Low-pay life sets banker a challenge

By Jessica McAllen

Andrew Mexted-Bragg is living on $13.75 an hour in a bid to understand how others cope. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Andrew Mexted-Bragg is living on $13.75 an hour in a bid to understand how others cope. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Andrew Mexted-Bragg is trading his Audi for the bus and leaving a luxury inner-city apartment to share a flat with four other people.

The Auckland banker is living on the minimum wage of $13.75 an hour for 11 weeks in an effort to understand and help those less fortunate than himself.

Mr Mexted-Bragg said his six-figure salary left him forgetting the value of a dollar and he wanted to find a way to raise money for struggling Kiwi families.

The 36-year-old is in his fourth week of the dramatic budget decrease and it is the lowest his salary has ever been.

Donate to Andrew Mexted-Bragg's Give a Little campaign here.

So far the experience has opened his eyes to the challenges people with a less lucrative salary face on a daily basis.

He has found that although the minimum wage is enough for basic expenses, it does not cover unexpected costs.

Extra expenses such as the $480 bond for his temporary flat and having to buy pharmaceuticals when he was sick surprised him.

"I can quite easily see now why people end up in that spiral of debt where something happens and they have no choice but to borrow."

Another significant lifestyle change for Mr Mexted-Bragg is bringing sandwiches to work instead of buying lunch everyday.

"In the last 15-16 years I could probably count on my fingers the number of times I had prepared lunch to take to work."

The decision to walk in the shoes of a minimum wage earner came after a friend teased him for complaining about the cost of living in Auckland.

His friend suggested the banker had little to complain about.

Mr Mexted-Bragg estimates the difference in what he would normally save and what he now saves is about $580 a week.

He says the idea of raising the minimum wage to $18.40 is a concept he agrees with and that the current minimum wage allows New Zealanders to survive but not to live.

"Any person who has a job and is working is contributing to New Zealand," he says. "And those people are deserving of a life, not just an existence."

Annie Newman, convener of the Living Wage campaign, says Mr Mexted-Bragg's commitment is part of a growing recognition of poverty in New Zealand.

She invites him to be part of the solution to poverty by supporting the Living Wage movement as a way for ethical employers to show their support for a more just society.

- NZ Herald

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