Paycheck to Payday: Working families struggle to get ahead, save money in current economy


By: Erin Buchanan
June 1, 2014

Migdalia Green's day starts early, usually before 6 a.m.

She and her husband, Josh, get their two young daughters up for school before getting themselves ready for work.

"You work your 8 to 5, sometimes a little more and it never, it's never enough," Migdalia says.

Josh Green often works an unpredictable schedule driving trucks, " One minute they'll call you and they need you to go somewhere and there's no telling where you're going."

So when Migdalia arrives home, her work for the evening is just beginning.

"You can't just say, okay, well I won't cook dinner for the girls today. You can't just say, okay, we'll skip homework today."

From about 6 p.m. on, she juggles cooking, cleaning, and helping her five and six-year-old girls with their homework and baths.

"It gets exhausting, but I don't have the time to do one at a time," she says. "I do have to sacrifice a lot time, I sacrifice a lot of myself to be able to make a decent living, a hard-working honest living."

Both Green and her husband make more than minimum wage - and work full-time - but even so, it often means counting every penny.

"You know, it does get to the point where you're just like right down to the last dollar on what your budget is," says Migdalia.

The Shreveport couple gets paid on the same week, which they say can make it tough to budget, especially when Josh's hours on the road sometimes vary drastically.

They say the main expenses are taken care of first - rent and utilities. But even that leaves minimal wiggle room.

"Sometimes there's hardly any room to just... play, and say, oh I think today I want to treat myself to this," Migdalia explains.

And the Green family is far from alone.

The median income for a family of four in Louisiana is just under $43,000 a year.

Sounds like plenty, right?

Not when you factor out - on average - just over $9,000 for rent, $6,600 for groceries, nearly $9,000 to own a car and about $5,000 to gas it up, $4,100 in premiums if you're lucky enough to have health insurance, $3,400 for clothing, $1,200 in electricity bills, and $2,100 for child care for two school-age children.

That leaves just under $2,100, and you haven't even yet accounted for any unexpected emergency expenses, let alone tried to put any aside for savings.

In fact, the idea of savings for many Americans is more like a daydream.

According to Forbes, there are three main obstacles that factor into why thousands continuously struggle to keep their heads above water:

-- Most money goes toward bills and little else.

-- Job security is bleak.

-- Moving to a place with better opportunities is, financially, out of the question.

"I wish I could be one of those people who said, 'I don't care, I think I'm going to quit my job and do all those things that I really want to do', like spend more time with the girls," Migdalia says.

For the Greens, bridging the budgetary gap during some months has meant considering measures like payday loans.

But the couple says, at the end of the day, the precious moments spent not fretting over bills make all the stress worthwhile.

"At the same time, you know, aside from needing to get all this stuff done, you also have to be a role model. You also have to teach priorities and what's important," she says. "You have to teach them by example."

Raising the minimum wage has been a hot topic in the headlines.

While most people think the average age of people working for minimum wage is between 16 and 30, the vast majority - 84% - are actually over the age of 20.

And almost half of those are working full-time, according the Economic Policy Institute.

If you think might need some guidance with your finances, Bank On Shreveport offers several options.

The organization works to reduce barriers to banking, and create access to financial security, by negotiating with banks and credit unions.

Through public-private partnerships, Bank On Shreveport helps provide people with free or low-cost starter or "second chance" bank accounts.

According to the Bank On Shreveport website, the program is driven by the growing number of Americans who face a variety of obstacles in gaining access to financial institutions.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by CFED published on June 3, 2014 4:05 PM.

Income inequality real, but exaggerated was the previous entry in this blog.

The wage between us is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.