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Best financial advice for McDonald's employees: Leave

How can a person live on just McDonald’s? The pay for employees, that is, not the food itself. As it happens, neither possibility is very attractive.

In an effort to help its low-wage employees manage to stay afloat financially, the golden arches teamed up with Visa to produce an online brochure to guide workers through the process of paying their bills and even saving money while living on a cheap-food paycheck. It could be that the authors of the online site learned more about finances than the employees. They might have discovered that it’s not really possible to live at all decently on that low a salary.

What does “living decently” mean? Working just one job, or working less than 60 hours a week, neither of which is included in the budget scenario laid out in the financial guide. Putting the heater on once in a while. (The sample budget zeroes out any expenditure for heating, as a posting by the Atlantic shows, which might work in Southern California if you huddle under a blanket during the coldest days.)

The website lays out some howlers of assumptions about how employees are supposed to maintain financial equilibrium: The monthly budget allows expenditures for car payments and insurance but not gas, maintenance, repair, registration or smog checks -- or, for that matter, food -- all of which would supposedly be covered by the $27 per day budgeted for daily expenses. But that’s probably because the authors couldn’t figure out a way to balance the books under a real-life minimum-wage scenario.

On the other hand, who needs heat? It sounds like the employees would be in the restaurant most of the time, freeloading off the warmth from the grill, to earn the money for their other expenses.

It’s possible to take the mocking of this financial advice too far. Yes, the rent that it suggests is lower than the national average, as are the health expenses. In truth, flipping hamburgers was probably never intended to be the kind of job one could raise a family on. It’s an OK occupation for a student or someone who lives with extended family and just needs to contribute a little to an overall household budget, rather than be responsible for that budget, or someone who shares a crowded, downscale place with buddies.

And for any employees who might have greater ambitions than that, the best advice they can get isn’t included in the brochure: Go back to school. Get an education. Get out and go find a real job.


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