Friday, 2 November 2012

$30/hour is Nothing in Toronto

"There are three ways to make money. You can inherit it. You can marry it. You can steal it."
- Italian Proverb

I've chosen the least popular, but the most common of all, to work for it. After all its hard to think anything else when you hear “The max I can give you is $30/hour”. Thats how much I was worth to them with nearly two years of internships and a year of consultancy at a start up (e-commerce development, e-commerce over mobile devices) before being bought out and given the boot. That’s how much a large corp. values a young professional in Toronto. And hence, the name of this entry "$30/hour is Nothing in Toronto".

A friend of mine recently asked for help on a placement aptitude test with a Big Co. in Markham. This reminded me of my own interview with Big Co. that had occurred over a year ago, ironically the test I had to take was called "identify the best". In my mind it was difficult for me to tie being identified as the best, but being offered a barely average wage. This was a software development position (involving, besides that: consulting, onsite client work, customer outreach). Did I mention unpaid overtime? If you want to guess the corp - think the really big one with high turn over rate and slow invisible workforce cuts. Either way, have you ever noticed how time slows down when you feel the adrenaline from getting a job offer? In bare seconds (perhaps even faster if you've been out of work for a while) you can weight all the pros and cons, and the decision seems apparent without any conscious calculation at all.

Lets see, excluding (largely useless benefits and miserable 2 week/yr vacation time): 
$30 per hour = $62,400 per year = 0.78($62,400) = $48,672 after tax/per year. $4,056/month. Lets say we forget RRSP and all that bull.

Here's a table of monthly expenses that went through my mind of how far that amount can get me, with current arrangements highlighted.

With Parents Rent 2bdr Condo with a Roomate Rent 1bdr Condo by Myself Buy a 2bdr Condo (Mortgage + Fees + Utilities)
Living Arrangements $0 $750 $1,300 $2,500
Food $0 $400 $400 $400
Car Insurance $300 $300 $300 $300
Gas $200 $200 $200 $200
Cable + Cell Phone $40 $80 $80 $80
Entertainment* $500 $300 $300 $300
Activities (Gym, Group Classes) $155 $155 $155 $155
Total Expenses $1,195 $2,185 $2,735 $3,935
Left over $2,861 $1,871 $1,321 $121
* Entertainment expenses would be higher if I had to move back with parents, meaning hotel fees on lucky nights.

Are there any objections to any of the above being necessary for proper life for a guy in his 20s? I mean, not just surviving, I am sure its possible to survive on $10/h, everyone who serves coffee in Timmies does, but living life. Being able to live in a nice place in a decent area, being independent of the public transit system (essential, unless your date is an artsy enviromentalist and thats how you get her to the restaurant), progressing physically and mentally, enjoying the night life this city has to offer (one of the few upsides in toronto, imo). I am not demanding anything outrageous like financing a new M5/S5, with a grand/month just for that and another one for insurance, what I am demanding is being able to live in the first world, and not in a third world within the first world. Being able to get up everyday and tell to myself what a wonderful new day it is, instead of dreading another 24 hours of drudgery.

I am not even asking for a proper wage to get on the property ladder in this city, which is impossible for anyone but trust fund babies and lottery winners. Selling myself to the bank for 30 years is not a consideration obviously. Check out FML Listings for "gold nuggets" of Toronto's real estate market and how much they go for, and tell me if its realistic for a young professional to get a place of his own in this city.

Am I demanding? Yes. Privileged? No. Requiring the employer to pay what you're worth is not a privilege, its an option which should be a right. Unfortunately the majority of friends I keep in touch with (from the uni days, not the startup days, these two groups are entirely different in ability and character) hold a different opinion - the man with the money is king and any scraps of the table are good enough. The sucker for punishment attitude never got anyone anywhere except to the bottom.

I wondered, how long would it take me to save at that rate (assuming raises at big co just keep up with inflation) to save for a 25% downpayment on a $350,000 2bdrm condo? Thats an optimisitic price on the outskirts of the city. On the younge line, a 2bdrm condo goes for $450,000 on first bid, check out It would take 46 months. Nearly 4 years to switch from renting with room-mates to being a mortgage slave for the next 10 years with $121 in my pocket at the end of the month. Now try telling me that $30/hour is something in Toronto.