When I was a kid working at Burger King, the minimum wage was $2.75 an hour. I didn’t last long at that job. I got fired for calling in sick to go see the rock band Boston play at Madison Square Garden. Nonetheless, if the US Federal minimum wage had risen at the same rate as inflation, it would be over $20 an hour by now, instead of seven dollars and change.
What does that tell you? Real wages have dropped like a stone since I rocked out with my North Jersey homies in the nineteen-seventies. Annual salary increases at most large and medium-sized employers have plummeted or disappeared altogether. That means your best hope for keeping your income in line with the cost of living is to change jobs every now and then.
There’s only one problem with that plan. When you apply for a job at a new company, their first question to you is likely to be “What were you earning at your last job?” The less you earned, the smaller your new job offer is going to be. Your past, unexciting wages will dog you forever!