Older Workers Turning to Fast-Food Jobs

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The average fast-food worker isn't a teenager saving for college. Many are older, college-educated and raising a family.

Eduardo Shoy, 58, figured he’d be retired by now.

Instead, the New York City resident profiled by The New York Times works 16-hour days, first as a deliveryman for KFC and Pizza Hut and then overnight as a forklift operator. He makes less now with two jobs than he did with one in 2008, and is looking to sell the $500,000-plus home where he expected to live out the rest of his days.

Shoy is one of 55,000 fast-food workers in New York City, who are paid a median wage of $8.90 an hour, the Times says. Few of them get health insurance benefits.

A budget template from McDonald’s, from a site designed to offer its employees financial tips to make ends meet, assumes that health insurance costs just $20 per month. It also assumes working two full-time jobs.

As we’ve written before, most fast-food workers aren’t teenagers. The average age of fast-food workers is 29, and about 40 percent are 25 or older. Nearly a third have some college experience, and more than a quarter — like Shoy — are supporting kids.

“Working more than 70 hours a week between his two jobs, Mr. Shoy makes a quasi-livable income: about $43,000 a year,” the Times says. “But out of that, he has to pay his mortgage, his utilities, his car lease, his car insurance premiums and his children’s car insurance premiums, and then write a check each month to help them with their rent.”

Shoy might not be the typical fast-food worker — fewer than 3 percent are over 55 — but he’s not the only one forced to live this way.

The number of fast-food jobs in New York City has increased 10 times faster than any other private job type since 2000, the Times says. Those are increasingly the jobs available for older workers, even though they are intended to be an entry-level stepping stone. But at minimum wage or near to it, it’s tough to get by with just one — especially if you have to look out for anyone else.

Stacy Johnson

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