How Much is Enough?

February 23, 2016 § 4 Comments

Back when I practiced, I would often think as I pored over 8.05’s, “How can people live on this little income?” On the bench I see financial statements that raise the question quite often.

So it was with some interest that I stumbled on a web site that actually calculates by locales the amount of money people need to maintain a decent living standard, or a “living wage.” This link will take you to the page for the State of Mississippi as a whole. Although there are links to the counties, when I clicked on several different ones, the figures looked suspiciously like Mississippi’s state-wide figures, so I don’t know how useful the local figures are.

A bonus is the “Typical Annual Salaries” table.

Here are some Mississippi figures from the web site that struck me: 2 adults (both working) with two children need $47,822; 2 adults (only one working) with one child need $35,495; and one adult with one child needs $35,989. All of the figures are post-taxes.

I would say that, without exception, those figures are nearly double what I see routinely in my court.

Whether or not you buy into these calculations, they offer some profound food for thought. Your clients and their families are living, breathing individuals who have the same needs that you have for food, shelter, clothing, recreation, and financial security. It’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re accompanying them through the throes of litigation. The fact is that people are poor in our state, and that includes, unfortunately, many people who are working hard to provide for their families.

On the other hand, there are many of us who make significantly greater income than those minimal figures. From our lofty perches, we don’t tend to think much about those far below. That’s too bad, because those people barely getting by are like an anchor on our economy. In some counties, the political leadership has addressed the need and has succeeded in economic development that creates good-paying jobs and helps communities up out of poverty. The rest of us will have to wait.

§ 4 Responses to How Much is Enough?

  • Bob W. says:

    Off topic judge- do you have (or can you even offer) any opinion on the proposed legislation that would allow a divorce based on domestic violence?

  • D.L. Graves says:

    Thank you for this. As someone who worked her way out of poverty to become a (slightly less poor) attorney it is good to see others recognize the struggle. When attending law school I remember one girl who would refer to those less fortunate as “the poors”. Made me ill to think she would one day be representing them. Fortunately she has yet to pass the bar so score one, admittedly catty, point for we “poors.”

    • Mr. Graves when I was in law school I drove from Collins to Jackson everyday. I had ended a career to go to law school, my wife was working, I borrowed all the student loans I could, and I had a young family. I saw these “kids” driving luxury cars, living in nice homes/apartments, having plenty of money to “party”, and having all of their tuition and expenses paid. I could not imagine what it would be like, and still can’t, to have a family with that much money. I also thought “they don’t have a clue.” I was right.

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