minimum-wage worker, there is a movement throughout the country to increase the minimum wage and make it more livable. In November of 2014 five states voted for substantial wage increases, and several cities followed in their tracks.

In addition, many fast-food workers nationwide are joining together in the union-backed “Fight for $15” movement, to increase their minimum pay to $15 an hour.

#MinimumWage

Staff Writer, Abigail White is a wordsmith who hails from the Deep South, having graduated with a degree in Journalism from Auburn University. She is usually reading three books at once, loves history, sarcasm, and arguing over the Oxford comma.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Randy

    November 8, 2015 at 12:10 am

    If you’re making minimum wage after 3 months on the job it’s your own damn fault. Quit complaining and move up the ladder!

  2. Pingback: Keep your eyes on our nation's grand minimum wage experiment - things could get interesting - The American Genius

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Business Finance

How should freelancers be saving for retirement (is it even possible)?

(FINANCE) Adulting is hard, but retirement looms no matter your age – here are some ways to start squirreling money away so it’s less stressful later.

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Freelancing is a tenuous approach to employment, made all the more so by a profound lack of amenities usually offered by more stable arrangements – chief among which is a retirement fund. It can feel impossible, especially when your business suffers amidst a pandemic, so some of what follows can be ignored until the ship isn’t sinking, but don’t wait a minute longer than that – deal?

So there are several schools of thought regarding the best way to start saving and where you should put your money, but the bottom line is that, if you’re a freelancer, you should be allocating your own retirement funds. Here are some ways to do just that.

Before you can even get into the weeds of how to invest in retirement, you should have a parachute in case things go sideways. My Bank Tracker suggests starting with an emergency fund of $1,000, adding to it as you can until you have anywhere from 3 to 12 months of expenses covered.

This serves two purposes: ensuring that you’ll have the luxury of time if you need to perform an abrupt job hunt, and establishing how much you can safely put away each month without jeopardizing your business or standard of living (within reason).

Having a relatively large sum of money on hand for emergencies is always good, and if you never have to use it for the purpose for which you set it aside, it can supplement your retirement whenever you decide it’s time to cash in.

My Bank Tracker also suggests storing your emergency fund using a “high-yield” bank account, such as an online savings account, rather than sticking with traditional, low-interest savings options.

You also need to plan for taxes, which in addition to whatever your tax bracket percentage is, includes allocating 15 percent of your income to pay Social Security and Medicare. This means that you’re probably putting aside a pretty hefty sum (at least 30%) each month.

Once you’ve established your emergency fund and planned for taxes, you should have a general idea of what your wiggle room looks like vis-a-vis saving for retirement.

The actual saving part of retirement entails investment in a retirement account such as an IRA, Roth IRA, a 401(k), or a pension plan (referred to as a “defined benefit plan”).

Each of these account types has benefits and drawbacks depending on your situation.

  • A Roth IRA will allow you to contribute a certain amount each year, and you can usually set up an account quickly from a variety of online locations. The money that goes into a Roth IRA is post-tax, meaning you don’t have to pay tax on the retirement funds you pull out. Your income, however, can disqualify you from investing – if you earn above a certain threshold ($140,000 in 2021), you won’t be able to use a Roth IRA.
  • Other IRA options exist as well, each with a cap on how much you can contribute per year and varying tax requirements. For example, a traditional IRA account requires you to pay taxes when you withdraw the money, and there’s an upper limit on how much you can contribute.
  • A SEP IRA is similar, but the upper limit on investment is substantially higher – and you need to be self-employed (or an employer) to have one.

Nerd Wallet also points out that a 401(k) is a reasonable option for self-employed people who don’t employ anyone else, especially if you plan on saving “a lot in some years — say, when business is flush — and less in others.” 401(k) accounts allow you to put up to a certain amount ($58,000 in 2021) in each year pre-tax, and you pay taxes on withdrawals whenever you start pulling out money.

More eccentric retirement options exist as well. Taxable Brokerage Accounts let you invest in stocks and securities through a brokerage, and you’re able to use the money whenever you please – but you’ll have to pay taxes on your gains each year, which can become expensive in the long run.

And defined benefit plans are expensive and entail high fees, but they allow you to set up a pension with high investment opportunities as opposed to some of the lower-investment options.

Whichever option (or options – you can always invest in multiple accounts) you choose, make sure you’re saving for retirement in some capacity. And remember that these accounts represent exponential growth, meaning that the sooner you start saving, the better off you’ll be when you begin your retirement journey.

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Business Finance

Stripe makes it easier to collect money from customers

(FINANCE) Stripe didn’t reinvent the wheel, but they are outshining competitors by adding features that help small businesses.

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Payment processing is an attribute of any sales process that can make or break the customer’s experience – and, with it, your revenue stream.

While coding in a payment portal can be time-intensive and costly, payment processor company, Stripe has a simple alternative: Payment Links.

Stripe Payment Links are exactly what they sound like. Rather than linking a customer to a product and then having them check out via the usual cart process, you can send them a Payment Link for that specific product; the customer then enters their payment information in the ensuing window, and the product is theirs.

It’s a very straight-forward process that is made easier by Stripe’s no-code presentation, a choice that ProductHunt posits is an effort to go with the no-code flow we’ve seen in the last year.

And, the easier the checkout process is, the more likely a customer is to complete a transaction. It’s one of the reasons why Amazon’s “Buy Now” feature is so rewarding (and dangerous, especially at night).

By offering a customer a direct link to a product with a space to enter their card info in a hassle-free manner, Stripe has created an incredibly convenient way for them to pay – and, without the usual process of checking out involved, customers have less time to second-guess that payment.

Call it what you want (manipulative, pushy, morally grey), but if a customer doesn’t get the chance to rethink their purchase before the payment form has been filled out, chances are decent that they’ll follow through.

Certainly, there are drawbacks to this system. The link applies to individual products or services, which means that, while you can create an individual link for each item on your site, your payroll processing will categorize each of those links differently. That can be a mess to sort out at the end of the day.

But it’s a great way to ensure that customers who want something specific can get it quickly and without much ado about anything.

Putting a Payment Link in your bio after advertising a product on Instagram, sharing your link on Twitter, or even DMing links to interested customers is sure to be a productive, if shameless, endeavor.

Here is a quick rundown from Stripe:

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Business Finance

Have fractional shares of stocks *really* democratized the market?

(FINANCE) Fractional shares of stocks and equity have become widely available, and it’s said that the market is being democratized. Is that true?

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Not everyone has the kind of startup cash needed to invest in premium stocks, which is why fractional investing (the practice of buying percentages of stocks rather than an entire share) is making waves. With the ability to purchase equity at a lower cost and with lower stakes, though, comes the question of whether or not the stock market is really becoming democratized.

Any time premium services become routinely accessible to middle- and lower-class members of society, celebration is somewhat hampered by the realization that those services might simply exist to exploit the people to whom they’ve been made available.

Similarly, one can’t help but wonder if such services are just gimmicks by the time they land – played out and generally wasteful.

But fractional investing options comprises anything from stocks like Apple to real estate these days, which makes the notion of investing a lot less scary than the traditional route – and a new player on the block, Bits of Stock, makes it even more interesting.

Bits of Stock is an app that does pretty much what it sounds like: earns you “bits” of stock as you go about your life. After linking the app to your bank account, Bits of Stock will count your spending toward stock-based rewards, allowing you to redeem fractions of various stocks over time.

Users on Just Use App have reported a generally positive experience with Bits of Stock, elaborating on a wealth of supported retailers and variable rewards, though one user explains that one can expect “0.5%” as a baseline for the percentage of stock earned.

It’s worth noting that over the years, other mainstream investment options have added fractional investing. Robinhood is perhaps the most famous, and Schwab launched something called “Slices” to the same effect.

Obviously, more people can gain equity when the price tag is lower, and that’s a good thing…

But, as interest in investment rises and the number of people investing in the stock market in some capacity surges, it will soon become clear whether or not this is a viable future for people’s money.

After all, with minor investment comes minor growth, and tying up the funds of people who usually wouldn’t invest – even if it’s in a stable environment – could have deleterious effects on their personal finances over time.

So have stocks been democratized by fractional investing options? Yes. But at what cost?

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