# Should We Care about the Minimum Wage Problems in Our Thirties?

Hopefully, though not necessarily, we’re making more than minimum wage in our thirties. Whether you are or not, though, I hope you’d be interested in the statistic saying that the Federal minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is worth less than it was 50 years ago. I find that to be an extremely sad statistic.

Someone asked on Quora (my absolute favor online pleasure site where I can get lost in questions and answers for hours) the other day: “How could 1950’s families afford to have only a working father, but a stay at home mother?” A bunch of people provided answers about eating out less and saving more, but one answerer got right to the point: Basically, when there was more productivity at a company in the 1950’s, the workers made more money. When there’s more productivity at a company now, the top 1% keep excess money, and the workers never see it.

In 1950, the average income per year was \$3,210. Since the minimum wage was \$0.75 an hour (on January 25, 1950), people working the minimum wage the average number of hours a week (43) made \$1,677 a year. So, by working the average number of hours and making the federal minimum wage, you could make 52% of the average wage. In 1950, a new house cost \$8,450. So, if you never spent a penny of the money you earned, it would take roughly 5 years at the federal minimum wage to save the amount equal to that of a new house.

In 2015, the average income per year was \$55,775. Since the minimum wage in 2015 was \$7.25 an hour, people working the minimum wage the average number of hours a week (34) made \$12,818 a year. So, by working the average number of hours and making the federal minimum wage, you could make 23% of the average wage. The average sale price for a new house in January 2016 was \$365,600. So, if you never spent a penny of the money you earned, it would take 29 years at the federal minimum wage to save the amount equal to that of a new house. Do those seem equal to you?

Also, according to the EPI: “Between 1973 and 2014 productivity grew 72.2 percent…while the typical worker’s compensation was nearly stagnant…9.2 percent over the entire 1973–2014 period. This allowed a huge concentration of wealth at the highest 1% of people.”

So what can we do about this? Well, California and New York have increased their minimum wages (with the exclusion of certain small businesses) to \$15/hr and that will go into effect by 2022 and 2018, respectively. This is great progress. Because, according to a study by the Center for American Federal minimum wage: “the minimum wage should have hit \$21.72 an hour if it kept up with worker productivity.” Even if minimum wage kept up with inflation alone, the study goes on to say, federal minimum wage should at least be \$10.52 an hour.

Even if you’re not politically active, and don’t want to get into debates about the minimum wage, you might feel some anger over this the same way I do. People can’t live on the federal minimum wage as it stands…and even if they can live a scraped together life, it doesn’t help the economy anyway that people living on an ‘unlivable’ federal minimum wage have barely any buying power.

What can we do? At the very least, it’s good to be aware of this issue, and spread the word when we can. It’s not true that people in the 1950’s simply “saved more.” I’m a huge fan of saving but don’t let yourself get gaslighted by minimum wage excuses like that one. There are americans who work the maximum number of hours allowed a week, and save as much as they can, who are still simply unable to make enough money to live on. This is a problem for us all.

# A Base Salary of \$70,000 a Year for Every Employee?

Have you heard about how Gravity Payments, a start-up company based in Seattle, is implementing a plan to give every employee a base salary of at least \$70,000 a year? I just read about it today in this article, One Company’s New Minimum Wage: \$70,000 a Year, and it made my heart do a little dance of joy. It’s a pretty incredible leap from the “Fight for 15” movement which is pushing for minimum wage bumps to \$15 an hour at fast food companies.

Citing happiness research as his impetus for this new salary minimum, Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, said that the idea came to him after reading a study that said that for people who make less than \$70,000 a year, extra money makes a huge difference in their lives.

Patricia Cohen, the author of the article, succinctly states the research here:

“The happiness research behind Mr. Price’s announcement on Monday came from Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist. They found that what they called emotional well-being — defined as “the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience, the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant” — rises with income, but only to a point. And that point turns out to be about \$75,000 a year.”

So I guess we should all aim to make at least \$75,000 a year? Easier said than done, I know. Because, if you’re like me, in a less traditional, perhaps more artistic or non-profit type job, that’s not all too easy to attain. And sometimes, if a job offer that pays that much comes your way, you may have to choose between salary or higher personal satisfaction? For me, I’ve often chosen the latter – which is why…true money confession…I’ve never made \$70,000 a year. Not yet, at least. When I do make that amount, it will nice to not stress about going out to nice dinners with friends, or being able to buy nice gifts for people, or treating myself to something randomly without thinking too much about the financial consequences. Since my tastes are pretty minimal, I think I could do that on a salary of \$70,000 a year.

Currently, the average salary of an employee at Gravity Payments is \$48,000. So that’s a pretty sweet bump for those employees whose salaries are in the average range. One of the other reasons Dan Price instituted this change was because he felt the discrepancy between CEO/top leadership pay and regular employees salaries was absurd.

I hope the company continues to stay profitable and that the employees end up being more invested and productive in their jobs, so that perhaps one day this can be a model for other companies.

# Tax Mistakes You May Still Make in Your Thirties

Did you guys file your taxes already? If you haven’t yet, there’s still time to comb your return for some of the most common tax mistakes. Even though we’re in our thirties, taxes haven’t gotten any more fun. Life’s weird like that sometimes.

Well, I guess we could make our own fun – let’s catch some silly little tax errors on all our returns. Good times.

So in the name of fun and happy times, here are some of the top tax mistakes you won’t make because you read OMGImThirty:

1. All names and numbers (such as your Social Security number) need to be absolutely correct. Make sure your name matches what’s on your social security card. Otherwise your taxes may get rejected or you may not be able to efile. The tax man doesn’t care that your cute pet name is Lollykins- he won’t appreciate you using it on your taxes.

2. Don’t file using a paper tax form- it’s a lot harder to catch any mathematical errors. Actually, are you really still using a paper form? Stop. Just no.

3. Make sure your filing status is correct. If you’re single you may qualify as Head of Household. Fancy stuff.

4. Make sure your bank account info is correct, especially if you changed banks recently. You want that tax refund to get safely into your hands, right? Yay, safe and sound tax refund- come home to me!

5. When  you efile, you need to sign your tax return with a Pin number. You can easily use the one from last year…unless you forgot what it was…like I did. If that happens, you can simply enter your AGI from last year. Unless you have no idea what that was…like I did. Just don’t lose your pin, ok? You’ll just keep needing it year after year. Just put it in a safe place already, ok? Ok??

6. If you file for an extension, remember that you still have to PAY. You didn’t think you’d get to collect interest on that tax money for months on end, did you? You know there’s no way Uncle Sam would let you do that without penalty, right?

7. Don’t lose your paperwork…receipts can be requested by the IRS for up to 7 years after you’ve filed! If you’re a hoarder anyway, indulge your habit and add all receipts to that random paperwork collection under your bed.

8. Don’t file late unless you get an extension! And make sure to actually file! Did you conveniently forget to file already? You may think you’re soaring under the radar, but the IRS will find you. Yup yup, they will.

9. Account for all income sources. Even if you don’t tell Uncle Sam that you worked part time at the circus, you can safely wager that the circus reported every fire-eating penny you collected.

Happy filing! And let us know if you think of other common errors you’d like to share with others. Thanks for reading!

# Credits vs Adjustments vs Deductions, The Most Common Tax Questions in Your Thirties- Part 3

On to the next one! The next tax question pertinent to those of us in our thirties, that is…

Yesterday, I wrote about Standard Deductions vs Itemized Deductions. Today I will attempt to explain Credits vs Adjustments vs Deductions in the simplest way possible.

It took me forever to understand the difference in these terms (they’re slippery). If you can grasp them, you’re miles ahead of the tax curve..so let’s start 🙂

TOTAL INCOME: So let’s say you’re single and you make \$60,000 total this year in income, including every penny that goes in your pocket. That’s your total income.

ADJUSTMENT (also known as ABOVE THE LINE deductions): Now, let’s say you paid \$1,500 in student loan interest this year and contributed \$3000 to a traditional IRA (retirement account). No matter whether you decide to take the standard deduction or itemize your deductions (both standard deductions and itemized deductions are known as Below the Line Deductions), you can subtract your student loan interest of \$1500 and the traditional IRA contributions of \$3000 from your total incomeThis is because they are adjustments. And adjustments are great! So your Adjusted Gross Income would be \$55,500. (\$60,000 – \$1,500 – \$3000 = \$55,500).

To clarify more regarding adjustments, let’s say you still made \$60,000 in total income, and you still paid \$1,500 in student loan interest this year and contributed \$3000 to a traditional IRA. But you also gave \$500 to charity and paid \$1000 in medical expenses. If you took the standard deduction on your taxes (\$6,300 this year for single filers), you would still able to subtract the adjustments (student loan interest and health insurance contributions) from your total income but couldn’t subtract the \$500 given to charity and the \$1000 in medical expenses because they count as itemized deductions. If you itemized your deductions, you could subtract the student loan interest, retirement account money paid, AND charity donations AND medical expenses. This doesn’t mean that you should itemize though- only itemize if your itemized deductions exceed \$6,300 (the standard deduction) this year!

So lets say you have to pay \$6000 in taxes. If you have a credit, it will reduce that bill dollar for dollar. So if you have a \$2,000 credit, your tax bill will be \$4,000 (6,000-2000). Credits are the best to have but also the hardest to come by. Credits you could possibly take include the Credit for Child and Dependent Care expenses, the Child Credit, and education credits (like the Lifetime Learning Credit and the Hope Credit).

Let’s illustrate all of this below:

Total income (sum of all your income)
— Above the line deductions
=  Adjusted gross income ← “The Line”
— Standard deduction or itemized deductions
— Exemptions (you can always take an exemption for yourself, and then more for your dependents. Right now the exemption per person is \$3,950.)
=  Taxable income

Here’s our example plugged in:

\$60,000 Total Income
— \$4,500 Above the line deductions (adjustments)
= \$54,500 Adjusted Gross Income ← “the line”
— \$3,950 Exemption
— \$6,200 Standard deduction
= \$44,350 Taxable Income

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions or comments! 🙂

# When I’m Married, Does My Spouse Get My Assets?

My head is spinning right now after researching this question. It’s quite a doozy. And I don’t use the word ‘doozy’ very often.

Writing the opposite article about whether you’re liable for your spouse’s debt was a much easier undertaking. The answers were wayyy simpler. I had no idea what I was getting into with this one. But I feel like it’s very important for those of us in our thirties, since many people I know are getting married or about to get married around this time.

So here goes: I’m going to use my very best simplification skills in order to make this as understandable as possible.

Second, Okay, so let’s repeat the question in its simplest state:

### If I have an inheritance, a savings account, monetary gifts from my dear Aunt Myrna (all of these things are known as ASSETS) does my spouse automatically get half (or any of it) when I get married?

When I started researching this, almost every article I came across was actually about divorce. I couldn’t figure it out at first, and then it hit me: none of this asset stuff is really relevant legally unless you get divorced.

This actually means: Other than if you get divorced (and hopefully you will not), you won’t ever legally be forced to share your savings, retirement accounts and inheritance with your spouse. Not really. You will probably want to share some (or most) of it, but that’s between the two of you.

Think about it: If you don’t want to share your savings or inheritance with your husband or wife, there’s no lawyer/judge/policeman/masked villain who’s going to suddenly barge into your house and FORCE you to share your savings with your spouse…I mean, unless your spouse sues you or something (and honestly, that’s the road to divorce right there), sharing money within a marriage is kind of a private matter…a verbal agreement between two spouses. I mean, you guys can fight it out amongst yourselves (a civil conversation is also an option), but no one from the legal system will get involved. Of course, you two are building a life together so you may want to commingle (share) money (The word ‘commingling’ is actually an important one. I will come back to the whole commingling money issue in just a bit, as it will soon take centerstage in answering our question).

Once you get divorced (again, fingers crossed against this), all the legal issues/headaches/major problems come into play.

I mentioned in my last article about debt in a marriage that there are two types of states: Common Law states and Community Property States. I’ll review the Community Property states, since there are fewer of them. They are: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, the territory of Puerto Rico….and Alaska allows married couples to opt in to community-property status.

Basically, if you’re in a Community Property State (see above),AND YOU GET DIVORCED, almost all of your assets that you accumulated DURING THE MARRIAGE are divided completely in half. Even your own 401k, private savings account, or pension from YOUR job becomes half your spouse’s! Of course, there are exceptions, such as if you have a prenup where you’ve written down that you will NOT divide your assets equally, or you two agree to amicably divide the assets unequally (in which case, you’ll have to talk to your divorce attorneys and there will be a lot of writing to do.)

Two major exceptions to this rule are INHERITANCES and GIFTS. If you received a personal inheritance or personal gift, your spouse doesn’t necessarily get any of it in a divorce, unless you COMMINGLED THE FUNDS. Commingling means you used some of the funds to pay for a marital expense- this can get super tricky and involves lots of record-keeping and paperwork, so I’m not going to go into it here. My advice is: if you have an inheritance or personal gifts, try NOT to commingle those funds…yep, that might be hard. Once inheritance or gift funds that were specifically yours get commingled with marriage funds, you’ve made them fair game to be seized by your spouse during divorce proceedings. Eek.

If you’re in a COMMON LAW STATE (all the ones NOT listed above) and you get divorced, your assets won’t be divided strictly 50/50, but they will be divided in a “fair” way (read: complex). This will involve a lot of “if I take this, then you can have that” type of discussions. If discussions don’t happen, the courts will step in. It can get quite messy, especially if the whole ‘commingling of funds’ mentioned above has taken place.

Unfortunately, the main fact I came across in my research is: don’t trust your ex to tell you what you’re entitled to. They will possibly lie to your face…or they’ll honestly have no idea and make things up. If you’re getting divorced, DO YOUR RESEARCH. I know, it sounds harsh. I love to believe that people are good at heart too. But…the divorce experts who wrote the articles I read recently seem to believe more in greed than goodness. Sad face.

So that’s a lot. And not the happiest stuff I’ve ever written. If you’re still game for more, I’m attaching links to my research below for further reading. If your head is spinning, let’s review the absolute basics:

• ### It is this very complex division of assets issue that solidifies the possible extreme importance of prenups.

Oh man. That was a lot for a blog about the thirties. I swear, my next post will be about ice cream or something. Or maybe I’m just thinking about pints of Haagen Daaz because this was depressing.

Please let me know any questions or comments this brings up…or if you have more insight into this. Thanks for reading to the end!

### References:

Managing Marital Property DO’s and Don’ts

401K division after divorce (this is complicated so I didn’t go into it here- these guys do it better.)

More retirement plan division after divorce

Some good info on commingling

Sheltering inheritance

More sheltering inheritance

# How to Set Goals for Finances- New Years Resolutions Series

The countdown to 2015 continues…though hopefully no one’s standing outside in Times Square yet waiting for the ball to drop. You never know, though. I wouldn’t put it past people.

Anyway, I thought I’d kick off some New Years resolution money talk for thirty-somethings.

Last year, I made a resolution to put 30 percent of every paycheck I received towards savings, student loan debt and retirement. I actually started doing this slightly before New Years so I cheated a bit.

I split up the 30 percent this way- 10 percent went into my Roth IRA, 10 percent towards my savings, and 10 percent towards my smallest student loan. (My largest student loan already had a crazy amount of money going towards it because its minimum was so high. But I digress.)

And I followed my financial resolutions through thick and thin for the whole year and am continuing with them. There was a moment where I even tried to up my payout percentage to 40%, but that was way too much. Other than that- the 30% resolution was actually quite simple: whenever I received a paycheck I’d log onto Chase.com and make my transfers. There was something extremely satisfying about the whole thing.

If you’re making financial resolutions for the New Year, my advice is much like Jane’s in her last post: break down the goal into easy steps. My financial resolutions last year were simply:

1. Put money into savings

2. Pay down student loan

3. Put money into Roth IRA

A lot less would have gotten done if I’d stopped there instead of making the simple breakdown of 10% from every paycheck towards each category.

So, if you have savings goals, save yourself a headache and break them down into steps that seem so easy as to be almost automatic. In fact, you can even automate the savings process by having your bank automatically put a certain amount of money into your Roth IRA and savings account every month. Just about all banks will do this for you.

Since I’m self-employed and am paid a different amount every month, I kept my process manual. Also, I get a gleeful joy out of manually saving money, but I’m weird like that.

Anyway, this year my financial goals are:

1) Pay extra \$\$ towards my BIG student loan

-This is broken down into the easy steps of

a) Finish paying down the little student loan the same way I was before. Just about done!

b) Put the 10% (plus the monthly minimum) I was putting into the small loan towards the big loan instead.

2) Find a savings account that pays way more interest than my bank.

– Done! I guess once more I cheated on this one…I did it last week before New Years. But don’t worry if you hate your savings account, I’ll talk about better ones in another post soon and help you set that up too if you like. For now, if you’re interested in how much you should be saving, I wrote about it here.

3) Switch my Retirement Plan from a Vanguard Target Date fund to a different Vanguard account now that I have more money in my Roth IRA.

– This involves a couple of breakdown steps including investigating Vanguard’s other options and figuring out more about how to manually choose funds. I’ll explain why I’m doing this in another post as well. And if you’re interested in retirement plans in general (or if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about), I talk all about why retirement accounts are important here and here and here.

Of course, there’s my fourth financial resolution which I haven’t yet broken down, and that’s:

4) Discover additional sources of income.

I lied about not having this goal last year. I have this goal every year, and I’m always messing with the breakdown. There’s quite a bit of work ahead. Sometimes breaking down resolutions can be as tough as keeping them 😉

What are some of your financial resolutions for the new year?

Ah, the ubiquity of Buzzfeed lists…love ’em or hate ’em, they’re all over Facebook and Twitter, and links to them seem to pop up everywhere. But are Buzzfeed lists (or lists along those lines) just click bait, or can they actually tell us something about our lives?

Jane and I are always looking for lists of descriptive thirties traits, findings and meanings- anything thirties related really- and when we do searches for the thirties, invariably there’s a Buzzfeed list or two right on Google’s front page. So today I read through a Buzzfeed article titled “27 Underrated Things About Being In Your Thirties.”

As I read through a list of statements and memes capturing those statements, I started to feel more and more confused and anxious..mainly because everything seemed so perfectly tied with a big red bow, and my life didn’t seem to be where it should be compared to the list. My god, it’s Buzzfeed! BUZZFEED! Buzzfeed shouldn’t make you upset!  But yet, dammit, it did.

And it wasn’t just me! The comments below were achingly funny and painful..starting with someone saying, “This made me feel a whole lot worse about my life.” Which was followed up by 186 likes and a whole lot of agreement, including “You are not alone, friend. I’m really depressed now about everything every other 30-something is having/doing that I’m not” and “I’m 40, and most of this just made me want to crawl into a hole and die.”

So below are some of the statements that stuck out at me. Try not to want to crawl into a hole and die. You’re not alone, friend 🙂

3. Chances are that you’re making more money now.

I’m making more money now, yes, but I know a lot of people who aren’t, and this statement still made me nail-bitingly nervous.

4. Which means you can afford actual furniture that’s not from Ikea.

What? ALL my furniture is from Ikea! Ikea is AWESOME! (Ok, IKEA isn’t awesome, but it is frigging CHEAP!) And what is that Soho loft pictured above with the vintage-chic walls and exposed brick? I mean, come on now!

8. You give zero fucks, so you dance however you want!

Umm…not yet at that ZERO fucks stage…maybe LESS fucks? And me dancing however I want wouldn’t be good for anyone..

10. At work, you’re not some assistant bitch anymore, you’re a BOSS.

Though I know people who’ve climbed the career ladder and match this description..I also know lots of people who are assistants, or who still aren’t sure about their career yet.. I am not necessarily a BOSS, though I am self-employed, so maybe this fits me more than I believe..I can play around with it..

12. Any dating you do is less messy, because you know what you want and you demand it.

Umm, no?

13. And you wind up in much healthier relationships.

Hmm…this one just feels presumptuous. Also, this is such a random photo! You think it’s the author? Are these people two random celebrities I don’t recognize?

17. You’ve found a group of friends who are the most amazing people you’ve ever met.

Also a random photo. And I think the author got this idea from a Sex and the City binge…in fact, this photo should’ve been Samantha and Charlotte and Carrie and Miranda. The thirties are where I hear the most gripes about LACK of friendship. People are all like ‘where have my friends gone??’ Umm, babies, marriage, moving, high-stress jobs, people giving ZERO fucks…these things steal friends…

24. You’re no longer afraid of change…

Damn it, change is STILL the the boogeyman in the closet for me! The people who aren’t scared of change don’t know the horrors of when it jumps out and grabs you! It’s so big and bad and mean sometimes…

I’m only sort of kidding here… but change still = mucho scary.

But all jokes aside, when it comes to figuring out what the thirties are to you, I want to just say: Beware of Buzzfeed lists! And stereotypes! And bragging disguised as positivity! And funny memes that are actually bragging disguised as positivity hidden in sadness wrapped in stereotype! (As fun as they may sometimes be.)

# Salary Calculator- Are You Getting Paid Your Worth? (And the Recent Tech Internship Salary Explosion)

If you haven’t, perhaps it’s time to make sure you’re getting paid what you deserve.

I’m self-employed, and I work in an industry (event and promotional marketing) where payment can fluctuate. I’ve been in this industry for a long time (more than 10 years) and I’m extremely experienced and good at what I do. I know the standard payment for events and the minimum payment that I will accept. However, everyone working in the industry has to demand to be paid what they’re worth, or the whole industry’s base payments can go down.

For example, let’s say that I usually work an event that pays \$45 an hour. If next year that event suddenly starts paying \$17 an dollar, I know my bottom line, and I will refuse to work it.

Now, since I refuse to work that event, a few scenarios can unfold:

1. The booking agency can call me and ask why I won’t work the event again this year, in which case I will explain why I’m not working, and we can potentially negotiate the pay close to or back to what it was.

2. The booking agency can hire someone else who will work for \$17 an hour who is inexperienced and bad at the job.

3. The booking agency can hire someone else who will work for \$17 an hour who is experienced and good at the job.

The first scenario is good- I have helped maintain what has been the industry standard (or even helped increase it!), and I have negotiated for what I’m worth instead of lowering my standards.

The second scenario is mediocre- if the booking agency hires someone who is bad at the job, the client will probably get upset. The agency will then potentially up the payment next time in order to hire the best workers in the industry. Sometimes the agency still won’t pay, and will just lower standards altogether, even if the client isn’t happy…this will eventually lead to the agency getting fired.

The third scenario is what causes problems- if someone experienced and good at their job accepts payment below industry standard, they will LOWER industry standard for the everyone involved! After all, if Amazon pays great computer programmers 250K a year, but start finding loads of just as great programmers who happily accept 30K a year, the salaries for all Amazon programmers will begin to decrease.

I have an accountant friend who recently figured out that the salary of her colleague DOING THE EXACT SAME JOB with WAY LESS EXPERIENCE was making 30K more than her a year! My friend only figured it out after accidentally seeing her colleague’s paystub. She didn’t realize how much money she could’ve been making, and therefore didn’t negotiate a pay raise.

I’ve known lots of interns who are working their butts off for various companies and making ZERO dollars. The other day, a woman named Jessica Shu posted a list of tech intern salaries in a group called Hackathon Hackers. The list promptly went viral. I’ve included it below:

Dear god!!! That’s some crazy money!

But- it’s great that interns are getting paid! They should be!!! I mean, this kind of internship money blows my mind- but it’s especially insane compared to those interns getting paid \$0. ESPECIALLY if you’re an intern in the tech industry getting paid \$0 – imagine seeing these numbers and realizing you’re likely getting screwed!

Know your worth…and don’t accept less! (And perhaps consider going into tech…) 😉

If you want to learn more about these numbers, lots of articles from major news sources have been written on the tech internship salaries in the last few days. See here and here and here. And don’t get down about it- just keep working to elevate yourself in your industry, know your industry salary standard, and demand the pay you deserve! You’re worth it!