A Meme Money Lesson

Thursday, December 28, 2023

A Meme Money Lesson

Have you seen this meme which says that Scrooge paid more to Cratchit than every state's minimum wage?

It’s been going around this holiday season and of course, it’s gotten viral attention. Millions of people have endorsed the message that states should pay a higher minimum wage - arguing that even Cratchit, being as poor as he was, made more than minimum wage.

Well, that's not the full picture. (I know … you’re shocked that a meme wasn’t entirely true.)

According to articles I've looked up (because this has been discussed so much that lots of people have written about it), there is a range of opinions for how much Cratchit actually was paid. And it varies widely depending on which method you use to calculate what it would be equal to in today's dollars.

After looking into several of these articles, Cratchit could have been paid anywhere from $1.53/hr - $20.49/hr (in today’s dollars).

So, there's a LOT of room for error.

But I think we’re missing the bigger lesson. In one of the articles, there was a Dickens expert who made the comment that Cratchit wasn't destitute because he was paid poorly; rather, his family was poor because there were so many of them (a family of 8).

Here's what the expert told USA Today:
“It is important to note that Bob Cratchit was not destitute,” Brattin said in an email. “Rather, he was paid little, and had a large family – six children and a wife – to feed and clothe.”

So often (and I'm guilty of this, too), we look at companies and, being the entities that they are, demand them to pay more because of several reasons: financial obligations can’t be met, cost of living is suffocating, a family can not be supported, etc. But while I understand that the federal minimum wage (and wages overall) need to be higher in order to meet the demands of prices today, I feel like there is some responsibility being shuffled onto others (such as a company and government) to do more; when really, we may need to take a bolder step ourselves.

I'm not meaning for this blog to come off as combative, or political, though I understand it might seem that way for some. As a financial coach who looks at many different budgets, I'm simply illustrating another perspective. I think it's so important for us to be able to look at two sides of a situation to determine a more intentional course of action. Because when we are able to see and understand more perspectives, we can be more effective with our solutions.

Here is a fact: my financial obligations are not the responsibility of my employer. What I do with the money I earn is also not the responsibility of my employer. The job I have is a business transaction. While we look to jobs to be more empathetic and relational, we are simply executing a task which is, in turn, compensated. That's it.

Now, those companies that go above and beyond by pouring into their employees in the form of additional benefits, show that they are looking beyond simply the transactional part of the business relationship (between you and your employer). However, and it’s important to point this out, these additional benefits are seen as part of the overall compensation package - meaning they put a dollar amount on each benefit they offer. As an example, a client of mine asked a new employer for a raise in their base salary and was told that they could only have the raise if they gave up their stock options. Why? Because it’s all part of a total compensation package (TCP), which includes all forms of pay and benefits an employee receives. This is not to say that companies should exploit their workers or not pay them fairly. (Please know that I'm not in support of those practices.)

I'm just in favor of sharing another perspective.

So what is the lesson here?

I think the lesson here is a reminder that nobody is going to value you more than you do. If the compensation you're receiving is not enough to meet your financial obligations (a family of 8 in the Cratchit example), then there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking out another option. And if you feel like there isn't another option out there, then now is the time to start working towards one. What can you work on now that will set you up for more success in the future?

I love this quote:
"Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade." (Matthew Kelly from the book “The Long View”)

Money is simply a tool. It is not necessarily a "right." And again, I don't mean to come off as combative or in-favor of unfair pay. This whole post is more about you and how you value yourself.

I just encourage you to not put all the onus onto someone else. It's easier, sure; but you relinquish control when you do that. In essence, it takes you out of the driver’s seat. Our society is really good at rallying around being angry at something (just look at social media). But it's more difficult to be grateful for what we do have, still want to work towards something bigger, and develop a plan of attack for getting there.

Why? Because it’s more difficult.

Your worth and what you are paid are two different things; and so the financial obligations that are on your plate might demand some thinking outside the box. Get the raise, take the promotion, work towards that management status ... but also keep in mind that the company/business you work for has no moral responsibility to you and your financial obligations. They are completely separate. And that means that we need to show up for ourselves more sometimes.

So don’t let someone else dictate your worth.

Because nobody is going to value you more than you do.

And remember: the pay you get does not equal your worth.

As a final note, I’ll share this story with you: When I was unemployed last year, I started working with an executive coach who asked me what my pay expectations were for a new job. I gave her a number and her immediate response was, “Why do you think that?” At first, I was caught off-guard because I never really saw salary expectations as a choice. So I replied, “Because that’s what I made at my last job.” And then, she said this, “The only reason that we think we’re worth a certain amount is because that’s what we were most recently paid.” (*Cue the light bulbs for me.)

What I didn’t realize until this conversation was that I had been so limited by my previous career that I loved. I had gone so long chasing what I thought was going to fix my financial issues and give me the money I needed to make my life better and provide more for my family; when really, I was just continuously settling for people telling me what I was worth. That was the cycle. And I didn’t see an end to it. I just “hoped” that eventually a company would make me feel more valued.

So whatever someone is paying you now, you’re worth more.

But the only person who can say that and act on that is you.

Cratchit would have been able to plead all he wanted, but Scrooge never would have agreed to increasing his pay or helping in any way had he not been visited by three ghosts. Without those ghosts helping to influence Scrooge’s perspective, who knows how long Cratchit would have continued along the path he was on.

So my point is this: don’t wait for a company to see your worth - no matter how much you love the job. Your life and the financial obligations in your life might just require more than what your employer is willing to provide. At the end of the day, it’s just a job. I’m empowering you to want for more and value yourself more. Because I can guarantee that you’re worth more than whatever you’re being paid.

Stay Curious,



Kyle Fowler

Founder of Financial Flippers

The personal finance world is packed with TONS of information. And while it's not all bad, it's not all good. I work hard to make sure I am sharing helpful content that keeps you on track while still providing different perspectives. If you ever have questions, want to share ideas for other topics, or want to know more, shoot me an email: kyle@financialflippers.com

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