Working Poor & Housing

I’ve written before about the working poor and about how folks can make different choices to not be a part of that group, so when I saw this infographic and calculator I wanted to share them. The image explains how many hours a person earning minimum wage would have to work to be able to afford a fair market rent depending on which state one lives in. Last year’s report from The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) states it more clearly than I can:

The ACS is an annual survey of three million households that provides the public with demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics of the American population. After mining this data, our Research team discovered that while wages are stagnating, rental costs continue to rise and more renters nationwide are housing cost burdened.

That means that folks are working hard and not getting anywhere. It means that incomes are not growing, but rental costs are increasing by leaps and bounds! According to Business Insider, “To afford the national average two-bedroom apartment’s rent—$949 per month—a low-income household needs to earn $37,960 annually, which just isn’t happening. That’s $18.25 per hour—they only earn $14.15.”

Whoa! As I’m reading that last sentence again, I’m wondering why one would need a two bedroom apartment? Is it because you have kids? Why is only one person responsible for a two bedroom apartment? If the person is single why don’t they have a roommate? Of course I believe that all people should have a safe, clean roof over their heads however I’m concerned about acting like the people involved in these statistics have no power. I’d like to think that we have options in life. We can’t control everything, but there are things like education, character, procreation, leveraging our networks, creating our opportunities, etc. that we can control. Of course, there are systematic things at play like institutionalized racism, sexism, ageism, sexual orientation … ism … but those things have always been around and there have always been people that made a way out of no-way.

I saw this great series of infographics on The Punk Patrtiot website and I had to steal this one! The image shows how much money outsourced workers (foreigners), local workers (Americans), and CEOs (the 1%) earn per hour and how long they will have to work until they are able to retire. Of course, it’s propaganda (it says so on the image “Propaganda Times”) but in it’s hyperbolic statement it pokes at the reality of life for many around the world.  THIS is the essence of the term “the working poor”. It’s the idea that work is low-paying, the work can rarely (if ever) stop, and that millions of people get up and do it every day. The working poor aren’t lazy. They work hard. The problem is that many times, they don’t work smart.

Shay Olivarria is the most dynamic financial education speaker working today. She speaks at high schools, colleges, and companies across the country. She has written three books on personal finance, including Amazon Best Seller “Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook”. Shay has been quoted on,, and The Credit Union Times, among others. To schedule Shay to speak at your event visit