First Person: Making it in a Family of ‘Hamburger Flippers’

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Members of my family don't actually flip hamburgers for a living, but they are part of the so-called "nation of hamburger flippers" who work at low-paying and part-time jobs. According to experts, the most recent job reports indicate we are becoming a nation of hamburger flippers. A piece by The Daily Ticker pointed out that 69 percent of the most recent jobs created were in the three lowest-paying sectors: hospitality, retail and administrative and waste services. The jobs pay an average of $15.80 per hour, which is not much more than unemployment plus Food Stamps. While everyone in my family would love to have a full-time job that pays well, we have to deal with the reality of our individual situation as well as our collective predicament. We make it work by sharing our resources. No one in my family has ever had to take unemployment benefits or Food Stamps.

Living under one roof

It's difficult to pay rent on income from a minimum-wage job as proven by the recent McDonald's budget. We embrace the concept of multi-generational housing. My young adult son plans to work part-time while attending college in the fall. Many of his high school friends and their parents work at the local fast-food restaurants. It's not unusual for young adults in their 20s to live with their parents or other relatives to save on housing costs.

Making a fast-food career

One of my family members works for a fast-food chain. He was recently promoted to a supervisory role. Another relative has worked as a restaurant manager for more than 20 years. I don't see any shame in excelling in the restaurant business. A recent Huffington Post article bemoaned the fact that a disproportionate number of the jobs added to the economy recently were part-time and/or low paying jobs. One economics said people are getting jobs, but they are not the best-quality jobs. I think people are forgetting the value of starting at the bottom of the "food chain," and working hard to become a manager.

Living paycheck-to-paycheck

I think it's a myth that people will earn more money if they branch out or complete their degree. I made only $19,000 a year after graduating from college and working as an editor for a college. I was disillusioned to find I had actually made more money as a restaurant server before graduating from college. Unfortunately, I had to make $300 a month student loan payments on my low salary.

I think the part-time and low-wage job trend is particularly frustrating for those of us who benefited from the economic growth in the late 1990s which created middle-class jobs that offered true "job security." I received several offers for full-time, well-paying jobs in the late '90s and early 2000s. After the Great Recession, the new normal was no job security. I feel more secure having several different family members with different freelance gigs and a combination of part-time and full-time jobs. It beats having an entire family dependent on the "man of the family," who is laid off from his not-so-secure job.

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