Welcome to Taking Stock, a space where we can take a deep breath and try to figure out what the current state of the economy really means for our finances. Every month, personal finance expert Paco de Leon will answer your most difficult, emotionally charged questions about money. These last few years have forced many of us to reprioritize our finances — but Taking Stock is here to help us figure it out together.
Last time, we heard from someone working in the chronically underpaid industry that is academia. This week, we hear from Refinery29 readers about their own experiences (both good and bad) about being underpaid and how they survive.
Tori*, 27 - Boston
Tori is a marketing manager in the nonprofit industry, and she tells Refinery29 that she is unbelievably underpaid. To save money, she shops at a cheaper grocery store, but says even that was becoming too much. "Because I get paid so low, trying not to leave my house is literally the only way to get by," she says. "Talk about paycheck to paycheck. A few years ago the poverty line was $35,000. I currently make a salary of $42,500, which I must say I had to fight my boss for, because he wanted to pay me even lower! I have a degree, an incredible resume, and still."
"I felt stuck for the last year, but after much time and many applications I was able to find a new job that has a reasonable salary," she says. "It’s definitely a major bump up from where I currently am." Although Tori feels lucky to have found a job that pays a bit more, it requires her to to another city and totally start over.
Erin, 27 - New York
Erin is an elementary school teacher — a well-known chronically underpaid profession — and makes around $56,000 a year. "It will take me almost my entire career to make any big difference in pay," she tells Refinery29. "Each year you get a small raise, but even teachers in my district who have been here for 20+ years are only making $70,000."
When it comes to saving money, Erin says one of the biggest things she's had to do is live with her parents early on in her career, then move in with her boyfriend who currently pays for their joined living expenses. "I have to pay my student loans each month, which is more than half my paycheck," she says.
As far as advice goes, Erin says to not shop as often, not to go out to eat, pay your bills first, and "marry rich."
*Names have been changed to protect identities.