When Paternalistic Employers Go Wrong

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I usually applaud employers who go out of their way to help employers improve their lot in life.  So, McDonald's and Visa should initially be praised in their effort to help their minimum wage employees do a better job of managing personal finances (when they are not offering wages on prepaid cards).  However, let's look at the suggested budget journal they've put together for their employees for a sample month (starting on page 3):

Let's start with monthly income.  How many hours at minimum wage does one have to work to earn $1105 a month after taxes?  For simplicity's sake, let's say 1/3 of gross income is taken for state and federal taxes, FICA, and the like.  So, $1105 * 1.33 gives us $1469.65.  Divide that by the minimum wage in Wisconsin of $7.25/hour equals approximately 203 hours in a month or 50+ hours a week.  Unless we assume overtime is offered or the wage is higher than minimum, it will be very difficult to reach that $1105 net income in a month.  In addition, after your nearly 40 hours a week job at McDonald's, there is an expectation to get a second job working an additional 30 hours a week to reach that total income.  How kind.

Monthly Expenses
Some highlights:
Savings - $100: A good start, and at 5%, significantly higher than the U.S. average of just over 2%
Mortgage/Rent - $600; perhaps someplace cheaper or get a rooomate?
Car payment - $150; what kind of car is this person driving?
Health insurance - $20?!?!?!  A month?  The average premium in $201/month in Wisconsin.  What kind of plan is this?  Buy some Robitussin and pray?
Heating - $0;  Yes, no one needs heat in Wisconsin from October until April

Nothing for groceries? Gas for that car? Does this person have kids? Child care isn't cheap when you're working 70 hours a week. And, Wisconsin is relatively cheap...how will this budget work in New York City or San Francisco?

Again, I appreciate the effort here, but its time to go back to the drawing board and paint a more realistic picture for your employees (who are not typical teenagers; the median age of a fast food worker is 32 years old).  Then again, if McDonald's did provide a realistic budget, it would demonstrate how hard it is to survive on a minimum wage job making fries.

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