– This editorial was written by Katie Lobosco of CNN Money.
NEW YORK — Earning $1,466 a month wasn’t enough for one Yelp employee to afford both rent and food in the San Francisco area.
The 25-year-old wrote an open letter to the CEO about her low pay, and the Internet exploded with reaction. A few hours later, she was fired. (The company says it had nothing to do with the letter.)
Talia Jane, as she calls herself in the post, said she couldn’t afford to buy groceries since starting her job at Yelp’s delivery app Eat24. The only way she could pay for the $6 train ticket to work one day (her credit card had been declined) was because a stranger overheard her plight and gave her the cash.
The letter evoked some sympathy. More than 65 people have donated money to her on the site GoFundMe, totaling more than $2,300 in two days.
But others — including many fellow Millennials — sharply criticized her attitude of “entitlement.”
Several wrote their own “open letters” on Medium, where the former Yelp employee posted her original letter. Some criticized her for choosing to live in such an expensive city or accept such a low-paying job. Talia Jane should have known, critics point out, that her small salary wouldn’t be able to pay for both rent and groceries.
Others said she wasn’t really struggling because she has health insurance and free snacks at work.
No matter how you feel about her letter, it touched on some hot topics.
Is the American dream achievable?
Americans don’t like to see when hard work fails to lead to success. But the fact is, a lot of recent college grads have a tough time making ends meet without a little help. Sometimes they have to move back in with Mom and Dad for a while. In one recent survey from Bank of America, 40% of Millennials said they receive financial help from their parents. One in five said they get help paying down students loans.
Are Liberal Arts degrees worth the cost?
Talia Jane said she majored in English Literature. And while income for recent grads has risen to $43,000 in 2015, up from about $40,000 in the prior year, not all degrees will earn you the same paycheck.
The median salary for English majors is $32,200 in the early stages of their career, according to the New York Fed. Data shows that their pay will jump to $55,000 by mid-career, but that’s still a lot less than engineering majors who can expect to start making $55,000 and jump to $80,000 later on.
A $32,200 salary may not stretch as far as one might think. If you live in California, your weekly paycheck will be about $474 a week after taxes. (That’s about $1,896 a month.) It will be even smaller if there are deductions made for health insurance. Then there’s rent, utilities, cell phone bills, groceries and — for 71% of those that graduated in 2012 — a student loan bill. It’s hard to imagine there’s much money left after all that.
Is San Francisco too expensive?
It’s not surprising that it’s hard to make ends meet in the Bay area while bringing home $1,500 a month. Talia Jane said her monthly rent is $1,245 and that her gas and electric bill cost $120 last month. That alone takes up nearly all her take-home pay.
Median rent for a 1-bedroom is $2,575 in the San Francisco metro area, according to Zillow. That’s well above the nationwide median rent price of $1,450.
The skyrocketing prices, pushed higher by the Silicon Valley tech boom, have forced a lot of people out of their homes.
When responding to his now former employee’s post, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman acknowledged that the cost of living in San Francisco is “far too high.” Because of that, the company is growing its support service in Arizona, rather than San Francisco.