I moved back to Minnesota in 1974. The first job I got paid $600 a month, $7,200 a year. I quit after a year. By that time I had saved $1,000.
Pat and I rented a one bedroom apartment that cost $165 a month, if I remember correctly. We moved during the year to another one-bedroom in a complex that was half a block off Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. There was a playing field across the street. We could look out our living room windows and see the lake on the other side of the field. That apartment cost $200 a month.
Two bags of groceries cost $10 and lasted a week.
Now, we spend $50 or more when we go to the grocery story. We get more bags, mostly because we always buy two six packs of water. The food still lasts a week.
The rent for the last one-bedroom apartment I had (in 2006) was $950.
The first time I bought health insurance for myself, back in the late 1970s, it was $30 a month. I was in my late 20s. It would cost about $250 a month to cover a person of that age on my current job’s medical plan. That’s an 8 fold increase over 30 years.
If I use groceries to estimate the increase in cost of living, it has gone up 5 fold. If I use rent, it has gone up 4.75 times. I just checked a government website to see if my estimates are correct. The table I found said the cost of living has gone up five times since 1974.
To make as much as I did in 1974, I would have to make $36,000 now. To live the way Patrick and I did in 1974, we would need a household income of $72,000. I was a miserable clerical worker in those days. Patrick was a psych tech working in a hospital locked unit. I would call us working class and not union working class. We were not getting the good union money.
According to Wikipedia, 63% of American households make less than $60,000 a year. So they are living less well than Pat and I did as a pair of working people in our 20s in 1974. We really did not think we were living all that well. If we had to, we could live on minimum wage jobs. That put our standard of living pretty low, as we saw it.
In 1976 the minimum wage in Minnesota was $1.80 an hour. It’s now $6.15 for large employers and $5.85 for small employers. To cover the cost of living increase I have seen over the past 30 years, it would have to be $9.00.