Ward Room: By Edward McClelland
If the General Assembly approves a bill raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour and Gov. Pat Quinn signs it, Illinois will have the highest minimum wage in the United States. Right now, Oregon’s $9.04 leads the nation. The federal minimum wage is $7.75 an hour.
Is $10 an hour too much for someone who runs the deep fryer at KFC? Let’s look at how far that will go in Chicago.
At $10 an hour, you’re grossing $400 a week, IF you’re lucky enough to be working full-time. After federal and state withholding, along with Social Security and Medicare deductions, you’ll probably take home $312 a week. If you work 50 weeks a year, you’ll be taking home $15,600.
A rule of thumb says that your rent should be no more than a third of your net income. At minimum wage, your net income will be $1,300 a month, which means you can afford $433 a month rent.
I searched ApartmentFinder.com, and the cheapest apartment there is a $450 unit in Gary. If you’re earning minimum wage, you can’t afford to commute to Chicago from Gary. So you’ll have to find a roommate.
Suppose you find a room for $350 a month. You’ll have to kick in at least $50 for utilities. That leaves you $900. The monthly payments on your used Chevy Aveo are $150 a month. Car insurance is $100. Gas is $150, if you have to drive to work every day.
Your cell phone plan is another $100 — you need a data plan, because you can’t afford a computer. Since you’re living below the poverty line, you’ll qualify for an Illinois Link Card, but you’ll probably still end up spending $100 a month on groceries. Since your crappy job doesn’t provide health insurance, that’s another $200 a month.
That leaves $100 a month for clothing, toiletries, entertainment, public transportation and all the curve balls life throws at you, such as your car breaking down and needing $800 worth of repairs.
Maybe they should go $12.50 an hour.