Spoiled Or Clueless? Try Working Minimum Wage Jobs

Are you spoiled or clueless? Are you taking your beautiful life for granted? If you are, then try working minimum wage jobs. Better yet, work a minimum wage service job as an adult. Once you do, you'll eradicate your feelings of entitlement!

For many, life went on extreme hard mode with the coronavirus pandemic. However, we should also spend more time being appreciative with what we have and the people around us.

Feeling like we are entitled to everything is a disease that must be eradicated. Otherwise, we will end up poorer and leading unhappier lives.

Growing Up As A Spoiled Or Clueless Kid

I was born in Manila, Philippines to U.S. Foreign Service Officers. During my first 13 years of life living in Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, The Philippines, Zambia, and Virginia, I was able to see a great dichotomy between the rich and poor.

Seeing so much poverty really scared me into not messing around too much as a kid. But all the same, I still screwed up plenty of times. Despite living a good life, I was still quite clueless in so many things.

In high school, I decided to try and make some money for date money. So I applied for a job at my local McDonald's for $3.75. Only a month later, I quit.

The main reason why I quit working at McDonald's wasn't the low pay or the abusive, ego-tripping manager. After all, the endless supply of broken apple pies went a long way to make up for the unpleasantry at work.

The main reason why I quit was because I was embarrassed.

I lived in McLean, Virginia, a now upper middle class neighborhood 20 minutes away from Washington D.C. Some kids would drive to school in new SUVs their parents bought them. 

My high school home - don't be spoiled or clueless
My townhouse mansion during high school

One of my friend's even had a separate house just for his indoor pool! While other friends lived in government housing. It was a strange mix of wealth and normalcy.

As the son of U.S. State Department workers, life was low key. We had a seven-year-old Toyota Camry and lived in a cozy 3/2 townhouse. I rode my bike or walked to school.

My parents provided my sister and I all the opportunities we could ever ask for. I just knew we weren't rich based on what I saw in comparison. The clues started seeping in.

The Upside Of Working A Minimum Wage Job

As a teenager, my biggest fear was working the McDonald's cash register and being seen by a girl I liked or by the cool kids at school.

Wearing a purple colored shirt one size too big, a purple visor, and black pants was the opposite of cool. I was embarrassed they'd see me working for my spending money because I wasn't rich enough not to work.

What A Joke To Be Embarrassed

As a 45-year old adult now looking back, I find it crazy that I was embarrassed for working for a living. Now that I have children, nothing would make me more proud if my kids worked minimum-wage service jobs so they could pay for things on their own.

Teenagers are so insecure. Every time I go into a fast food restaurant, all I feel is pride for the folks hustling back there for minimum wage. Instead of causing trouble or bumming around at home, they are working their tails off to someday make enough money to pay for school and lead a better life.

If I didn't work for McDonald's back in high school, I'm not sure I would have gotten a job in finance that lasted for 13 consecutive years while getting my MBA concurrently on the side. Both had constantly ass-whipping moments!

Getting up at 5:30 am to open shop at 6 am was miserable for a teenager. Trying to make six perfectly round Egg McMuffins at a time for three hours in a row in front of a hot stove while your manager eagle-eyed you was extremely stressful. Dealing with horrible customers while making barely anything tested my patience.

I remember constantly asking myself: Do I really have to work for five more hours just to afford to take a girl out on a date?

A Low-Paying Service Job Toughens You Up

By the time I joined GS in 1999, all the belligerence one normally would feel as a first-year analyst on a Wall Street trading floor was no big deal.

Even a dog could do this!” one VP would constantly bark at a subordinate. A phone would occasionally be hurled as well.

Get out of my face! Can't you see I'm busy working a deal?” said a senior sales trader one time when I asked him if he wanted some coffee. He never got anything from me again, that prick!

In comparison, the racial tirades my McDonald's manager spat out at me and my Hispanic colleagues were much worse than the screams on a trading floor. At least the traders verbally abused each other based on competence, and not their ethnic backgrounds.

Each fireball hurled my way after college felt like baby kisses instead. Mwah!

Time For Redemption

I've longed to redeem myself for quitting McDonald's too early. If I met my younger self now, I'd be severely disappointed. Quitting too soon is a cowardly act of the spoiled or clueless person.

There are many things I regret not giving my best growing up. One was training harder to be a better tennis player. However, in 2016, I slayed my demons by making it to USTA 5.0.

In 2019, I overcame the impostor syndrome by publishing 3X a week for 10 years on Financial Samurai. Now I plan to keep on going to demonstrate to my kids the importance of grit.

But the ultimately way to redeem myself from being a spoiled or clueless kid was finding a close to minimum wage service job. Therefore, I decided to sign up to drive for Uber and give it a go.

After giving over 500 rides over a two-year period (80% were in the first year), I'd like to share with you some important reasons why everyone – rich or poor, entitled or grateful, should consider working some type of minimum wage service job as an adult.

Reasons To Work A Minimum Wage Job As An Adult

You're forced to develop your social skills. 

As a driver, you're in the service business. Your goal is to take your passenger safely from point A to point B in a comfortable way.

Part of making a passenger feel comfortable is by knowing how to communicate. Being a good communicator with excellent social skills is one of your most important job skills. Developing a strong support network is how you get promoted and paid in any industry.

You know how some people are annoying because they can't STFU? That's because they don't have high enough social skills to figure out when to speak and when to listen.

There are plenty of straight A students with encyclopedia-like minds. But these guys will never go very far because they are awkward as hell! If you drive for Uber, you'll meet every single type of person imaginable and learn how to better interact with each of them.

You develop tremendous work ethic.

Uber driving schedule map - starting at 5:15am! spoiled or clueless
Starting driving at 5:15am!

Some of the best times to drive are at 4am, 5am – 8am, 6pm – 8pm, and 11pm – 2:30am. These slots are where demand is greatest. Those also so happen to be times where no regular person wants to work!

To make money, you must sacrifice and do the things other people don't want to do sometimes. However, any person with tremendous hustle can drive for three hours before or after their day job in order to make extra cash.

Do these double shifts for a year, and I promise you will develop a tremendous amount of discipline. Out of necessity, you'll also become much more efficient at work. If there comes a day when you no longer have to drive for Uber, then just doing your day job will seem so much easier.

Between 2003-2006, I worked 60 hours and spent an additional 25 hours a week going to business school part-time. After I graduated, I didn't know what to do with myself for a while. Then I used the extra time to get to know more clients at work, which resulted in better results, better pay, and a promotion.

In 2009, I decided to spend 25 hours a week working on Financial Samurai after work from 9pm – midnight. It was so much fun and didn't feel like work at all!

Here's how to start your own site if you find yourself spending lots of time at home during the middle of a pandemic. I'm actually buying another site to help boost my income sources.

You will become a nicer, more empathetic person.

Do you know who tips the best? People who work in the food and beverage industry. Why? Because they know it's hard work to make a living as a waiter, cook, bus boy, bartender, or greeter.

It's the average person who has never slaved behind the grill for six hours straight who tips the least. They expect perfection and impeccable service for the money they are paying. Little do they realize that nobody makes very much. Many in the service industry do little extra things in the hopes you'll leave something extra.

Being a driver makes you appreciate the millions of people out there struggling to make ends meet. With the pandemic raging on, there are now tens of millions of people who are unemployed or underemployed.

Once you work a minimum wage job, you no longer make a fuss about petty things because you understand what they are going through! You will not have your entitled, Karen moment where you blow up at a service worker at Costco for asking you to put on your mask. Instead, you begin to thank people profusely for their service.

Your spoiled or clueless self will realized how good you had things all along.

Related: Want To Be Nicer? Get Richer!

You'll get out of your bubble.

I always encourage folks to travel internationally to gain perspective. Once you gain perspective on how amazing America is, you'll no longer complain as much about whatever it is that's bothering you.

I currently live in a bubble where I don't remember the last time I had to worry about money for food. But by driving for Ubeer, you may very well get reminded that some people aren't so lucky.

I was driving home from poker one day when I got an indication to pick up a passenger at the mall along the way. As soon as I accepted, the passenger gave me a ring! “Hello sir, just want to let you know we are right in front of Target in the cold. Three previous Uber drivers cancelled on us. We have a lot of things, a double stroller, and a couple kids. I hope you can come.” he said somewhat frantically.

That's a lot to fit in my Honda Fit! But I went to pick them up anyway. After about 10 minutes, everything was packed in my car and away we went over the dark San Bruno mountains towards Sunnydale, one of the largest low income housing projects in South San Francisco.

Dropping stranded passengers off back home in the projects - don't be spoiled and clueless
Dropping off stranded passengers who kept getting canceled on back home to Sunnydale, one of the largest projects in the Bay Area

Doing What You Can For Your Family

The mom and dad were incredibly grateful that I came to pick them up. Almost all of their stuff were necessities; an industrial size bottle of Pine-Sol, a mop, and a whole bunch of window wipes.

The father said he was a janitor at San Francisco Airport, and the mother said she helps out when she can. They didn't have a car because he didn't keep up with the proper maintenance, so it died. Now they have some money, but they are unsure what to buy.

Instead of getting out of the Projects as fast as I could, given it was around 10:45pm and there was a police car with lights swirling just one block north, I spent some more time talking to the mom who wanted to chat as the husband unloaded their things. She told me a little about the economics of living in Sunnydale.

If you're a single mother, you'll get at least a one bedroom once you go through the channel checks. It shouldn't cost you more than $100 a month. For folks like us with two kids and a steady job, we get a two bedroom apartment for about $200 a month.

I was happy for my passengers because they seemed to be a happy family. I was glad they were getting subsidized housing because how else is a janitor who can't even afford an old car, supposed to live in the Bay Area? Any annoyance about paying an exorbitant amount of taxes faded away.

Then as I made my way back home, I started feeling guilty about my living situation. So, I went online again and drove for another hour.

You'll become a more disciplined spender. 

When you're making minimum wage or close to it, you become hyper conscious of your spending habits. 

During a pitstop at Burger King one afternoon, I was considering a Whopper Junior for $2.6 because the normal Whopper cost was a whopping $3.8! But instead, I went for a double cheeseburger for $1.69 because I wanted to save what little money I had earned that day.

I'm now much more cognizant of how much I spend on food, clothing, and other non-essentials. You naturally adjust your spending habits based on your income. So for those who are afraid that their quality of life will suffer in early retirement, don't be.

You'll become much more business savvy and entrepreneurial.

There's no better teacher than experience. After spending a couple months on the road through various trials and errors, I've figured out a way to best maximize my operating profits.

For example, I discovered that waiting in the SFO airport lot is a waste of time. I learned that driving to the surge pricing areas almost never pans out. I'm very aware of which times provide maximum return on effort.

As a freelance driver, you're essentially your own small business owner. You figure out ways to maximize revenue, improve productivity, and reduce expenses. These are fundamental skills that can be honed if you are ever to go out on your own. And even if you don't become a full-time entrepreneur, you'll become a much better employee.

Financial Samurai started as a personal journal. Starting in 2H2018, I decided to be more entrepreneurial after the birth of my son. I discovered some amazing things people were doing in my space. They were making tremendous amount of money despite having no relevant finance experience. It was eye-opening.

You'll get accustomed to life not being fair.

A lot of people get angry at those who are born rich, attractive, smart, and connected. Some people really do have all the luck. Instead of accepting who you are and trying your very best to improve, it's easy to just give up and believe things are hopeless.

But driving for Uber mentally toughens you up because you are constantly put into unfair situations. The easiest example is picking up UberPool drivers. Around 30% of the time, there will be some type of snafu, usually in the form of one passenger being late.

When one passenger is late, your existing passenger gets upset at the rider experience. As a result, your rating takes a hit, even though it was the other passenger's fault for being late.

After a while, you begin to realize that the world is filled with people who blame innocent people and there's nothing you can really do. After enough mishaps, you'll snap out of your victim mentality and just keep going. You become happier and internalize the following prayer,

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Never Take Your Life For Granted

After living the good life for so many years, it's easy to take things for granted. As a result, we become spoiled or clueless.

We get out of shape because we forget there are millions of starving people around the world who would do anything just to eat a quarter of what we eat.

We become lazy because we no longer remember what it was like to struggle. Maybe we never knew.

Our communication skills go out the window because we become impatient.

We fail to learn another language because we're accustomed to everybody speaking English.

Our spouses and our parents are taken for granted. We stop telling them how much we appreciate their support because they've always just been there for us.

We stop taking risks because life gets a little too comfortable. Then we wonder with regret when we're older why we never bothered to try.

Although the coronavirus pandemic is terrible, at least it serves as a wake up call to billions of people who are just going through the motions. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so we need to make the most of our lives today.

Related posts:

Confessions of a Spoiled Rich Kid

A Summer Job Landscaping A Rental Property With My Children

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125 thoughts on “Spoiled Or Clueless? Try Working Minimum Wage Jobs”

  1. You linked me this post, and I know more of where you’re coming from now. A lot of your worldview is due to growing up as a Third Country Kid all over Asia, probably as one of the many higher-class kids in elite international schools. So your worldview and values are a bit different from Asians who were born and raised in the US, with middle class parents (mine).

    I never thought working a minimum wage job at a fast food place was bad or lowbrow – it’s almost like a rite of passage for any kid, at least in the middle class SF world that I grew up in. It would be seen as cooler if the kid worked at a coffeeshop, though.

    I feel elitism is more along class lines in Asia, while in SF, it was more about racism (always there, now as extreme as ever), extreme stereotyping towards Asians, and looking down on people for supposedly being less cool, edgy, hipster, or whatever subculture they look up to.

    1. It really is about ignoring those who don’t support or ‘get’ you and living your own best life. Yes it is more difficult without social support but nevertheless it must be done. Lack of social support means we must build our own support networks and social structures.

  2. David Michael

    Thanks for your insights. Indeed I do recommend working a variety of lower paying jobs on your way up in the world. At age 83, I am on my way down in the world, and I must say that I still enjoy working part-time at lower paying jobs after 20 years of college teaching and another 20 years as CEO of my own company, with a salary in the six figures.

    Yep…today I typically earn about $15 an hour with three advanced degrees, having been officially retired for nearly 25 years. At this point, I’ve just about done my bucket list having worked and traveled overseas for nearly 10 years, built a lovely home, have a wonderful wife, etc. In good health, I spend three days a week devoted to kayaking, golf, and bicycling, which leaves another three days for work of four to eight hours a day. I was offered two jobs last week, one at my former wine company where I do demos at Costco stores, and another for the Census. Perfect timing as my unemployment checks of $750 a week for the past two months have run out of my allotted sums.

    Here’s what I learned in the process. 1) It ain’t over until it’s over. I’ve lost a lot of good friends who have passed away, mostly successful and some very wealthy. And…we all die whether we are rich or poor. 2) Working is how you hold it. I started out at age six because my mother loved to work, so we wrote a local two page newspaper together in our apartment block during WW 2 while my father was overseas. I would sell it by knocking on apartment doors and always sold out each edition for two cents each. My most fun job was fishing my way through college catching 200 dogfish (sand sharks) a day on a Maine Island for Wards Natural Science Establishment at 35 cents each for $70 a day or nearly $2000 a summer, enough to comple
    tely pay my way through Duke U.
    3) Supposedly retired people don’t work. But,in fact, I really enjoy it and have had at least a dozen interesting jobs from camp hosting to teaching ESL to wine demos at a variety of grocery
    stores. People have been great and age has not been a factor for hiring or…firing.

    In summary, I learned that it’s all part of the journey. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, mostly I’ve been happy, partly because I have a wonderful family and I was able to pursue my dreams. The destinations were just part of the travel along the way.

  3. Great article, reminds me of the Stoic philosophers advising that you seek discomfort so you can better appreciate the good life.

    I worked a couple summer jobs in college in a chicken plant. I distinctly remember one day working in the box assembly room when my back was on fire and I was sweating so much I couldn’t see, and realizing I was making the same $7.15/hour that all my immigrant co-workers were making. I felt so guilty and so lucky that it was only a temporary job for me.

    The next summer, my college teammate hooked me up with a job at a tennis resort. I doubled my pay and didn’t work nearly as hard. It was a good lesson in how the world works, for better or worse. I also signed up to teach more lessons, string more racquets, and pick up more balls than any of my co-workers; I think they just didn’t understand how lucky we were to not be in the box room!

  4. SincerelyFrugal

    Translation and summary:
    The failed millionaire’s life isn’t working out so he’s going back to work at McDonald’s to support his spendthrift family. And this is his way of justifying it.
    Blogging just doesn’t cut it (regardless of the padded ad-driven conent) to survive on. He’s hoping that a dozen “totally awesome post, Sam!” replies will boost his own self-confidence.

    P.S. This reply of mine will either A) Never see the light of day since it will be instantly deleted or B) Be posted in an appropriately edited-down or modified form. That’s “freedom” and Capitalism for you in 21st Century America. It’s phoney and benefits those in power–or those behind the keyboards Running the show!

    Just getting this out of my system again. It’s the closest I’ve come to “contributing” to a site in years. There no longer is Freedom of Speech in this country.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Life is tough now during the pandemic and I’m just trying my best to help take care of my family and make the most out of a difficult situation. Hopefully this post can give others motivation to.

      Not sure what’s going on with you, but I wish you the best. We’re going to get through this!

      Related: July 2020 FS Recap

      1. Webbersworld

        Classy response to an absolutely disgusting post from SincerelyFrugal. Clearly a pathetic, miserable person.

  5. Low paying jobs can definitely help to build character, but I’d rather have had a high paying job as a teenager and the foresight to invest it! Could you imagine make $250k while 16 and living with your parents?

  6. My first job ever was being a tutor before and after school for no more than 30 min at a time. I wish I kept my paycheck stub! I was in middle school.

    I do remember growing up that my dad worked whatever job he could to support the family. He worked at a gas station in a tiny wooden booth where people paid for the gas (not the highly-secured ones we see today) and was paid $2/hr in the 80s. He wasn’t confident in his English although he graduated with a B.S. from the Philippines. But he was a true handyman and could do wonders with his hands. At one point at his final job working in a cannery, the company was doing lay-offs when machines were being shut down, and he pivoted sideways and took a janitorial position in same company knowing for security and a steady paycheck, even if it meant a temporary pay cut. My dad was a true hustler. He didn’t say it in his words, but never doubted his actions to “do what he had to do” to support a family of 4.

    I started working when I was 13. Lots of odd jobs. I’ve taken my dad’s work ethic and “whatever it takes” attitude and it has paid off in many ways. Not all my jobs were minimum wage, but I do remember the sweat and tears and having to deal with unsympathetic or pompous bosses or co-workers. It’s been humbling, I never realized how much my dad had to put up with even as an educated immigrant. And yet, we’ve benefited immensely.

    I feel I’m rambling, but this article touched a nerve and made me grateful and sad for the opportunities that minimum wages provide. My dad has passed but his legacy of hustle and not taking things for granted is within me. I wish more could see the silver lining in these experiences.

  7. I wanted a minimum wage retail job in high school but nobody would hire me. It was so discouraging. But I didn’t give up too long. I got a couple jobs in college with measly pay but it was nice to feel wanted and it got me motivated to study hard to get a much better job after graduation. We all gotta start somewhere!

  8. I loved the personal take on this- I personally served pizza in my high school kitchen to pay th ephone bills and my friends always said hi as I was serving them food. It was a humbling experience, but it taught me grit later on in life.

  9. Lee Cochran

    I’ve worked two jobs since 1985 on and off most of my adult life.
    One main job and a minimum wage job.
    Only time I didn’t do two jobs was on active duty in the Marines.
    I’m treated like a loser from customers all the time but the regulars will sometimes catch me picking up my paycheck while wearing my engineering tech military uniform when I was a Reservist.
    It just doesn’t click with them. It’s like a world shattering view that I have a sucessful big job but work minimum wage at night.
    I’m doing it right working for same restaurant chain.
    Almost 30 years experience and the owner has me at minimum wage even though I already know everything but they did make me a shift manager.
    I do it for extra money but I don’t really need it and don’t care.
    I feel sorry for those that are struggling to just live in San Jose, LA, and San Diego. The problem with minimum wage is employers taking advantage of the employees like the case of the walkout with Sonic in Ohio.
    It’s bad enough the customers crap on them but the employers too.
    Would not allow my kids to anywhere but fast foods.
    Too many bad actors in the industry. https://www.workers.org/2019/03/15/ohio-sonic-drive-in-workers-protest-pay-cuts-with-organized-quit/
    Minimum wage is only half the problem. Rent control is the other half.
    Increasing minimum wage only give landlords permission to do a rate increase.

  10. Super article; i worked 2 jobs in college ( nursing assistant, and at a liquor store) with a premed work load and rotc on the side. Those 2 jobs taught me as much as the college professors did

  11. When I was hiring staff, I always looked at their resumes for jobs they had in high school and university. The ones that had worked at a variety of jobs, often low paid, menial, or physically demanding, were much more savvy, grateful, and willing to earn recognition and promotions. Ones that had actually been promoted to foreman or manager were even better as they already could anticipate and appreciate my side of the equation.

  12. As a kid I never had a job and the thought of working at McDonald’s and someone seeing me made me so embarrassed. I would also feel sad for the people working at fast food restaurants when I would go there. Now I’ve grown up a lot and when I go to McDonald’s I feel proud of the people who work there and am consistently amazed when someone gives me great service with a smile when I know they are making low wages and could easily become bitter and angry. I did work a minimum wage job at a department store for a couple months and it definitely made me think a lot about the value of money and how I spend.

  13. You’ve stayed very humble, this is difficult and inspiring. It feels human and relatable, more so unexpected. Goldman seems like a place most people would dream to work and you compare it to somewhat benign easier at McDonalds! HA. Thanks. As I (we) keep growing, we’ll definitely keep both feet on the ground.

  14. David Michael

    A great post Sam, one of my favorites. I also grew up in the Virginia suburbs and Dad was with the State Department, or AID, or CIA, or GAO, or whatever flavor was important for an accountant during his time in the mid 20th century. Most of our neighbors were FBI, CIA or Treasury Agents. Fun slice of life among hard working civil service employees.

    There was no limit of part-time jobs working my way through private high school (Gonzaga) and Georgetown U. I remember having a two-week Christmas break, saw a construction team building houses, talked to the builder, and he put me to work immediately until the end of my vacation. Treated me like a regular employee complete with Spice Cake for Christmas. Indeed, I was able to work for temp summer government jobs during the day, work as a science tech on weekends injecting mice for cancer research, and playing piano in nightclubs in the evening, earning my way through college, with college costs of $2000 a year for everything.

    Amazing how times have changed. At age 75, after nearly 20 years of retirement, I decided to work seasonally after volunteering in the Oregon State Park system, feeling I might be losing my edge. Selling Christmas trees in the Bay area, working for Amazon at a huge warehouse in Nevada for three months, and overseeing seven camp grounds for five months in a National Forest in Oregon, have left me proud, fit, and money in my pocket. As I approach age 80, I am a Wine Ambassador for an excellent vineyard with stints at Costco, Safeway and other stores on a monthly basis. Most importantly, I have met a plethora of wonderful people who for no reason, found themselves on hard times, losing nearly everything due to the 2008 crash. I’ll probably work seasonally for another year until I can top out our retirement fund once again.

    I treat many of these hard working, long hour, physically demanding jobs as paid gym workouts. Working next to 20 year olds lugging around 40 pound Christmas trees is a mean challenge for us seniors. Amazon was even more athletic with required minimal 50 hour work weeks scanning product bins from ground elevation to seven feet high, doing a zillion squats in the process. I am looking forward to another five years off to explore the globe once again when I hit my 80th birthday. Never thought I would be working at this age, but I find it keeps me sharp, in good shape trying new things, and engaging with people of all ages.

    We need to assess ageing in a new light as much of the US population grows over 60 years old. Now, many of us will be healthy into our 90’s. It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Enjoy every outrageous minute of this crazy, wacko life we have the privilege to experience. We sold our big, fat house on three acres to travel with a backpack and teach overseas for five years before travelling the USA and Canada with an RV for seven years. We went from being a somebody to a nobody. What a wonderful slice of life retirement offers each of us human beings.

    1. David Michael

      Wow! I just reread this commet I wrote several years ago. Nearing age 83 now and still working seasonal jobs in the wine industry during Nov-December for Costco plus one weekend a month for a local winery when I am home. Several of my good friends have passed away, so I am very aware of moving into my eighties and nineties. I keep working part-time because it forces me to go beyond my daily lifestyle. I have no doubt it keeps me more mentally sharp, physically fit, and working in community. Every extra cent I earn goes into High Yield Dividend Paying Stocks. If I had only known becoming wealthy was so easy and fun when I was in my teens. And, I still only make about $15 an hour, a wee bit of a wage as compared to the days when I had my own company many years ago and made about $250 an hour.

      1. This is my truth. America is an oasis in a world of misery. I’m not jealous of people with more money. I am sad for the billions of people who have nothing. I can’t imagine the heartache of a single mom standing on her feet for eight hours to make minimum wage. A single mom with 2 children, working for little money, and going to school at the same time. This is misery. It is alive and well even in America. My life is full of abundance. If I feel sorry for myself because others have more, I should be ashamed. I’m just saying.

  15. Great post! I worked at McDonald’s in high school, but the abusive managers WERE the reason I quit =).

  16. Russell Odom

    Thanks for the post!

    Had a great experience working part-time in a coffee shop recently (full-time technology sales) – your post describes many of the thoughts and feelings I had going into and coming out of this exercise.

    Even as an adult I felt a hint of the embarrassment you referenced as a kid – thankfully I was able to shake that and truly enjoy the experience!

    Next up.. Uber driving.

      1. In this world, if you have toilet paper, you are blessed. Travel outside of America and see if I am right. Be sure to bring your own.

  17. I used to work in the clerk’s office of my local courthouse for min wage. The work was dreadfully boring, but fine otherwise. What really stuck is seeing the people that had been there for 30+ years, just day in and day out. Nothing ever changed with them. I knew then and there stagnation was worse than, well, death. Also did cold calling to alumni for a summer in college.

    While in college, I had a sociology professor who spoke about his time working a side job stocking shelves at a grocery store for the “experience”. Apparently if he got around to telling customers he was actually a PhD-holding university professor, most people gave him the brush-off. Who would believe Dr. Stocking Shelves?

  18. Beautiful article! As a man who has never struggled to get by, I feel so guilty. But this article taught me so much!

  19. I grew up poor, and I worked a few different jobs during my teenage years for my own spending money. Thankfully I was so happy to be working and earning money I didn’t really care if anyone saw me. The upside is now that I’m really kind to people working crap jobs as I know EXACTLY how it is.

  20. Pingback: The Unfair Competitive Advantage Of The Wealthy | Financial Samurai

  21. I’m I highschool right now and the comments make me realize how good I get paid for summer work at 9 dollars an hour.

  22. Excellent post. Last year I was actually working a minimum wage job. After I quit my dead end full-time job and returned from my cross country trip in 2013 things went great for a while. In January 2014 my money started to get low. I realized that it was time to start looking for jobs. After previously working in a college I was only applying for jobs in colleges. That didn’t work. By mid March I was almost down to 0. I saw an ad for a Jimmy Johns delivery driver position. I applied. I started working the 1st week of April. I was there for 6 months. Those 6 months humbled me and helped me get focused on my goals. During that time my budget got better and I realized that you have to do what you gotta do at time.

  23. Great article!

    I think everyone should work in customer service at some point in their life. People who do so tend to treat other retail employees with more respect. Like you said, it’s always those who were never providing service to others that demand premium service for little or nothing. I see this in the banks everyday, but it’s everywhere. God forbid I don’t make a customer feel like a special snowflake……

    I never worked at McDonald’s, but I worked as a cashier at a supermarket for three years as a teen. It was my first job. It’s amazing how one’s work ethic changes over the years. But regardless, I feel no shame now working at such a job. It taught me the skills I need to make it in the working world.

    I won’t do Uber though. Mainly because I’m afraid of driving. Also, I don’t own a car and I think they’re too expensive.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  24. It sounds like you and I grew up in similar situations. It’s awesome to go to a good school district, but, man, did the self-conciousness shoot up when you’re “poor” when other people would consider you considerably well-off. First world problems, but everyone has problems.

    I quit fast food because of what I now look back and recognize as sexual harassment, but what I labeled at the time as hating all the men that I worked with.

    This is a great post. It’s so easy to become out of touch when such a vast majority of people are getting by on less.

    P.S. Former or current food industry workers are truly the best tippers!

  25. I guess that I can say that I am lucky to have the minimum wage job that I do. I work for a college and I get one free class a semester, so while working the job, I am going utilize the opportunity to educate myself in new ways. This is something that people need to be on the outlook for all the time!

  26. Very interesting content. I grew up in Soviet Union where we had nothing, absolutely nothing. Then we restored our independence and I was introduced to the capitalism. Later on, we joined the European Union and things changed again. I have seen the life when you had to work even then when employer couldn’t pay you, however, our work ethic stated that this is what you need to do in order to get the work done. I think working on minimum wage does make you more humble. However, being ambitious is good as well as long as you don’t forget where you come from and always support the ones who are still there where you used to be.

  27. supernova72

    Great post. I often share my first job experience with my co-workers and friends. Working at Royal Fork Buffet being a bus boy. Line was out the door most shifts and you couldn’t clear the tables fast enough. Then I was “promoted” to dishwasher ($2.50 to $2.65).

    I must say when I went to college being a seasoned dishwasher helped me land a job in the WSU dining hall (pots and pans morning shift).

    It was hard work but I gained a whole new perspective on work ethic and associated pay. My largest paycheck the dining hall was $70 for month but I stretched it as far as I could. Cheers.

    1. The Royal Fork. What a blast from the past. I used to mix all my pop together and the ice cream bar was amazing! Thanks for the smile today.

  28. Awesome article. I never got to work at a fast food restaurant. I applied to a McDonald’s once or twice but never got a call. Just like you, I’d feel embarrased if the cool people were to see me working there so I never try hard enough to get a job there. I did enjoy working in manufacturing companies during my summers. They paid an extra dollar per hour and I was out of work by 5 and didn’t need to work on weekends. Those factory jobs really pushed me to do the best in school and make sure I graduated. It’s not what I would see myself doing for the rest of my life.

  29. This is a great post and I agree with you 100%. My father owned a small successful business and I was EXTREMELY lucky to have the upbringing that most people didn’t have.

    That being said, my parents made sure that I wasn’t spoiled and sheltered from the hardships of life. I never received an allowance and ANY money I received from my parents was hard earned ($5 for mowing the lawn, $5 for washing BOTH cars, etc.).

    All throughout high-school and college I worked in my father’s warehouse lifting heavy furniture and appliances. I would come home at night with a heavily dirtied shirt, scraped up hands, and every muscle in my back sore from lifting. At the dinner table, my father would tell me how important it is to get a college education, or a trade skill, to better myself.

    To this day I’m forever grateful to my parents for instilling in me the passion to work hard and save money. My friends today, who come from a similar upper middle-class upbringing, didn’t have to work in high-school and never learned the value of saving. They are now dependent on their rich parents and probably will be for a long time.

  30. Great post! I remember working at McDonald’s when I was 15 years old for six months. They put me at the register since I spoke “good” English. I made $4.85/hr. My income pretty much went to baseball cards and comic books, but to many of my co-workers, it was money to pay the rent. My co-worker was a recent immigrant from Africa. It surprised me when he mentioned that he was a doctor there. He was awarded immigration through a “lottery” system. I was surprised that he would give up being a doctor and move to NJ to work a Mickey D’s. He mentioned that it was the price to pay to come to America in order to realize a better life! Working a minimum wage job definitely gave me an “education” and made me realize how lucky I was to be born and raised in the USA.

  31. Great post, love the serenity prayer. For me, the toughening phase was hawking fruits on the streets of Lagos in Nigeria. Kept going since, I work in finance now in the US and couldn’t be more thankful for those humble beginnings… while looking out to doing bigger things in the future!

  32. Pingback: Are There Really People Who Only Work 40 Hours A Week Or Less? | Financial Samurai

  33. Early 90s, I worked weekends in a store for the magnificent sum of £1.77 an hour ($2.76). Didn’t get a payrise in two years. I’m not sure I got as much out of it as Sam, but it did teach me a few things. Working in a store is really hard work, not least because you are standing for 4+ hours without a break. It can also be mind-numbingly boring: there’s not a lot of opportunity to demonstrate innovation and leadership when your job is to straighten things on shelves or sweep stockrooms for hours at a time. If you are talking directly to customers, almost no-one really cares about doing a good job helping them with what they need, so it’s easy to become a standout employee simply by being enthusiastic and diligent.

    When I think about my (relatively) cushy office job, these experiences are a good reminder that things could be a lot worse, that many other people actually do have it a lot worse, and that demonstrating a genuine interest in providing a good service to your internal and external clients is a great way to build trust and create lasting relationships.

  34. Sam, thanks for the reality check. I just got back from a week of fishing in Alaska with my daughter. I was quite frankly, rude, to the girl who checked us into our room at our hotel. I requested the suite which they double booked and had to stay in a regular room. Can you imagine? a regular room! The humanity!!!

    It’s easy to forget my high school years, working at our local pizza restaurant. After every home football game the team and the cheerleaders used to come in for pizza. 3 years of embarrassment and humility.

    After my obnoxious show with the check in girl, maybe I should remember my high school years a little more often.

  35. Ace Hardware cashier was my first job and I hated every minute of it. Stuck behind a counter with the general public bombarding you all day long. I would have to call a manager over any time I needed a bathroom break. The classic 30 minute lunch where I would run over to Quiznos and eat a sandwich as fast as possible then grind it out for another 4 hours straight. Minimum wage was around $5.00/hr at the time so after tax that combo meal was about 2 hours of work. I was spending 25% of my pay just to eat during my workday!!

    I quit the cashier gig but got moved into screen repair. I would build and fix window screens and screen doors. I had a nice workshop out back, away from the mayhem of the front register and actually use the restroom without asking. Same pay but much better for me. Working as a cashier was just soul crushing.

  36. I always look at work, regardless of the pay, as a blessing and opportunity. First of all, someone is seeing value in me and my skills and that’s pretty darn cool. On top of that, I get to meet new people, learn new skills and gain a new perspective. It’s almost like traveling, except you don’t have to go anywhere and you get paid!

    Right now, I’m working an almost minimum wage job teaching tennis for the summer and, I tell you, there is something insanely satisfying about getting that $300 check every week. On occasion, I land a relatively high-paying PR gig, making up for the low to no paying fun jobs and projects.

    Next phase: getting paid to travel, teach and live on the road!

  37. I worked in a few minimum wage jobs growing up. It really taught me to be humble and appreciate the wonderful opportunities given to me. With great opportunity comes great responsibility.

    I’ll have to do this again in life. My question is if you weren’t going to write about the experience, wold you still have gone through with this?


    1. I absolutely would for all the character building benefits I’ve mentioned in this post, and even more benefits I’ve got in part two.

      Being able to share my experiences on this platform is icing on the cake.

      I really enjoy the feeling of feeling appreciative and not taking things for granted.

      Also, I am a curious person. I wanted to learn how the Uber technology works, what drivers go through given I was a rider, and the types of people who pay for such a convenience vs. just taking the bus (I always just take the bus). Anthropology fascinates me!

  38. I grew up on the poor side of middle class so I had plenty of minimum wage jobs during high school and after. Earning money on my own was the only way I would have new clothes for school.

    I worked at Subway and Walmart for minimum wage before I traded up to the restaurant industry. As a server at Denny’s, I could make a lot more than $5 per hour in tips!

    All of those jobs sucked, but they definitely built character. To this day, I still tip more than I need to if a server is remotely nice to me. I know how much abuse those people take.

    1. Very cool. Folks in the food service industry definitely tip the best. The expectations of perfect service for a 15% tip must grate.

      When you putting the hubby back to work?! :P

  39. Great post as usual.

    there’s so much humanity in this post about the family, it tugs at the heart:

    “Hello sir, just want to let you know we are right in front of Target in the cold. Three previous Uber drivers cancelled on us. We have a lot of things, a double stroller, and a couple kids. I hope you can come.”

    1. Thanks Nick. It was an interesting situation b/c i was going one way on the freeway back home, and got the call, and had to take an exit to go back onto the freeway going the other way! It was certainly not a convenient pickup, especially the 10 minutes it took loading the car.

      But, it felt good to help them, as the family was literally stranded at target that evening. And to hear about their life in Sunnydale and their hopes of a better future were important conversions that helped put things in perspective and help create this post. So I’m very thankful.

  40. I worked for McDonald’s for a year in high school, after giving up my paper route. I was petrified when I was moved from the grill to the register, fearing that some of the “cool kids” in school might see me. I quit after a year, when I refused to wear a “Proud To Have Served You For One Year” badge they gave me… because I wasn’t.

    Looking back, I can’t say I exactly regret quitting, but I certainly am grateful for the job (but I was paid $4.15 an hour, and then $4.20 after six months–a princely sum!). For all of the reasons you describe. For the nauseating smell of Egg McMuffins at 5:30 a.m. (I can still smell the sickly smell of the McDonalds butter on the McDonald’s grill before sunrise.) It made me appreciate college. It has helped me appreciate where I am today. I’ll take the smell of coffee at 2 a.m. in the office to the smell of those Egg McMuffins at 6 a.m. any day.

    1. Ha! A fellow alumni. Funny you feared the register just like me.

      Great juxtaposition in the end w/ the coffee and McMuffins.

      Makes me think… how many folks working at McDonald’s actually enjoy/love their jobs?

      1. I wonder if you worked at the McDonald’s at the corner of Old Dominion Dr. and Dolley Madison, or the one on Elm St.? I worked at the former. Still live in the area, and am now a veterinarian.

        Go Saxons!

  41. Practical Patty

    My education-minded asian parents wouldn’t let me work when i was in high school because they wanted me to focus on my studies…they considered that my job. I always looked longingly at the kids who worked at the frozen yogurt shop in the mall because I felt i was missing out on the social aspect of working…the cute boys who would come by the shop and the frozen yogurt – yum and yum! Finally one summer, my mom helped me get a job at the clinical laboratory where she worked (her rationale – it sounded like a science-y job that might help with my college application and i was only taking one advanced math class during summer school, so i should be able to handle it). I got minimum wage doing some work in the QC department… some light typing, filing, photocopying, and…once a day, pouring bottles of urine that was spiked with drugs into sample cups for testing. The social aspect of that job was having a packed lunch in the lunchroom while my mom’s coworkers all cooed to her about what a nice daughter I am to come to work with mom. Not exactly the cool job or social crowd to brag about. I did really value my paycheck, tho. I mentally translated the dollars of any potential purchases into X number of hours or Y number of sample cups of pee poured. I did eventually get into a good engineering school and have had a great career in engineering since then. So I am thankful for everything my parents helped me with to get me to where i am today. But I still wish mom and dad would have let me work at that frozen yogurt shop.

    1. Ah, the little things. When you say “had a great career in engineering,” does this mean you are retired? What are you doing now and did you find that cute boy in the end?

      1. Practical Patty

        still having a great career, tho setting up for retirement in 7 years. Not as early as the Financial Samurai, but still early by many standards. :) I still feel greatful for the opportunities I’ve had…I feel like I won the slow lottery.

        I did finally found the right cute boy after all…another big fan of your blog, in fact!

  42. One of your best posts. Thanks for the perspective. I recently started feeling that “I’ve made it” sensation. It’s a dangerous thought and one that can cripple motivation.

    1. No problem CC. There’s a ton of similar type of work from companies like TaskRabbit, Postmates, Lyft, choose your motivation elixir.

      “I’ve made it” sensation feels great. I will argue that the feeling of going back to humble beginnings after making it ALSO feels amazing. Maybe even more amazing, actually!

  43. Working in the service industry for many years was, hands-down, the best experience to prepare for the craziness of the entertainment industry. When I promoted concerts, I dealt with agents, managers, artists, box office people, security guards, stagehands, the public, etc. Waiting tables for several years was an invaluable experience. And I wouldn’t think twice about going back to it if I ever needed to.

  44. Like most people, my first job was for minimum wage; I was a grocery bagboy, but I was only 14, so $6.15 an hour felt like a fortune!

    I’m doing something similar to your Uber experience now though. When I first moved to NYC and had a job that barely paid, I would do TaskRabbit jobs to get by (mostly building people’s IKEA furniture). Five years later, I work on Wall Street and live a cushy life on 30% of my income, but I still do the TaskRabbit stuff for $10 an hour because I love the feeling of helping people who need it. The customers always ask what I do for a living, and are shocked when I tell them I don’t need the money at all. Ironically, they feel good about that and give me a big tip!

    Doing hard physical labor for lunch money is definitely humbling, though, and reminds me how lucky I am.

    1. $6.15 IS HUGE for a 14 yo. But good on you for working at 14 and doing TaskRabbit.

      How did you move from a job that barely paid to a job on WS? What function do you do? Always interested in hearing about people’s transitions.

      1. webbersworld

        My wife and I live in your other former hometown – Manhattan. Married a Jersey girl, so I’ll be stuck in the area for awhile. Jersey suburbs in a year or two. Can’t wait for those property taxes :(

          1. webbersworld

            US Open will be fun. If possible, try to make it for the first 2 days. Definitely my favorite times to be there. You can just hop from court to court and watch tons of different matches and practices going on. Definitely get your money’s worth of tennis :) Also, insider tip: if you drive a Benz to the grounds, you get free parking! Food+booze will cost you an arm and a leg though :(

            1. Yep! I will be there for the last day of the free qualifier tourney on Friday and the first week of the tourney.

              Hot as hell, and expensive the food and beverages, but so fun.

  45. One of your best posts I’ve read. I often need to be reminded of how great we have it. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this site and these posts.

  46. No thank you.

    I busted my hump working through high school and college, got my MBA part time while working a high stress tech job and otherwise working hard for success.

    Now that I’m raising a family, I have my next challenge. I’m growing enough as a person every day and wouldn’t wish a low paying or stressful job on anyone.

    We all rise to the level of our desires and competence.

    Taking a step back is a waste of time and disrespects the hard work you did to achieve your current level of success.

    1. Hey, whatever you can take man. If you’ve got all the motivation you need, no need to “disrespect” yourself by working a minimum wage job. Just don’t say that out loud to the thousands of folks working such jobs, especially those in the F&B industry.

  47. Very insightful post Sam. My first job was a minimum wage job at Starbucks during high school. I learned a lot on that job, especially since I was the only one who started there (it was a new store) with no experience in the coffee business. I was definitely feeling inferior, but after 2 years of working there more than half the people who were originally hired had quit and the manager said he took a chance on hiring me and I came through time after time.

    My reward? A 75 cent raise. That’s when I also knew that while working there was a good experience, it was no way to make good money.

    1. Impressive you stuck it out for two years! I love how you mention your reward was a 75 cent raise. Meanwhile, Starbucks stock made shareholders and Howard Shultz a killing. That’s the motivation anybody needs to realize the importance of investing, the masters and the worker bees, and the difference between the haves and the have nots!

  48. Once again I have to tip my hat to you for a well written and well thought out positive response to a negative situation. I wish I had your insight and skills to put to paper the feelings you do. I feel that Uber needs a champion to save those that do not see the abuse they are subjected to on a daily basis but also have grave concerns for the whole “sharing economy” theory and potential for severe damage to the American Worker and the US economy. Thank You for providing us a different look at life within the beast that is Uber.

    1. No problem rich. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” as they say. I’m sure you can write something similar about your experiences. Give it another shot with a different writing style!

  49. Worked.in.a.gas station as an attendent.for.about.4 days in.college just out.of.curiosity. Oh boy. Dont.ever want.to.be.in.those shoes again. People automaticaly assume that you are scum when.they see you working.in.a gas station. Job was hard,.dealing.with.cash.all day trying.to.make sure im.not.missing.any.money at end.of the day. Running around.keeping.track of.all.the cars.ur pumping. When.some people.see you.in.a.subserviant.role, they.take.that as a chance to.boss you. One.scumbag I.remember.who himself.appeared to.be a laborer came.in.shouting.profanities wanting.me to.attend.him right.away. I was.baffled as to.why he would.talk to.me.like that as that had never happend.before, but.then.again I.had.never been.an.attendent at a gas staion before either. I.gave it.back.to.him.and.he.was surprised and.backed off. One.of my.neighbors.came.to.get.gas filled up.there and.that was kind.of.embarassing. I.was exausted by the end.of.the.day despite the.fact that I was in.the.shape of my life. Not.to mention there were $7 missing.from.my.account.that the owner.wanted.to.know.about. Dont.remember if.he.ended up deducting.it.from my pay. Almost.impossible.to.keep track of all the.cash.while ur.pumping.gas and.collecting money all day long. Oh boy, to.be.in.the shoes.of a gas station attendent was something.else. I did other fast food jobs, but.the gas staion attendant.sticks out.for.sure. Those 4 days were quite vivid. I.have been.ungreatful about.my.job lately, looking.at others who.I.perceive.to.be.in.better situations than me. This post refreshed my perspective. Thanks

    1. I always fear what happens when the books aren’t balanced. Easy to do with lots of transactions.

      Question: do you have a program that automatically puts periods in between words?

      1. Apologies for the periods. Happens when I post from my S4 for some reason. No worries, upgrading soon.

  50. I grew up near the sunnydale area and did hang around there when I was younger. I lived in different parts of SF- Portola dist., Ingleside, outer Richmond, and now back in the Portola. I grew up in the Portola district in a lower middle class family. Many of my friends/family grew up either in the lower income areas and as I mentioned, I spent some time hanging around there. This brings back memories and makes me thankful about where I am today. Thanks for this.

  51. I’ve tried to block from my memory how much it hurts to work for minimum wage. That definitely puts things into perspective. My little brother used to work for one of my dad’s construction crews every summer in the AZ heat – he went on to get straight As in undergraduate and law school (top 5 schools). I did pretty good, but I imagine if I was a boy instead and had to experience working outside in AZ summers I would’ve done even better. Not trying to overgeneralize, but I don’t know many spoiled kids who went on to achieve much in life, but maybe that’s just confirmation bias on my part.

      1. I got to coach figure skating when I was 16, so I started off at $15/hour – early life skills paid off! In college I worked several jobs, mostly coaching and tutoring, so I always found a way to avoid minimum wage – maybe I benefited thru my poor brother vicariously! Actually, life was pretty good back then – didn’t make a lot, but no stress and a lot of fun working with kids.

        1. Wow, $15/hour is HUGE! How does one even get the opportunity to learn how to figure skate? Were you in the north or northeast? I don’t see many/any figure skating rings around back in McLean or here in SF.

          Any idea of the demographics of the parents who sent their kids to figure skating lessons?

          There’s sometimes a wrong perception that tennis is an expensive sport.. but there are free tennis courts everywhere and all you need is a <$80 racket and some used balls and a wall and you're golden!

          1. I grew up in AZ and there are great figure skating programs there and everywhere including SF, you just have to know where to look. It is a crazy expensive sport and I am totally aware and grateful for how lucky I was that I got to do it and then coach it later on. The demographics are just as you would expect – mostly wealthy families, with a few struggling families who naively believe that it’s worth it and their kid actually has a chance at being the next Olympic champion. $15 per hour was just for teaching group lessons – I earned much more teaching private lessons! As I write this I wonder why I’m sitting at a desk reading contracts instead of still coaching skating! Ha.

  52. I wonder if Uber would be more lucrative in a larger, and less walkable, metropolitan area like LA, Houston or DFW. DFW is pretty huge geographically. DFW airport alone is larger than Manhattan and the entire metroplex is larger than Rhode Island and Connecticut combined.

    1. Maybe, but I think it depends, and probably not. In SF, the app goes off within 5 minutes as soon as you drop someone off. In those areas you mention, I think the frequency/turnover is much, much slower.

  53. Thanks for posting this. I’ve followed your blog for a while and at first thought something tragic must have happened for you to willing take shift work. Now I feel like an ass cause your post made me realize how entitled I’ve become. I too live in SF and have a pretty cushy lawyer job. Lately, I’ve found myself getting really negative about the cost of living in SF, griping about my work and the people I work with etc. And yet I used to work 2 part time jobs for a mere fraction of what I take home now while going to school full time. For years I barely made enough to cover rent, utilities and food in one month and fretted over every dime I spent. Thanks for the much needed reality check!

    1. Hi Julie,

      No problem! I do empathize with the COL rise in SF, especially if you are looking to buy. I was in a crazy mad house open house last weekend, and I was annoyed the RE agents purposefully priced it so low as to give hundreds of people hope they can buy, when they have no chance.

      Glad to hear a law school grad has a cushy lawyer job! I haven’t met a lot of y’all. Most seem to move on and do something else!


  54. This was a nice article. I remember my college summers working as a receiving clerk in a factory making minimum, also a job where a group of us spent eight hours a day stuffing printed circuit boards with metal prongs for a telecommunications company (this was 1968!) – and we all wore bandages on our thumbs to prevent the soreness and bleeding, while being chewed out non-stop by the sadistic foreman for not working fast enough. Haven’t thought about that job for years.

    I see how the kids at my local McDonald’s hustle, but fortunately the branch nearest me has a very decent guy as the manager. And I always tip 20% at restaurants because those poor servers are making nothing. A buck or two more is not going to hurt me.

    But at my age (67 next month) I’m not likely to take a second minimum wage job!

    1. The summer of 1968! Wonderful. I empathize, as I did the 8 hours of stuffing envelopes with paper cuts as well.

      Larry, remind us, are you retired? What are your life’s great plans now?

      1. I have been retired for just over a year. It’s great not having to spend my life anymore doing stupid and boring things for people I don’t much respect. Lots of people say, “you’re going to get bored, you’ll want to go back to work,” blah-blah-blah. Not me. I’m not bored at all.

        Of course I have to be careful with money and not overdo it, but I’m hoping to travel soon (want to see the south of France for starters), and I’ve been spending a lot of time finally seeing all the great films I’ve never caught before (I’m not talking about Hollywood CGI blockbusters, but the real classic stuff like Bergman, Fellini, Ozu, Kurosawa, Bresson, Truffaut, etc.). I go to a lot of theater here locally on Long Island and NYC (recently saw Alec Baldwin in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” in Easthampton, for example, as well as a 7-hour marathon of Shakespeare history plays at Lincoln Center). And I’m also writing some original plays myself. Haven’t had much luck with theaters so far, but even if they’re never produced, I feel it’s best to keep your mind active and not spend too much time in front of the tube, ’cause that’s the death.

        It’s nice too knowing that any day I want to I can hop on a train to NYC and spend my day doing whatever I want. Just came back from a day at the Met for example. Also nice to set the alarm a little later so I can sleep in while everybody else is heading out for rush hour, poor saps.

        1. Avoiding rush hour is one of my top 3 joys of no longer working in corporate America.

          One guy jested at me for living out on the western side of SF, when he said he just bought a place close to downtown.

          I was thinking to myself, so you’re proud of yourself for buying a place in congested down town b/c you still have to work?

  55. Really good insights. I did my share of low-wage jobs but mostly in an office environment. The closest I got to the service industry was working as a hostess/cashier at a restaurant. I learned that there are some rude people out there! I also learned to appreciate this type of hard work.

  56. I worked at the local hardware store, starting at age 15, for a munificent $1.50/hr. (Hey, I was only making 75 cents an hour babysitting!)

    I did it all through high school, and even on a few college breaks. If I hadn’t, I’m not sure I could have gone on to college. And that college degree opened the door wide to opportunities I wouldn’t have had, if I’d just stayed home and kept working at the hardware store. (In fact, one of the girls I worked with did just that…for more than 30 years. Hopefully she was making more than $1.50/hourly!)

    We encouraged both our girls to work while they were in high school. In fact, one daughter insisted on it. Although they didn’t make that much, they learned a lot of discipline and skills that have helped them keep their bills paid today. It wasn’t as easy as sluffing off, but it also meant that they could go on to college.
    Now, if they’d only taken college as seriously as their dad and I did, in our time…

    1. $1.5 is definitely better than 75 cents/hr! What year was this? I love hearing the perspective of folks with more experience.

      You’ve left a cliff hanger. What did your daughters not do in college that you wish they did? Did they go public or private? And what are they doing now? Please share!


  57. Bryan @ Just One More Year

    I think a lot of us have had humble beginnings working in the “quick serve” restaurant business. I worked for a local restaurant for three years of my high school. It was a great way to learn how to work under pressure, around other employees, bosses, and customers. I learned some valuable lessons and highlighted the fact that I needed to continue my education.

    For whatever reason, I missed your first article announcing your experiment. Sam I am impressed at your level of commitment to try Uber as a driver. Talk about getting primary information!

    Do you plan to occasionally drive for Uber to keep this perspective?

    1. Hi Bryan,

      I think it’s particularly helpful to go BACK to a minimum wage job to get back in touch with reality for those who’ve been out of touch for a while.

      I’ll try to drive every time I’m leaving the house to go East. Since I live on the West side of SF now, there’s a ~80% chance I can pick up a ride heading my way to make some gas money and also perhaps meet some interesting people to write about.

      It s very HARD to make a decent income driving. But I want to write articles based off experience, hence the past 5 weeks.

  58. I completely agree with your point about minimum wage jobs making you more conscious about spending money.

    I worked as a camp counselor. They paid us a salary for the whole summer. When I calculated my hourly salary, I found out that I was only making $0.69/hour!

    Whenever I had time off, I was really conscious of how I spent my earnings. A lot of people ended up spending way more than they earned over the course of the summer – I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to me.

    I also agree that this job taught me great social skills. I was technically working 23 hours a day, and learning how to please campers, co-workers and parents was hard work, but definitely worthwhile.

    I would do it all over in a heartbeat.

    Thanks for another great post!

    1. Dang, $0.69/hour?! What year was this?

      It’s easy to spend a lot more money if you never earned it, or didn’t have to go through a lot of hardship to work for it.

      What do you do now?

      1. I wonder if I worked at the same camp: I averaged about 72 cents per hour (assuming a 23 hour ‘on’ time as the previous poster indicated), and that was back in 2005. I wish we had more opportunities built in to have kids work while in high school; very few of my students work at all, though extracurriculars cut into their free time.

        I’ve considered picking up a second job or doing tutoring to build another stream of income, but it’s tough to give up that personal time. I appreciate your post, though, since it allows me to live vicariously through you. Keep it up!

  59. Pingback: What’s It Like Driving For Uber? Mixed Emotions Of Hope And Sadness | Financial Samurai

  60. I had a rough start to my freshman year of college. After coasting through high school with good grades, I found that college courses were a lot tougher. I thought it wasn’t fair that the material was so hard or that I was assigned so much work.

    The summer after my freshman year, I worked for my town’s Water and Sewer department. It was quite literally the sh!ttiest job I’ve ever worked. After two months of jackhammering pavement, jumping in holes, and fixing “sewer stops” I went back to college. All of a sudden 100 pages of reading and 10-page papers didn’t sound so bad when compared to the alternative, so I stopped complaining and stepped up my game, eventually graduating with highest honors.

    In short, I can’t agree with this post enough. So many people graduate college without ever having had a “crappy” job, causing them to complain about every little thing in their first job out of school. Or, alternatively, they lose their drive and work ethic because they haven’t experienced a crappy job that drove them to try harder in school/work. Far from being a disadvantage, I think working a minimum wage job is one of the best ADVANTAGES you can have in your career – it puts everything else in perspective.

    That is, of course, as long as you work the minimum wage job early in your career and not in your 30s or 40s…

      1. Good point – I think it’s good experience at any time in your life. Really helps you put the hourly rate you earn at your day job (or other means) in perspective! However, I’m also hoping it’s not your only source of income :P

        1. Just trying to get by one day at a time!

          I’ve decided to allocate the Uber income for food, transportation, and non-essentials in my budget. Right now, it’s averaging about $275 a week, which should be more than enough.

          Want food? Work for it. I love this mentality! It might help me eat less to maintain my body weight too.

          1. Stephan Eding

            Interesting!! You’re a smart man. One of my friends drive for Uber/Lyft 5 hours each week. He just wants to make $400 extra each month and put it in his newborn’s son 529 plan. I will do the same to pay off my mortgage quicker. Plus, I will probably meet people from all walks of life and network like a maniac :)
            Thanks for sharing this post!!

            1. Yep! It’s all about tethering different income sources to different purposes. Makes things more fun and purposeful! I’ve got a post coming up to discuss.

              I tether my Uber income (currently ~$1,2000 a month working 10 hours a week) for food, entertainment, and some wants.

  61. Erik @ A More Successful You

    For me it was learning the work ethic. I worked for a lawn mowing company (friend’s father’s small business) in high school and into college and we would put in 10-12 hour days if we had to. It was a lot of fun and a lot of sweat!

    I would also say that if you work in a small business or family business, you also build a strong work ethic. My second job was a bookkeeper in a business of 8 people. Everyone in the team was in the office grinding it out so that we could make it happen. When you are in an environment with “hungry for success” people, you can learn and grow a lot.

    Have a good day,

    1. I wonder if work ethic is an undervalued or overvalued trait. A strong work ethic takes no skill, and I’ve seen people with strong work ethic CLEARLY get farther than folks who aren’t putting in the extra hour or three before or after work.

      As such, I don’t understand why folks don’t accept harder work equals greater success. Someone help me explain why someone doesn’t believe waking up at 5am to work for an extra 2 hours before going to work is going to add up to some serious production 1 year from now!

  62. Ali @ Anything You Want

    I completely agree that working a minimum wage job in high school was an extremely valuable experience. I worked as a cashier in a pet store, and everyone there shared in pet “cleanup” duties (read: literally cleaning up dog sh*t). It wasn’t always pleasant, but it gave me great perspective on just how privileged I really was. I saw people whose whole career was the job I had at 16, and who fed a family of four on my hourly wage. It was motivation to work hard in high school, then college, then grad school, so that I could something more exciting and interesting.

  63. I think it’s great that you’re working as an Uber driver to keep in touch with the people. You don’t need to do it, but you’re learning more about your neighbors. The last time I worked a minimum wage job was at my parents’ tiny Thai restaurant. I met and learned about illegal immigrants from south of the border. They have a pretty tough life here, but it’s still much better than where they came from. People will always struggle to better their lives.
    Not sure if I have the gut to work a minimum wage anymore. I’m too fat and lazy these days.

    1. I thought you were on your weight loss kick? :)

      Although the pay isn’t that great, and the risk of a loss is there (accident), there’s no way I could write these articles without going through the first hand experience. It makes me very happy to be able to produce such articles for public consumption. I’m looking for inspiration to tell a story everywhere I go.

  64. Fantastic post! I can relate to a lot of what you talk about. I totally agree that many teens are insecure – that is the exact reason why I was so resistant to get a part time job in high school. My mom encouraged me to apply but I was too scared of being seen by someone and feeling embarrassed. I did apply to a couple retail jobs but didn’t make the cut. I should have tried harder!

    I worked a couple minimum wage jobs in college. I think they were actually less than minimum wage because of some weird rule that the jobs were for the school being subsidized by the state or something. Anyway, they paid crap but I am so glad I took those jobs. One of them was working for the alumni association making cold calls to collect donations for the school. Talk about being treated like sh– from total strangers. But occasionally I’d get an angel on the other end who generously made a donation. Not only did that job teach me how to try really hard to build rapport, it also taught me that communication and sales are real skills. We had a white board that tracked every caller’s donation totals and man some of my colleagues were crushing it!

    It’s true that working minimum wage and low-paying jobs really make you appreciate money and curb spending as an adult. I’ve definitely experienced this in my side hustles. If I teach a music lesson for $45/hour, I want to make that money last! I don’t want to go out and blow half of it on a pricey meal or something I don’t really need.

    I also love what you said about there being no better teacher than experience. Couldn’t agree more!

    1. Cold calling is a tough job! But, tough jobs toughen you up. I wonder if I had that job growing up I’d even bother to get into any sales job. Or, whether it would gravitate me towards a sales job and make me better.

      That’s great your mom pushed you! It’s delicate balance between pushing enough and pushing too far.

      1. Speaking of toughing you up. My first job outside of high school was selling Colliers encyclopedias door-to-door on straight commission. I remember pawning my graduation watch to pay for a hotel bill while on the road and stealing jam packages at restaurants

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