Getting by on minimum wage

stresses poor mary coleman

Mary Coleman
Age: 60
Hometown: Milwaukee

Mary Coleman is one of the oldest people on staff at the local Popeye's, where she earns minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

She takes two buses to get to work -- a trip that takes more than an hour each way -- and considers herself lucky if she gets 30 hours of work a week.

"It's so stressful -- wiping tables down, smiling for the customers even when I'm sick," she said. "Not only do you get disrespect from customers, but you have to deal with the young coworkers who have attitudes. So I just smile."

Related: Stressful jobs that pay badly

Coleman has been relying on $129 a month in food stamps for years now. She lives with her 36-year-old daughter who has a serious heart condition and is unable to work, and her two grandchildren (Coleman has to share a bed with her 8-year-old granddaughter.)

The government assistance her daughter receives covers the rent and Coleman's earnings barely cover the rest of the bills.

What's your biggest stress? "Money and health. I'm 60 years old and suffer bronchitis -- I'm on inhalers. I have a very bad sinus infection. I wake up thankful to see another day. And if you're not healthy, you can't make money."

What keeps you going? "Staying prayerful. I believe strongly that [God] didn't bring me this far to turn his back on me."

First published June 24, 2014: 10:55 AM ET

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