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There is a meme going around the conservative news sites and aggregators that 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders didn't "earn a steady paycheck" before the age of 40. See, for instance:

The origin seems to be this Politico article:

But if his positions are well known, the person, it turns out, is less known. Before Sanders was a U.S. senator, before he was a congressman, before he was mayor of Burlington — before he won one shocking election, then 13 more — he was a radical and an agitator in the ferment of 1960s and '70s Vermont, a tireless campaigner and champion of laborers who didn’t collect his first steady paycheck until he was an elected official pushing 40 years old.

What truth is there to this claim?

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Meta discussion on the "correct" interpretation and wording of the claim is on meta. – Sklivvz Feb 23 at 21:51
up vote 67 down vote accepted

All biographies record that Sanders earned a living between graduating college and running for Mayor of Burlington at age 39. Wikipedia is typical, and gives references.

After graduating from college, Sanders initially worked in New York City in a variety of jobs, including Head Start teacher, psychiatric aide and carpenter. In 1968 Sanders moved to Vermont because he had been "captivated by rural life." After his arrival there he worked as a carpenter, filmmaker and writer.

and

Sanders worked as a writer and the director of the nonprofit American People's Historical Society

Nowhere does it say that he was not paid for these jobs.

Claim is false.

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1  
I've removed a long series of comments regarding the "correct" interpretation of the claim. This answer uses one possible interpretation, please provide more answers if you disagree with it, instead of insisting in asking the OP to agree with you. – Sklivvz Feb 23 at 21:50
    
@Sklivvz - I tried but so far was unable to find Sanders' book... don't feel too comforable basing an answer on stuff that merely talks about the book without quotes. I might post my current draft it as-is if I can't get a hold of the book soon (TL;DR: "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is; and way too little hard data to be sure either way as far as direct evidence; but all the evidence we have hints that the context of the claim is plausible and he probably had little to no steady paychecks". No evidence exists to contradict the claim at all) – user5341 Mar 3 at 0:34

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