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.


  1. $655/month on entertainment + activities if you lived with your parents because you want to sleep with whores? Are you serious? And you want a car, too? Be like everyone else and take transit, or ride a bike. Bikes are pretty cheap.

    No one is entitled to live a nightlife. And a real girlfriend wouldn't care how much money you shower onto her. You, sir, are super-entitled, no matter how you spin it. There's plenty of inexpensive entertainment on the internet.

    1. First of all thanks for commenting as I had forgotten about the blog! Second, yes I am pretty serious, I do respect your opinion about "being like everyone is and taking transit (also why didn't you mention, amongst the other things: buying nearly spoiled foods on sale in the cheapest supermarkets, paying landlords who refuse to fix essentials (heating), living paycheck to paycheck), but I don't want to be living like that. In reality, noone should.

      The part about entitlement. Whatever money I spend, I earn that myself. Now, I do believe that my abilities should be compensated well, and at this time, they are indeed adequately compensated. I'm in my 20s, but I worked with many talented people, who should have been compensated better, or more fairly for the work that they did. Some of them weren't compensated at all, I recently discovered that our intern had a rate of $0.00 in the system, and the guy put in 4 months of good work for us. A great guy with lots of enthusiasm, and considerable skill was working for FREE, in this country. And its a fucking disgrace that he had no choice but do that, thats what it is. On my internship days I got the standard rate of $20/h, that I was very content with. Is it his lack of entitlement that this guy had to accept a job with no compensation? Probably not. On the other spectrum Ive known people who are close to retirement and are shivering any time a manager passes by their cube, cause they know noone will hire them due to ramparant age discrimination in IT. I know that if I don't manage to start and get running in a gig of my own, that fate will await me as well.

      Its not entitlement to recognize the greed that permeates this system, and demand better for yourself, its good common sense. Thats why this country was so great in my parents days, because of the balance of power that existed between private persons and commercial entities+the government. I am surprised we still have "free" healthcare here, and you'd probably be surprised that I support this system.

      Concerning the entertainment, to each his own.

      I would like to hear what you have to say about the ability of young professionals to get on the property level in this city, and whether shelter constitutes entitlement as well.

    2. suck it up buttercup. Find another job that pays what you think you are entitled.

    3. Awww, another product of conformist system. Don't worry, I love haters!

  2. Totally agree with you. Very few good jobs in Canada, prices of everything soaring. Impossible to save or buy an affordable home. This is the reality of Canada for most young people. We live in a culture where people are less important, its like society is one economic giant consuming the poor or low wage earners. Solution: Do exactly what society doesn't want us to do. Organise collective communities where we can buy property together, grow food, share, work at modest jobs that are not to stressful, cause we don't need to earn that much. It hasn't happened yet but its coming. Realsticlly there are over 20% unemployed in Canada between the ages of 16-24. Over 50% in Greece and Spain. We are fostering a world of young revolutionaries who will take back from the rich what they feel they deserve.

    1. The rich and boomers of today (in 90% of times its the same people) are digging their own graves by preventing our generation from entering the middle class. I am not talking about earning enough to be in the 20% tax bracket set by the govnm, but rather about the intrinsic attribute of any middle class - owning their own residences. Having something material worth losing, in other words. In China and Israel new cities were built to allow affordable and quality residences for their young generations, in Canada the only option for affordable housing is moving to nowhereville(often doubling as nojobville). Organization is essential if we're to make any inroads against the boomers. Change for the better will not come from them, they're happy as they are, waiting for their time to run out in comfort. Expecting all work to be done for them, rent paid to them and services provided, by us.

  3. If you think you're know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to roll with the punches.

    Rocky Balboa.

  4. Allow me to impart some of my wisdom on you as an older IT worker with 5 and 23 years of service (to IBM, laid off). First of all, whether $30/h is a good wage or not, depends on how you spend it, on your priorities. But I can tell you right now, once you grow up a bit and start a family of your own, $30/h (or $40/h for that matter) is definitely not going to be enough to afford the mortgage on a detached or semi-detached house in Toronto, childcare for your kids when they're young, savings for their education, two vehicles for the family and a yearly vacation. If you want to live like that you need to start planning now in your 20s, so let me state a few dos and don'ts from my personal experience:

    1. Get to know people and invest in them emotionally. Get mentors and be a mentor. That way you have a large network that is connected to you on a personal level and will not turn away from you as if you are diseased when you lose your job (not if. when). Things like these are built over time, I recommend you read "How to make it big in software" for ideas.

    2. Your loyalty should be only for your interests, and those willing to defend them. Unless you're a significant shareholder, that means your loyalty is NOT to your company, its to your UNION. Unfortunately those things just never rang a bell with the big blue (till the cuts came that is). No union? Organize one! Its not easy, but where there is a will there is a way.
    They tell you unions are not for white collars? Managers try to intimidate you? Tell them to look at AT&T, Boeing, and countless other examples. Tell them to fuck off (albeit in a polite way). You're not gonna be young and bright forever, plan for security in the future.

    3. Don't stay with one company for too long. Your skills get stale and you become too entrenched in their products to be marketable outside of it. Send out resumes every year, if something better comes up, switch. Aim to join a company lead by its founders (think IBM under Watson = Google under Brinn), not a bunch of sleazy thieves and bean pushers.

    4. Your managers are NOT your friends. Took a mortgage - tell them you're still renting. Had a child - try to keep it under wraps instead of sending out baby pictures to everyone (not that anyone cares either way). If it looks like you can't jump ship easily, you're gonna be passed over for significant raises and promotions. Men with children don' get the cut last. Your family situation and any difficulties you'll encounter if laid off are not your employers concerns, and none of the big boys give a shit.

    5. Make your own pension. Invest wisely - in tangible things. People always need food, housing, certain services. Thats the stocks/property you want to buy. Im convinced the single reason I was laid off at 23 years of service was my pension plan. Lack of unionization at IBM prevented future generations of IT professionals from getting a livable pension plan. The ones with the goods were cut to save on costs. If you invest well, at one point you'll recognize there might not be a need to work for someone else at all!