I originally posted this on Facebook a few years ago.  This is a commentary on inflation and the cost of living in the U.S.

So I came across this interesting slideshow (thefiscaltimes.com) that was comparing decades.  Basically what a minimum wage worker could get with their paycheck, and the slideshow spanned from the 1950s until the 2000s.  But this slideshow was a little flawed (to me), because they were only calculating how many hours you would have to work to buy a gallon of gas, or pay rent, or go to the movies.  So- I did a little research and made my own calculations based on their averages. (Why start in the 1950s?  Because that’s when a federal minimum wage was established.  So that is our baseline.)

So- we have Joe Smith, our minimum wage worker.  And we’re going to see what Joe can get for his money, and what percentage of money Joe will have left in his pocket.

 NOTE: Groceries refers to the price of 1 loaf of bread, 5 lbs of ground beef, 1 lb of apples, and 1 dozen eggs.  Those were the only items I could find prices for in every decade.

1950s

Monthly gross income: $120 (based on $0.75/hour minimum wage, a 40 hour workweek, 4 workweeks a month, and no overtime)

Uncle Sam (25%): $30
Rent: $42
Gas: $10.80/month (40 gallons based on $0.27/gallon and a 10 gallon tank)
Groceries: $9.24 ($2.31/week)
Movie ticket: $1.92 ($0.48/week)

  • Joe is left with $26.04 in his pocket, which is 21% of his monthly income.

 1960s

Monthly income: $160 (based on $1/hour minimum wage, a 40 hour workweek, 4 workweeks a month, and no overtime)

Uncle Sam (25%): $40
Rent: $71
Gas: $12.40/month (40 gallons based on $0.31/gallon and a 10 gallon tank)
Groceries: $12.40 ($3.10/week)
Movie ticket: $2.76 ($0.69/week)

  • Joe is left with $21.44 in his pocket, which is 13% of his monthly income.

 1970s

Monthly income $256 (based on $1.60/hour minimum wage, a 40 hour workweek, 4 workweeks a month, and no overtime)

Uncle Sam (25%): $64
Rent: $108
Gas: $14.40/month (40 gallons based on $0.36/gallon and a 10 gallon tank)
Groceries: $23.20 ($5.80/week)
Movie ticket: $6.20 ($1.55/week)

  • Joe is left with $40.20 in his pocket, which is 15% of his monthly income.

 

 1980s

Monthly income $496 (based on $3.10/hour minimum wage, a 40 hour workweek, 4 workweeks a month, and no overtime)

Uncle Sam (25%): $124
Rent: $243
Gas: $50/month (40 gallons based on $1.25/gallon and a 10 gallon tank)
Groceries: $34.36 ($8.59/week)
Movie ticket: $10.40 ($2.60/week)

  • Joe is left with $34.24 in his pocket, which is 6% of his monthly income.

 

 1990s

Monthly income $608 (based on $3.80/hour minimum wage, a 40 hour workweek, 4 workweeks a month, and no overtime)
Uncle Sam (25%): $152
Rent: $447
Gas: $45.20/month (40 gallons based on $1.13/gallon and a 10 gallon tank)
Groceries: $33.16 ($8.29/week)
Movie ticket: $16.92 ($4.23/week)

  • Joe has a problem.  After he pays Uncle Sam and pays the rent- he is left with $9.  This means that Joe will NOT be going to the movies this month, will NOT be eating at all, and will not be getting very far with $9 in gas money.  I guess it is time to call mom and dad.

2000s

Monthly income $824 (based on $5.15/hour minimum wage, a 40 hour workweek, 4 workweeks a month, and no overtime)
Uncle Sam (25%): $206
Rent: $602
Gas: $59.60/month (40 gallons based on $1.49/gallon and a 10 gallon tank)
Groceries: $92.36 ($23.09/week)
Movie ticket: $21.56 ($5.39/week)

  • Again- Joe has a problem.  After he pays Uncle Sam and pays the rent- he is left with $16.  Again- Joe is NOT going to the movies this month, will NOT be eating at all, and will not be getting very far on $16 in gas money.  Guess Joe will be finding a roommate or moving back in with his parents.

So yeah- the 50s were the only decade where Joe had the highest PERCENTAGE of money in his wallet.  And because the price of groceries and gas went up drastically in the 1990s and 2000s- the 80s were the last decade where Joe could live by himself and still have some pocket money.  I thought it was both interesting and a sad commentary on inflation…

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