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Poverty In America: How Do Americans Survive On Minimum Wage?

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File photo of money. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

File photo of money. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(CBS Charlotte) — In the United States, minimum wage can pay anywhere from $4 to $9 per hour. Have you ever wondered, how can people afford to live a normal life working a minimum wage job? The answer: they can’t.

Americans who have well paying jobs take a lot of things in life for granted, such as owning their own home or renting a nice apartment, and being able to spend money without worrying about the consequences, etc.

As the economy slowly recovers, even people who “did everything right,” may have no other employment opportunities than to work for minimum wage.

In North Carolina, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. At that rate, we calculated what a minimum wage worker could and couldn’t afford. Read more:

- After taxes, a minimum wage worker who works 40 hours a week, will take home a little over $1000 per month.

- At $1000 per month, a person cannot afford to pay more than $500 a month in rent.

- At $500 a month in rent, a person can expect to live in an undesirable apartment complex which will more than likely be in an unsafe part of town. The only real exception to this rule is if the minimum wage worker has a roommate or partner that they reside with.

- If renting their own apartment, the minimum wage worker can expect to pay around $200 a month in utilities. Again, the cost of utilities may be reduced if they share a residence with someone.

- After paying for rent and utilities, the minimum wage worker will have to purchase other necessities, such as food and gasoline (assuming they have a car.) The average person spends more than $300 per month for food and gasoline … but this is all the minimum wage worker has left to spend.

- After paying for rent, utilities, groceries and gasoline, you can imagine that the minimum wage worker is probably in the red for the month, however, what about additional costs, such as credit card bills, health care costs/bills, an emergency situation, or other bills that they might have? You guessed it … the minimum wage worker rarely makes enough money to support themselves on a routine, monthly basis.

(Related Article: Poverty In America: Myths About Welfare Recipients)

Luckily, the minimum wage worker does have a few options. Most minimum wage workers qualify for food stamps. Not having to pay for food can definitely enable them to spend that money on other expenses.

Many states also offer utility assistance for low-income people. Having financial assistance with utilities can mean the difference between a warm winter versus a cold winter.

The reality is, even if a low-income person has assistance with food and utilities, it is still very hard to get ahead or to live in financial comfort.

For a state by state look at minimum wage, click here.

-Nichole Jaworski, CBS Charlotte

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