Three things fast food workers should do with the “extra” money you’ll get if the national minimum wage is raised from $7.25 to $15 per hour.
For argument sake, let’s call the average minimum wage $7.85 to account for California, New York, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Illinois and Florida, all of whom have something in the neighborhood of $8 (give or take). Socialist enclaves of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Connecticut are in the $9 range, with Washington the winner at $9.32.
Let’s also set the number of hours per week at 30 for the average burger-flipper or fry jockey, and at 50 weeks per year if they are not just summer labor. So that’s $10,725 more in your pocket for saying “would you like fries with that?”
Before we look at the three things you should do with the money, let’s look at what you shouldn’t do.
1. Buy 10,725 Powerball tickets. The odds of getting $10,000 back are 1 in 648,975.96. The odds of winning the (currently $110 million or $67.9 million cash value) jackpot are 1 in 175,223,510. If you figure your only job for the next 20 years will be minimum wage, I suppose the price of dreams can be yours if you keep your job. (Mega-millions is a worse bet, to even get $5,000 the odds are 1 in 739,688). Then again, you can invest $11.29 in a copy of Statistics for Dummies to help you calculate your odds.
2. Buy cigarettes. In most states, you can support a 4-pack-a-day habit with your newfound pocket money. In New York it will only support 2 packs. If you smoke a pack a day, you can have enough money to fly to Las Vegas, where cigarettes are $6.04/pack. Contrary to classic Sinatra and Elvis flicks, they don’t give away cigarettes anymore. But then again, if you gamble the $8,000 or so you might have in your pocket when you get to Vegas after paying to get there, they might comp you a few packs. If you want to go, see the point above on the book you’ll need.
3. Drink alcoholic beverages. Visit these maps to help plan your purchases to get the most value. The average price of a beer in North America is $4.74. That will get you a couple of cases per week to fund your weekend house party for your fellow minimum-wagers. But make sure to sober up before your next shift, because unemployment awaits those who lose a prized job in the food service industry.
In short, avoid vices and bad investments like gambling. Your money will quickly change hands from you to the minimum-wage worker manning the quickie store counter, and will re-enter the economy, but, alas, you will no longer have it.
Now here’s where you should put that money.
1. Invest in Momentum Machines. They make the robots that will replace you on the grill line, the register counter, and the dining room. Pretty cool stuff. Their team has people who were trained at Berkeley, Stanford, UCSB, and USC—studying Physics, Mechanical Engineering, and Control Systems. If you can’t join ‘em, then invest in ‘em. You’ll likely double your money multiple times and be able to retire when the robot replaces you.
2. Attend college. Work 5 years, and then go to UCLA to get that degree so you can apply at Momentum for the Mechatronic Engineer position. The in-state resident cost at UCLA, all-inclusive, is $24,697 if you live off-campus. You’ll qualify for student loans to cover the difference. With a great job, you can pay back those loans in the next 10 years (or take the rest of your life, what does it matter?) and live well. Can’t get in to a college? Spend your non-working hours while you save your college money taking FREE online classes. On Youtube, you can take free classes from Harvard, Stanford, Duke, and a host of other colleges. These are real classes, and you get the benefit of a gold-plated education to help you get in to the school of your choice.
3. Start a business. Ten grand is enough to start all kinds of businesses. Every business starts with an idea. Look at Uber. They started with the idea for ride sharing, sitting in Paris, sipping wine (a grand will get you to Paris and back, airbnb.com will get you a nice bed, cheap—the wine is on you), and then came up with a smartphone app to support the idea. Sitting around doing repetitive, minimum-wage work is mind-numbing. Use that time to come up with lots of ideas, and drop $21.99 on books like iPhone Application Development for Dummies then go home, write a bunch of apps, and see if one of them makes money. No, it doesn’t have to be a grand-slam instant viral winner. The best ideas take a few years to marinate, so do a bunch, and incubate the best ones. Ten grand will pay for a lot of inspiration.
Whatever you decide to do, you better do it soon, because companies like Momentum, and people who decide to get educated, along with everyone else competing for the next killer app, will likely kill your minimum wage job before too long. At $15 per hour, it’s just too expensive to keep you. You know, profits and all. People don’t like paying $8.46 for a Whopper meal. I suppose they don’t mind so much in Paris, where BK is all the rage. Then again, maybe a one-way ticket and a job hawking Whoppers in Paris isn’t such a bad alternative when the pink slip comes your way.