Author Topic: Advice please :)  (Read 4573 times)

ScienceRules

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Advice please :)
« on: January 09, 2013, 02:47:57 AM »
Hello fellow Mustachians!

Im looking for some advice for my situation. My husband and I are both PhD students currently with about 2.5 years left. When we finish though my husband plans to go to med school to pursue his dream of being a surgeon (he wasnt able to originally as hes from China and didnt on the med school track at the right time). So this is what our situation currently looks like:

Income after taxes:
$2150 - me
$1750 - husband

Housing:
$202 (mortgage, HOA, taxes) with roommates

Car (I know, this deserves a face punch, we got it just before I found MMM):
$520 car payment
$160 insurance (husband is almost 25 so it should go down by $100 they said)

Other costs:
$150 student fees/bus pass
$120 food
$25 gas (we really dont drive much now and split it between roomies)
$33 electricity (split between roomies)
$20 internet (split between roomies)
$30 Dog stuff
$30 iPhone
$9 netflix

Big one-time costs:
$1000 flight to China
$1100 flight home for Christmas
$200 Christmas/my bday

So we save about $2600 a month exclude big things that come up and weve done pretty well sticking to it. We have ~$9K saved up and we only found MMM in September.

So heres the deal:
Do we start a roth IRA soon instead of waiting ~7 years when hes done with med school or hold onto all our cash so we dont have to get student loans for him?

If we are just holding onto cash for school in 2 years, is there any place we should put it besides our credit union account?

The plan when we graduate is for me to get a real person job, probably around 80K based on friends experiences. If thats the case, Id be able to pay for his school and our costs. But what if I dont get a job immediately after school? And we have no idea where well end up. We might go to opposite ends of the country and that will change our housing costs for sure since well have two households.

We also plan to pay off the car this summer when we have enough cash, then sell the car and not get another before we graduate from PhDs. So that would be about $20K and we dont have to keep paying for insurance.

Looking forward to your advice!

marty998

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Re: Advice please :)
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2013, 03:29:08 AM »
Wow some of those "other costs" are amazingly small. But yes you do get a face punch for the car.

I actually think you're doing quite well. But consider this

And we have no idea where well end up. We might go to opposite ends of the country and that will change our housing costs for sure since well have two households.


You're married!!! And you're considering working at opposite ends of the country?? Be honest, is a long distance relationship going to work for you?

ScienceRules

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Re: Advice please :)
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2013, 04:06:35 AM »
And we have no idea where well end up. We might go to opposite ends of the country and that will change our housing costs for sure since well have two households.


You're married!!! And you're considering working at opposite ends of the country?? Be honest, is a long distance relationship going to work for you?
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Yes, it's not ideal, but we're willing to do if he gets into a top school and I get a job somewhere else. Actually, other ends of the country sounds pretty good right now... For the past 3 months and the next 6 months I'm in Denmark and he's back home in the states. That's a much longer and more expensive trip then say Boston to Seattle. Though if we live apart, it's gonna be in places with direct flights between. No nonsense like a 14 hour trip from Seattle to Alabama.

Hamster

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Re: Advice please :)
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2013, 04:43:25 AM »
My 2 cents: Medical school can be very stressful, and residency (particularly surgical residency) is even worse. Assuming you are fairly certain that your husband will get into med school, it will be a long haul with lots of expenses and no income for the first 4 years, then relatively low income through residency (Maybe $45k-50k per year with long hours and high stress), and then maybe fellowship. After that, even in the lowest paying primary care specialties, he should be making close to $200k within a couple of years out of residency, much more in certain specialties ($500k in orthopedics!?!?!?).

Before thinking about living on opposite sides of the country for 4 years, be aware that divorce rates are particularly high in surgical residencies. I don't say this to scare you, but I would guesss that being together through these experiences outweighs any added income from living in apart. Assuming you'll be working in a university (are you in a biomedical field?), there is a chance that if you get a job offer, your department chair can talk to the med school, and if he gets accepted to med school, the med school can talk to the university to see if you can get a "package deal" of offers. I know people who have done that with one spouse needing a post-doc position, and the other entering med school.

Stay frugal through medical school and you'll be fine. If you can pay tuition off as you go, that is great. That said, making over $150k after you finish makes borrowing to pay for med school (if necessary) a good return on investment as long as medicine is something you truly want to do. I'd never do it just for the money... not worth the opportunity costs.

lhamo

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Re: Advice please :)
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2013, 05:33:14 AM »
My DH and I met in grad school and dealt with a long separation while I was in China doing fieldwork (even though he is the one originally from here, ironic!), and we're now 16 years married with two Ph.Ds, 2 kids and 2 jobs in the same city (kind of -- DH has to be in another city one week a month for his), so it can be done!  How essential is it for your DH to finish his Ph.D before starting med school?  Obviously it would be preferable, but if his goal is really to be a surgeon does the Ph.D. make a whole lot of difference?  2.5 years is a long time to put it off if he knows what he wants to do, though I guess if he hasn't applied this year then you are looking at 1.5 years before he would start anyway so maybe that makes sense.  It might not be a bad idea for him to apply next year, though, and see where he gets in and whether any place might let him defer enrollment for a year.  Then you could target your job search for where he is going to be.

For advice on managing academic job searches and dual body problems, Karen Kelsky at www.theprofessorisin.com is AWESOME!  She is kind of the like the female, career advice version of MMM.  Not afraid of giving people facepunches, but also really supportive of people trying to figure out whether a life in academia is really what they want, and how to get there. 

Re:  where to put your money, a Roth sounds like a good option to me.  You can withdraw your contributions at any time, so it functions more or less as an emergency fund.  And it may be the case that those funds will not be used in calculating your expected financial contribution to your DH's med school costs -- that is the case for parental resources when it is a child going to school, not sure if it is the same for adults funding their own education.

One suggestion:  budget more for travel to/from China to visit family, and be sure you are attentive to what your in-laws want/expect, especially if/when you have kids.  While Chinese elders are pretty stoic about not seeing their kids/grandkids for long periods of time, it is definitely not a good thing not to go back regularly.  Some of it depends on his relationship with his parents and other close family members, obviously.  But in our case a HUGE part of our annual budget is travel -- four people times two transpacific trips a year and at least two-three trips to see his family as well adds up.  But well worth the investment. 

good luck working it out and building up your stash!  DH and I managed to finish our Ph.Ds debt free and that was HUGE in terms of giving us a leg up on accumulating a nest egg, especially considering we started our post-PhD careers comparatively late (well, I was not so late at 30, but DH was 40).  We don't have surgeon salaries and we are well on the way to early retirement after just over a decade of work at non-profit management jobs, so it can be done!


ScienceRules

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Re: Advice please :)
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2013, 06:02:24 AM »
My DH and I met in grad school and dealt with a long separation while I was in China doing fieldwork (even though he is the one originally from here, ironic!), and we're now 16 years married with two Ph.Ds, 2 kids and 2 jobs in the same city (kind of -- DH has to be in another city one week a month for his), so it can be done! 
Thanks! It helps to hear that someone done something similar.

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How essential is it for your DH to finish his Ph.D before starting med school?  Obviously it would be preferable, but if his goal is really to be a surgeon does the Ph.D. make a whole lot of difference?  2.5 years is a long time to put it off if he knows what he wants to do, though I guess if he hasn't applied this year then you are looking at 1.5 years before he would start anyway so maybe that makes sense.  It might not be a bad idea for him to apply next year, though, and see where he gets in and whether any place might let him defer enrollment for a year.  Then you could target your job search for where he is going to be.
It's pretty essential to him to finish his PhD. He likes the work, he doesn't want to bail on his professor, and he's getting to take some classes for free to freshen up for the MCAT and med school. Application start in September this year, but that's the earliest he may take the MCAT so I don't know if we could apply this year. I'll suggest it to him though. I guess it'll depend on how ready he feels for the MCAT as for when he can apply. In general he's applying to California and Texas schools (and UW, we live in Seattle) due to good rankings and low out-of-state tuition costs (~25K) so it helps me to narrow done my job search a little bit.

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For advice on managing academic job searches and dual body problems, Karen Kelsky at www.theprofessorisin.com is AWESOME!   
I'll check her out! Sounds great.

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Re:  where to put your money, a Roth sounds like a good option to me.  You can withdraw your contributions at any time, so it functions more or less as an emergency fund.  And it may be the case that those funds will not be used in calculating your expected financial contribution to your DH's med school costs
That's something I hadn't considered. I'll check into it.

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One suggestion:  budget more for travel to/from China to visit family, and be sure you are attentive to what your in-laws want/expect, especially if/when you have kids.   
Yeah, they definitely will want to see our kids all the time. Though since the med school plan has changed everything we plan to wait about 8 years to start having kids. By that time, his parents will have retired and will move to the states somewhere near us (but not with us!). As far as now goes, his parents know we are trying to save money and they are okay with him not come home very often. The case I cited was for a funeral so he kind of had to go.

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good luck working it out and building up your stash!  DH and I managed to finish our Ph.Ds debt free and that was HUGE in terms of giving us a leg up on accumulating a nest egg, especially considering we started our post-PhD careers comparatively late (well, I was not so late at 30, but DH was 40).  We don't have surgeon salaries and we are well on the way to early retirement after just over a decade of work at non-profit management jobs, so it can be done!
Thanks! I'm glad I saw the light a few months ago and quit spending all our money every month.

ScienceRules

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Re: Advice please :)
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2013, 06:07:17 AM »
Assuming you'll be working in a university (are you in a biomedical field?), there is a chance that if you get a job offer, your department chair can talk to the med school, and if he gets accepted to med school, the med school can talk to the university to see if you can get a "package deal" of offers. I know people who have done that with one spouse needing a post-doc position, and the other entering med school.
Thanks for the suggestion. I'm actually in environmental engineering so not quite attached to health sciences. I wasn't planning on going for my postdoc so I could make more money for med school. Also, I didn't mention this earlier, once my hubby in his residency I plan to quit and become a SAHM so it's not that big of a deal for me to find my dream job since I plan to only have it for 5ish years.

ScienceRules

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Re: Advice please :)
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2013, 06:13:18 AM »
After that, even in the lowest paying primary care specialties, he should be making close to $200k within a couple of years out of residency, much more in certain specialties ($500k in orthopedics!?!?!?).
Yeah, he's definitely not doing it for the money. Neither of us had any idea of what they made until we looked it up (me just oblivious and him from another country). Starting salaries for surgeons are ridiculous (like 280K). But that made waiting 5 extra years to have kids seem a little more feasible, since I can stop working and be SAHM.

Hamster

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Re: Advice please :)
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2013, 07:14:02 AM »
Starting salaries for surgeons are ridiculous (like 280K). But that made waiting 5 extra years to have kids seem a little more feasible, since I can stop working and be SAHM.
The general surgeons will still complain about how little they make, since the anesthesiologists (and surgical subspecialists and dermatologists) are making more...

My wife left her (paid) job when I was a 2nd year resident. I just looked up my old residency program. They give ~50k in first year, up to about 55k in 3rd year, so a mustachian family can easily live on that while you wait out the 11.5 years from now before he earns the big bucks.

I second the idea of Roth contributions, then taking out what you need from contributions to cover costs of school.

I think it will help his med school application tremendously to have the PhD, and it would probably hurt him if he bailed on the degree without finishing it. The admissions team would wonder if he'd stick with finishing med school. It will just be important to weave together his narrative of how the PhD was part of his ultimate goal of becoming a surgeon. If he goes into a career in academic medicine, it will also be a very valuable credential. If he does private practice, then once he's done with residency, there probably won't be much direct utility of the PhD for his career.

BTW, you are up very early in the morning for Seattle!

Jill the Pill

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Re: Advice please :)
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2013, 11:10:15 AM »
Ihamo --

Thank you so much for the link to theprofessorisin.com.  After reading the blog all morning, I got my act together and formally submitted an article manuscript that's been marinating on my desktop for about 8 months.  So, thank you for a needed career shove!

SunshineGirl

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Re: Advice please :)
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2013, 11:32:56 AM »
As far as the living apart for awhile, if the hours in his residency are as crazy as they seem, it might actually be better because you wouldn't be around NOT seeing him, if that makes sense.

I second the idea of a Roth. The money is there if & when you need it.