By: Dan Miller


The Economic Policy Institute ( recently identified what they call a “living wage.” They say $30,000 is needed for a family of four. This accounts for a telephone, health insurance, and child care, but does not include restaurant meals, video rentals, Internet access, or vacations. That means someone has to be making $14 an hour – or more than one person in the home has to be working. It may come as a surprise to know that 60 percent of American workers do not make $14 an hour. Incidentally, the government shows $18,400 as the official 2003 poverty level for a family of four. The troubling range is between $18,400 and $30,000 where a family is not eligible for government assistance but clearly has difficulty making ends meet.

So the options are then: How can I have “areas of competence” worth $14/hr. Who else in the home is going to work? How can I add to my income? How can I escape the hourly income trap?

Fortunately, there are opportunities in all these categories. You may not choose to have a second person in the home in a traditional job. Do you have “areas of competence” that you are overlooking? I once worked with a lady with a high school education in an $8.00/hr job. We looked for unique areas of expertise – she realized she was proficient in both Spanish and English and now books herself an average of 20 hours weekly at $50/hr as a medical environment interpreter. If you clean houses for a cleaning service you will likely be paid $7-9/hr. But most of those cleaning services bill their clients at $25-35/hr. If you can find 4 or 5 clients yourself you may be able to cut your hours in half and double your income. Are you familiar with how Internet auctions work? I recently worked with a guy who had purchased a book for $6.00 and sold it on eBay for $150 to add to his meager income.

Don’t get trapped or feel like a victim. You may never get ahead in an hourly job. Roughly 70% of jobs held by people with a less than high school diploma experienced negative real wage growth in the last 2 years; even in college graduates, 56% are in jobs with no real wage growth likely.

Far too much to cover here: Check all my free articles at: or browse the contents of the 48 Days books at:


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