These 10 States Have the Highest Minimum Wage

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A state minimum wage of $12 or more earns you a spot on the list.

There are many ways to keep your personal finances in good shape. However, having a good wage is often the key to healthy finances.

Unfortunately, if you're an entry-level employee (or even a skilled employee in a low-wage industry), your earnings are likely based on the minimum wage. In many states, that means the federal minimum wage -- which is a measly $7.25 an hour for eligible employees.

Although the federal minimum wage has been stagnant since 2009, some states have taken the problem of lackluster minimum wages into their own hands. Not only do some states have a higher-than-average minimum wage requirement, but many also have laws that automatically increase that minimum each year (or set number of years) to adjust for inflation.

The top 10 states for minimum wage workers

Thirty states have a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum. However, many of those states only beat the federal rate by a dollar or so. In fact, of the 30 states with a higher rate, only 10 states provide minimum wage workers $12 an hour or more.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the ten states with the highest minimum wage include:

  1. Washington: $13.69
  2. Massachusetts: $13.50
  3. California: $13.00
  4. Connecticut: $13.00
  5. Oregon: $12.75
  6. New York: $12.50
  7. Colorado: $12.32
  8. Arizona: $12.15
  9. Maine: $12.15
  10. New Jersey: $12.00

Washington, D.C., is technically not a state (yet), but it's also worth mentioning with a minimum wage of $15.20. If D.C. is granted statehood, it will likely have the highest state minimum wage in the country.

Of course, it's not uncommon for cities to have their own minimum wage limits. A number of other cities also have higher minimum wages than their surrounding state, For example, New York City and Seattle both have a $15 minimum wage, which is several dollars higher than their state minimums.

Wage is more than a number

Although the rates in some of these states may seem too good to be true, it's important to remember that the number itself doesn't tell the whole story. For example, many of the states on this list are home to some of the most expensive cities in the country. So, when cost of living is taken into account, the buying power of minimum wage earners can be severely limited.

The type of employee you are will also impact how much you earn. Tipped workers, for instance, typically have a much lower hourly minimum wage; the federally mandated minimum wage for tipped workers is just $2.13 an hour. (Technically, employers are supposed to make up the difference if your wage plus tips doesn't meet up with the hourly worker rate of $7.25, but not all employers comply with this requirement.)

There are also a number of exemptions in various states -- and at the federal level -- for small businesses, as well as for certain worker groups. A common example is that companies that earn $500,000 a year or less may be exempt from federal minimum wage mandates.

A $15-an-hour future?

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 for more than a decade, without so much as a bump to keep up with inflation. For years, workers have been calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage to address not only inflation, but also help keep up with the skyrocketing cost of living.

Currently, the minimum wage goal touted by the politicians is $15 an hour. While this would be a modest bump in some states, the bank account boost would likely propel many other minimum wage workers out of poverty. Sadly, as popular as the idea may be, it's slow going at best.

A number of cities have implemented their own $15 an hour minimum wage requirements, but those cities have such high costs of living that even $15 an hour may not be a livable wage. And there are no states that have a minimum wage anywhere near that $15 goal -- yet. But some areas are working toward it, albeit slowly. Florida, for instance, recently passed legislation to increase the state minimum wage to $15 by 2026.

Given the current state of affairs in the federal government, it definitely seems like the minimum wage war will be fought (and won?) at the state level rather than the federal. And these 10 states have a solid head start.

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