Report: Massachusetts wages lag behind living expenses

Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil | 5/22/2013, 8 a.m.

While CWU hopes their research will inform policymakers of the increased challenges for working families today, the organization also wants Massachusetts residents to use this information to make smart choices about their education and career.

CWU offers an economic independence calculator, which people can use to measure exactly how much they need to earn — depending on where they live, how many children they have and how old their children are — to survive. Giving concrete numbers, Youngblood says, helps people “know what they need to get to be self-sufficient, so it’s not some mystery.”

To further help residents get to self-sufficiency, CWU has a companion “Hot Jobs” report, which details the in-demand careers throughout the state that require two years or less of college and training — and pay enough for families to meet the Mass Index.

Anne Desjardins, a 40-year-old single mother living in Cambridge, says these tools helped her get on track financially. Desjardins was earning around $30,000 a year working in a hotel and relying on Section 8 housing vouchers to make ends meet.

After going to CWU for help, she learned that she needs at least $71,000 to support herself and her three children — and promptly quit her old job and started looking for a better-paying one.

Now, she earns around $60,000 working as a residential management analyst — enough to get off government assistance — and supplements this income by doing career counseling and motivational speeches on the side. Desjardins is also going back to school to get her bachelor’s so she can advance even further in her career.

“When you know what you need to really take care of your family, that prevents you from falling into financial disaster,” Desjardins says. “Now I don’t see myself going back to accepting a $30,000 job. I can’t accept less than for myself — I can’t settle.”