Author Topic: Always been frugal, but achieving Mustachian status seems difficult currently  (Read 8403 times)

huapala07

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Hello,

I just discovered MMM a week ago and have been reading the posts from the beginning on, but I don't think I am at a point where I can't be Mustachian yet (according to MMM in one of his earliest posts because I'm not dual-income and am already frugal), and I was hoping if I can get some sage advice.

Here are my stats:
Currently, I'm 32 with a stay-at-home wife and a 2 year old
Salary: $35,000 with $5000 annual  family health plan.
Mortagage: About $73,000 (3.5% rate) left in a mortgage for a foreclosure that I bought in June 2012 for $118,000 (worth now around $140,000). 
CD's: Around $61,000 maturing in September
Savings: About $7000 in savings. 

Here are my questions:
1) MMM advises that we maximize our 401k - I have a Roth 403b with Fidelity: Employer doesn't use Vanguard :( However, my employer doesn't have employer match, but invests 7% of my salary (Around $2,450).  Currently, I contribute $300 into the Roth 403b.  I've always heard great things about Vanguard from my family and now MMM.  I'm willing to invest $5,500 into VFINX Roth IRA or the Vanguard Total Stock one.  However, since my investments will compound at a greater rate if I have one account instead of two, should I just put the $5,500 into my Fidelity instead of opening a separate Vanguard account?  With Fidelity, I have 55% going to the Contrafund, 30% to Biotech, and 15% to Puritan (I have a moderate risk tolerancy). 

2) By September, I'm hoping my mortgage will be down to around $69,000 (I'm putting extra in).  When my CD's mature, I can put all of it in and will only have about $8,000 in mortgage left, but my in-laws want to loan us the rest interest free to pay off our mortgage.  I know that paying off the mortgage will be great, and I will have done this in just a little over 2 years.  However, the mortgage rate is only 3.5%.  Should I just use the CD maturity to maximize 403b for 2013 and 2014 (and top off Vanguard IRA if I start one?) and then put the leftover amount into the mortgage?

3) My wife and I are very frugal.  She drives a paid for 09 Elantra and I a paid for 07 Fit.  She buys most toys and son's clothes at thrift shops or garage sales.  We rarely eat out, I have P90X 1-3, Insanity, and 90 Day Fix so I can work out at home (although I haven't worked out in 2 years due to baby, work, and master's degree).  Although I'd love to move right next to my employer, the neighborhood is shady and my wife's mommy friends are close to where we are (9.5 miles away from my employer).  I feel like I've basically done everything I could do to live frugally, but can't seem to find any way to achieve Mustachian status or early retirement any time soon.  Any suggestions?

p.s. - I'm hoping to start a Ph.D next year, which will be another $15,000 a year for the next 5 years.  I can't see myself doing anything else besides wanting to be a college prof one day, so I see research and teaching as a way of life and the PhD as an investment.  Good news is that I might be able to get a raise to around $40,000 next year.  But we are going to try for a second kid in a few months.  Good news is that when both kids are school age and I'm still working at my university, my wife can get her master's free and by the time the kids are grown, they can go to school for free.  Hopefully, in about 10 years, my wife will be able to work as well after her master's (She wants to be a hospital chaplain or go into the social services field).

This was a lot, but I'm at a loss for ideas, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you Mustachians!

huapala07

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Isn't the rule of compounding that the investment will compound more with a higher amount than at a lower rate?

$20,000 compounding over many years vs 2 $10,000 compounding over many years since the first one has a higher amount?

I could be understanding this inaccurately.  Although I took some business courses, Finance was one class I came out more confused than when I went in :P

nereo

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Here are my questions:
1) MMM advises that we maximize our 401k - I have a Roth 403b with Fidelity: Employer doesn't use Vanguard :( However, my employer doesn't have employer match, but invests 7% of my salary (Around $2,450).  Currently, I contribute $300 into the Roth 403b.  I've always heard great things about Vanguard from my family and now MMM.  I'm willing to invest $5,500 into VFINX Roth IRA or the Vanguard Total Stock one.  However, since my investments will compound at a greater rate if I have one account instead of two, should I just put the $5,500 into my Fidelity instead of opening a separate Vanguard account?  With Fidelity, I have 55% going to the Contrafund, 30% to Biotech, and 15% to Puritan (I have a moderate risk tolerancy). 

2) By September, I'm hoping my mortgage will be down to around $69,000 (I'm putting extra in).  When my CD's mature, I can put all of it in and will only have about $8,000 in mortgage left, but my in-laws want to loan us the rest interest free to pay off our mortgage.  I know that paying off the mortgage will be great, and I will have done this in just a little over 2 years.  However, the mortgage rate is only 3.5%.  Should I just use the CD maturity to maximize 403b for 2013 and 2014 (and top off Vanguard IRA if I start one?) and then put the leftover amount into the mortgage?

3) My wife and I are very frugal.  She drives a paid for 09 Elantra and I a paid for 07 Fit.  She buys most toys and son's clothes at thrift shops or garage sales.  We rarely eat out, I have P90X 1-3, Insanity, and 90 Day Fix so I can work out at home (although I haven't worked out in 2 years due to baby, work, and master's degree).  Although I'd love to move right next to my employer, the neighborhood is shady and my wife's mommy friends are close to where we are (9.5 miles away from my employer).  I feel like I've basically done everything I could do to live frugally, but can't seem to find any way to achieve Mustachian status or early retirement any time soon.  Any suggestions?

p.s. - I'm hoping to start a Ph.D next year, which will be another $15,000 a year for the next 5 years.  I can't see myself doing anything else besides wanting to be a college prof one day, so I see research and teaching as a way of life and the PhD as an investment.  Good news is that I might be able to get a raise to around $40,000 next year.  But we are going to try for a second kid in a few months.  Good news is that when both kids are school age and I'm still working at my university, my wife can get her master's free and by the time the kids are grown, they can go to school for free.  Hopefully, in about 10 years, my wife will be able to work as well after her master's (She wants to be a hospital chaplain or go into the social services field).

Being dual income or single income, kids or no kids... none of that matters for living the mustachian life.  So I don't understand what you mean by: I don't think I am at a point where I can't be Mustachian yet (according to MMM in one of his earliest posts because I'm not dual-income and am already frugal

Answers to specific questions:
1) You max out your 403(b) because it saves you taxes by reducing your overall taxable income.  This is true regardless of whether or not your employer offers to match your contributions.  Of course it's better if he/she does match them, but you still get an advantage.
Also, compounding doesn't matter if you have one account with $100k or ten accounts with $10k each.  You will earn the same returns.

2) Since you're dealing with family, that's a personal call.  But, if your in-laws are offering to pay off your mortgage on a 0% loan, that's certainly better than paying it off at a 3.5% loan.  If you are comfortable owing them money, I'd invest the money from the CDs and then continue to pay your inlaws at the rate you both agree to.  If that's going to cause too much stress, I still wouldn't pay off the loan early - I would pay the monthly amoutn and then invest the difference (your long-term returns are almost certainly going to be more than 3.5%)

3) You have two cars.  That's not very mustachian.  Also, it doesn't matter how many fitness tapes you ahve if you don't use them.  walking/jogging/running/biking are all free (or practically free) activities that get you outside, and that you an share with your family. 

regarding to the PhD - that's where both me and my fiancée are.  I would seriously suggest applying for any of the countless scholarshps and fellowships out there so that you are not PAYING to be a PhD student.  If anything, they should be paying you to go back to school.  Spend a few hours at www.Grants.gov  Also check out any companies that routinely give scholarships to your field.

if you wnat more specific advice, post an entire case study -there's lots of people here who will help

huapala07

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Here are my questions:
1) MMM advises that we maximize our 401k - I have a Roth 403b with Fidelity: Employer doesn't use Vanguard :( However, my employer doesn't have employer match, but invests 7% of my salary (Around $2,450).  Currently, I contribute $300 into the Roth 403b.  I've always heard great things about Vanguard from my family and now MMM.  I'm willing to invest $5,500 into VFINX Roth IRA or the Vanguard Total Stock one.  However, since my investments will compound at a greater rate if I have one account instead of two, should I just put the $5,500 into my Fidelity instead of opening a separate Vanguard account?  With Fidelity, I have 55% going to the Contrafund, 30% to Biotech, and 15% to Puritan (I have a moderate risk tolerancy). 

2) By September, I'm hoping my mortgage will be down to around $69,000 (I'm putting extra in).  When my CD's mature, I can put all of it in and will only have about $8,000 in mortgage left, but my in-laws want to loan us the rest interest free to pay off our mortgage.  I know that paying off the mortgage will be great, and I will have done this in just a little over 2 years.  However, the mortgage rate is only 3.5%.  Should I just use the CD maturity to maximize 403b for 2013 and 2014 (and top off Vanguard IRA if I start one?) and then put the leftover amount into the mortgage?

3) My wife and I are very frugal.  She drives a paid for 09 Elantra and I a paid for 07 Fit.  She buys most toys and son's clothes at thrift shops or garage sales.  We rarely eat out, I have P90X 1-3, Insanity, and 90 Day Fix so I can work out at home (although I haven't worked out in 2 years due to baby, work, and master's degree).  Although I'd love to move right next to my employer, the neighborhood is shady and my wife's mommy friends are close to where we are (9.5 miles away from my employer).  I feel like I've basically done everything I could do to live frugally, but can't seem to find any way to achieve Mustachian status or early retirement any time soon.  Any suggestions?

p.s. - I'm hoping to start a Ph.D next year, which will be another $15,000 a year for the next 5 years.  I can't see myself doing anything else besides wanting to be a college prof one day, so I see research and teaching as a way of life and the PhD as an investment.  Good news is that I might be able to get a raise to around $40,000 next year.  But we are going to try for a second kid in a few months.  Good news is that when both kids are school age and I'm still working at my university, my wife can get her master's free and by the time the kids are grown, they can go to school for free.  Hopefully, in about 10 years, my wife will be able to work as well after her master's (She wants to be a hospital chaplain or go into the social services field).

Being dual income or single income, kids or no kids... none of that matters for living the mustachian life.  So I don't understand what you mean by: I don't think I am at a point where I can't be Mustachian yet (according to MMM in one of his earliest posts because I'm not dual-income and am already frugal

Answers to specific questions:
1) You max out your 403(b) because it saves you taxes by reducing your overall taxable income.  This is true regardless of whether or not your employer offers to match your contributions.  Of course it's better if he/she does match them, but you still get an advantage.
Also, compounding doesn't matter if you have one account with $100k or ten accounts with $10k each.  You will earn the same returns.

2) Since you're dealing with family, that's a personal call.  But, if your in-laws are offering to pay off your mortgage on a 0% loan, that's certainly better than paying it off at a 3.5% loan.  If you are comfortable owing them money, I'd invest the money from the CDs and then continue to pay your inlaws at the rate you both agree to.  If that's going to cause too much stress, I still wouldn't pay off the loan early - I would pay the monthly amoutn and then invest the difference (your long-term returns are almost certainly going to be more than 3.5%)

3) You have two cars.  That's not very mustachian.  Also, it doesn't matter how many fitness tapes you ahve if you don't use them.  walking/jogging/running/biking are all free (or practically free) activities that get you outside, and that you an share with your family. 

regarding to the PhD - that's where both me and my fiancée are.  I would seriously suggest applying for any of the countless scholarshps and fellowships out there so that you are not PAYING to be a PhD student.  If anything, they should be paying you to go back to school.  Spend a few hours at www.Grants.gov  Also check out any companies that routinely give scholarships to your field.

if you wnat more specific advice, post an entire case study -there's lots of people here who will help


Thank you Nereo.  I'll look into the case study, and I appreciate your help and others' willingness here. 

Regarding 1) I opened a Roth 403b since I figured that I'm at a lower tax bracket now than where I would've been at 65.  But now that I discovered MMM, I'm wondering if I should go with the traditional 403b since my retirement income would still be around $30,000, and then deposit the annual maximum into the traditional 403b.

Regarding 2) My in-laws were willing to put $10,000 if we had that left over after putting all of our CD's into the mortgage.  My wife wants the psychological peace of having a paid-off house whereas I'm open to paying just the minimum rate and investing the difference.  It seems as though MMM leaves this to personal preference. 

Thanks for pointing me to the grants website.  I'll have to check it out, although the school I'm looking into is a distance program in Scotland.  Maybe they'll have something for overseas programs.

huapala07

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Isn't the rule of compounding that the investment will compound more with a higher amount than at a lower rate?

$20,000 compounding over many years vs 2 $10,000 compounding over many years since the first one has a higher amount?

I could be understanding this inaccurately.  Although I took some business courses, Finance was one class I came out more confused than when I went in :P

It seems there are three scenarios here:
1. Invest $20,000 in one account.
2. Invest $10,000 in one account, and invest $10,000 in another account.
3. Invest $10,000 in one account, and put the other $10,000 in a savings account earning basically nothing.

In scenarios 1 and 2, provided the investments are comparable, you have $20,000 invested in each instance, so the rate of compounding will be the same in each case, because you're considering your portfolio as a whole.

That makes sense.  Thank you.

Joel

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At 35k income, married filing jointly with a kid, your marginal tax rate is likely as low as it will ever be. I don't think it's necessary to reduce your taxable income because it's already extremely low. You will want to consider what type of tax credits you become available for at a level that low. (I.e earned income tax credit, retirement savings tax credit, etc.)

arebelspy

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To confirm: Having 100,000 invested in one account is the same as having 1,000 invested in 100 separate accounts, assuming they all earn the same interest rate.  :)

To answer your questions:
1) Probably moot, given the above. Correct me if I'm wrong.

2) I wouldn't personally be paying down a mortgage at 3.5%, but many people would.  It depends on your personal philosophies regarding risk, debt, etc.  One choice is mathematically better which is more important for some, one is emotionally better, which is more important for some.  No choice is flat-out better.

3) There's likely lots you could do.  If you post your budget, there are many people willing to help you out.  One thing I see right away: two vehicles.  When one person is a SAHM.  You need to either be close enough to work to bike, leaving one car for the SAH, or be close enough to grocery stores and other activities (park for the 2 year old) for the SAH to walk and the worker commute.

Can you go for a PHD at a place with a lower COL?  Moving may be the quickest way to accelerate FIRE, aside from your spouse starting to work as well.
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Rube

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I don't mean to poke holes in your plan but academia currently seems to have a trend of hiring adjunct profs and other non tenure track instructors. I was encouraged to apply to be an adjunct by one of my old profs and my wife ended up being one which turned into a full time position.

I'm the last person that should discourage anyone though. My field has been shrinking. Some would say I'm nuts to keep at this career. But I'm still doing just fine.

Frankies Girl

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I have all of my investments with Fidelity. I know that Vanguard is the one you hear about around most of the time and with good reason, but it is possible to have a great portfolio with low expenses through Fid, and I think they have superior customer service and love their website interface (just stay away from the higher cost funds and don't go for any of their professional management).

I used to have Puritan and Contrafund. I sold them off last year (okay, still have a tiny bit of Contra, that I keep forgetting to get rid of) as I wanted index funds and the ultra low expense ratios. Contra is high fee at 0.67%, and is weighted heavy into IT. Puritan isn't much better with 0.58% expenses, and it's not performed as well as an index fund over the long haul, so why pay more for bland performance? Not sure about your biotech fund, but I'd again say look at the fees, and look at the performance and decided if having being invested in a volatile sector is working for you. 

I have the following to recreate a Vanguard three fund portfolio...

FSTVX - Spartan Total Market Index fund (advantage class; there is an investor class)
This is the similar of Vanguard's Total Stock Market Index. Has 0.07% expense ratio.

FSITX - Spartan Total Bond Market Index fund (ditto)
Similar to Vanguard's Total Bond index. Has 0.17% expense ratio.

 FSRVX - Spartan Real Estate Index fund
Similar to Vanguard's REIT fund. Has 0.19% expense ratio.

By reducing your expense ratios and getting into index funds, you'll be able to recreate a Vanguard-like portfolio. I would suggest checking out this bogleheads link to see if any other funds sound good (I don't have international, which I might add once I kick out the Contra).
http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Fidelity



I would not pay off the house with that low of a mortgage. I would invest the CD money when they mature.

OR

I would also consider putting the CD money into a "safe" investment (laddered CDs? Not sure if the rates are any good right now, hopefully there are some other posters that have some suggestions) and using that to pay for your PhD so you don't go into debt. If you're expecting to pay out 15K for 5 years - holy crap that is 75K - I'm not sure how this is a good idea unless you will get a serious bump in pay.




huapala07

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Thank you, Joel and Arebelspy. 

Quick comments:

1) That's been cleared.  Thank you all!

2) I'd rather invest.  I'll have to talk to the wifey on this one :) 

3) I'm very open to moving right next to my university employer.  However, about a mile down is the meth-capital of Florida (some say the US) and a police officer was murdered there two years ago, so I'm worried about biking through the neighborhoods.  Where we are, we have stores and parks close by, but not walkable.  However, maybe in about 5 years, depending on our income, I want to buy a house around 2 miles away from the university where the neighborhoods are very nice, and renting my current one.  If so, I would definitely look into getting rid of my car and buying a scooter - maybe that will help me get me out of any danger a little faster :)

My professors have recommended North American PhDs, but my field usually takes about 6-7 years to complete the PhD full time.  I figure if I can somehow get a full ride with a NA PhD, I'm still losing out on 6-7 years of income potential.  If I stay with my employer, I can do the UK PhD for 6 years part time while making $40,000 (maybe around $46,000 if I start adjuncting too), allocate about $15,000 for the PhD each year, allow my wife to get her master's for free (savings around $37000), and hopefully go from staff to faculty during that time.  Since I'm in the humanities, getting a faculty position is extremely difficult, and I already have one professor encouraging our dean to hire me one day for faculty, so currently, I'm having to take a calculated risk of paying for my PhD in the hopes for a better pay off in the future.

I will have to create a case study.  In the meantime, if we can move closer in the next few years (outside of the dangerous neighborhoods), I think I will at least buy a scooter and get rid of my car. 

huapala07

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I don't mean to poke holes in your plan but academia currently seems to have a trend of hiring adjunct profs and other non tenure track instructors. I was encouraged to apply to be an adjunct by one of my old profs and my wife ended up being one which turned into a full time position.

I'm the last person that should discourage anyone though. My field has been shrinking. Some would say I'm nuts to keep at this career. But I'm still doing just fine.

Yeah, that's definitely been a worry of mine, especially since I'm in the humanities.  The only reason why I don't want to leave my current employer is that I feel like I have a foot in the door that may allow for a faculty position one day.  If I didn't have that opening, I'd drop my PhD plans right now and go to school to become a physical therapist.  I'm just hoping that my risk pays off in the end...

huapala07

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I have all of my investments with Fidelity. I know that Vanguard is the one you hear about around most of the time and with good reason, but it is possible to have a great portfolio with low expenses through Fid, and I think they have superior customer service and love their website interface (just stay away from the higher cost funds and don't go for any of their professional management).

I used to have Puritan and Contrafund. I sold them off last year (okay, still have a tiny bit of Contra, that I keep forgetting to get rid of) as I wanted index funds and the ultra low expense ratios. Contra is high fee at 0.67%, and is weighted heavy into IT. Puritan isn't much better with 0.58% expenses, and it's not performed as well as an index fund over the long haul, so why pay more for bland performance? Not sure about your biotech fund, but I'd again say look at the fees, and look at the performance and decided if having being invested in a volatile sector is working for you. 

I have the following to recreate a Vanguard three fund portfolio...

FSTVX - Spartan Total Market Index fund (advantage class; there is an investor class)
This is the similar of Vanguard's Total Stock Market Index. Has 0.07% expense ratio.

FSITX - Spartan Total Bond Market Index fund (ditto)
Similar to Vanguard's Total Bond index. Has 0.17% expense ratio.

 FSRVX - Spartan Real Estate Index fund
Similar to Vanguard's REIT fund. Has 0.19% expense ratio.

By reducing your expense ratios and getting into index funds, you'll be able to recreate a Vanguard-like portfolio. I would suggest checking out this bogleheads link to see if any other funds sound good (I don't have international, which I might add once I kick out the Contra).
http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Fidelity



I would not pay off the house with that low of a mortgage. I would invest the CD money when they mature.

OR

I would also consider putting the CD money into a "safe" investment (laddered CDs? Not sure if the rates are any good right now, hopefully there are some other posters that have some suggestions) and using that to pay for your PhD so you don't go into debt. If you're expecting to pay out 15K for 5 years - holy crap that is 75K - I'm not sure how this is a good idea unless you will get a serious bump in pay.

Wow!  Great advice on Fidelity!  I will definitely take a look at those funds.  The fees are definitely high, but I was hoping my three stocks would do well.  They were producing well until this year, so maybe I'll switch them over soon.

I'm going to have to talk to my wife.  She definitely wants the peace-of-mind, but I'll have to show these recommendations.  If I can get the 7% that MMM touts, that'll be a big win.

Yeah, the PhD will be expensive, but I'll also be subtracting about $35000 for my wife's free master's degree.  It's still $40,000, but I have one more year of the Post 9/11 GI Bill at 90%, which should take that down to about $25,000.  I forgot to mention that earlier. 

Daleth

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p.s. - I'm hoping to start a Ph.D next year, which will be another $15,000 a year for the next 5 years.  I can't see myself doing anything else besides wanting to be a college prof one day, so I see research and teaching as a way of life and the PhD as an investment. 

WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT. *screeching brake sounds*

It sounds to me like you have not researched the PhD "investment" much at all yet. Am I right? For instance, do you know what the placement rate is for PhD's in the field you're interested in? Do you know roughly how many applicants there are for each position? Have you and your wife fully digested and accepted the fact that if you are so lucky as to get a tenure-track job, you will have to uproot your family to go wherever that job is--which may be thousands of miles from where you are now and where your families are--and the chances are extremely low that it will be in a place you would have considered living if it were NOT required to live there for your job?

Also... it is extremely difficult to get a job in the US when you are freshly graduated from a UK PhD program. Simple reason: UK PhD programs almost never include much teaching experience. (You're in the humanities and you talked about being a "college professor," not a researcher; therefore, you would be on the market for teaching jobs.) You will be competing against people from known North American schools, who have five-plus years of solid teaching experience. They will also have better recommendation letters--"better" in the sense of "more suitable for the US market"--because American profs know how to write American academic recommendation letters, whereas UK profs don't. Most of them will also have better connections, i.e., the professors who supervised their dissertations or who wrote their recommendation letters are more likely to be personally known by, and possibly friends of, the members of the hiring committee--simply by virtue of the fact they all work in the same field in the same country, instead of in another country an ocean away. All these reasons and more are why your profs recommend North American schools.

And I'm not someone to diss UK degrees. I have a UK degree myself, and have told countless people how awesome it was to study there. HOWEVER, I'm not looking for academic jobs, so it didn't handicap me as a UK PhD would handicap people seeking teaching jobs in American universities. Obviously there are profs with UK PhD's in American universities, but almost all of them were profs in the UK first--in other words they got years of teaching experience--before seeking jobs here.

So here's a suggestion that can only help  you: make your way over to the Chronicle for Higher Education forums ASAP. Here's the link:
http://chronicle.com/forums/
That is far and away the best site on the internet for getting advice on going into an academic career, choosing a PhD program, going on the job market, etc.

May I ask what field you're interested in doing a PhD in? The job market for virtually all the humanities is horrific right now. And by "horrific" I mean 400-1000 applicants for every single job, including jobs like "Remedial Writing Instructor, Redneck Hollow Community College, Nowhere, Arkansas."

« Last Edit: April 12, 2014, 12:01:56 PM by Daleth »

huapala07

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p.s. - I'm hoping to start a Ph.D next year, which will be another $15,000 a year for the next 5 years.  I can't see myself doing anything else besides wanting to be a college prof one day, so I see research and teaching as a way of life and the PhD as an investment. 

WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT. *screeching brake sounds*

It sounds to me like you have not researched the PhD "investment" much at all yet. Am I right? For instance, do you know what the placement rate is for PhD's in the field you're interested in? Do you know roughly how many applicants there are for each position? Have you and your wife fully digested and accepted the fact that if you are so lucky as to get a tenure-track job, you will have to uproot your family to go wherever that job is--which may be thousands of miles from where you are now and where your families are--and the chances are extremely low that it will be in a place you would have considered living if it were NOT required to live there for your job?

Also... it is extremely difficult to get a job in the US when you are freshly graduated from a UK PhD program. Simple reason: UK PhD programs almost never include much teaching experience. (You're in the humanities and you talked about being a "college professor," not a researcher; therefore, you would be on the market for teaching jobs.) You will be competing against people from known North American schools, who have five years of solid teaching experience. They will also have better recommendation letters--"better" in the sense of "more suitable for the US market"--because American profs know how to write American academic recommendation letters, whereas UK profs don't. Most of them will also have better connections, i.e., the professors who supervised their dissertations or who wrote their recommendation letters are more likely to be personally known by, and possibly friends of, the members of the hiring committee--simply by virtue of the fact they all work in the same field in the same country, instead of in another country an ocean away.

And I'm not someone to diss UK degrees. I have a UK degree myself, and have told countless people how awesome it was to study there. HOWEVER, the degree isn't a PhD and I'm not looking for academic jobs, so it didn't handicap me as a UK PhD would handicap people seeking teaching jobs in American universities. Obviously there are profs with UK PhD's in American universities, but almost all of them were profs in the UK first--in other words they got years of teaching experience--before seeking jobs here.

So here's a suggestion that can only help  you: make your way over to the Chronicle for Higher Education forums ASAP. Here's the link:
http://chronicle.com/forums/
That is far and away the best site on the internet for getting advice on going into an academic career, choosing a PhD program, going on the job market, etc.

May I ask what field you're interested in doing a PhD in? The job market for virtually all the humanities is horrific right now. And by "horrific" I mean 400-1000 applicants for every single job, including jobs like "Remedial Writing Instructor, Redneck Hollow Community College, Nowhere, Arkansas."

Thank you for your concerns.  If I wasn't in the situation I'm in right now, I'd totally jump ship.  The field is scary.  The only reason I'm keeping at it is because I might be able to get a faculty position at my university one day.  I've had the VP of Enrollment and one professor approach the dean about possibly hiring me as a faculty member, and I have a very good reputation with the former dean and several of the other faculty members.

Our university already doesn't have tenure; our faculty are on renewable contracts.  However, I have a very good opportunity to move to the College of Religion (that is my field, specifically in philosophical theology) as a staff member for their graduate studies programs.  It'll be a "decent" paying job at $40,000 with higher for adjuncting.  I also get free healthcare for myself and free lunch during the school year, so I'm actually getting "paid" a lot more. The dean already wants me to teach as an adjunct, so I'll get the teaching experience. 

Even if I can't get hired as a faculty member, I'm hoping that with the Ph.D and continual research, I'll be able to use my networks at my academic society for possible positions.  In the meantime, I'll still have a job, and my wife will get a free master's degree.  My hope is that in 25 years, I'll still be employed either as staff or faculty, and that we would've saved up my wife's total income to reach the 75% retirement rule that MMM recommends, have my kids get a free college degree, and then quit to work solely as an adjunct and live off my investments (I'm wanting to shoot for $25-30,000 a year). 

Although 25 years is much longer than the 10 years that MMM says is possible to retire, once I get over to the College of Religion, I think I'll enjoy my job so much that I won't care.  If I can, I'd love to adjunct until I die and just do research on the side with all the free time.

As several had already mentioned, I think I do need to get rid of my car.  I don't think it's feasible right now, but I'm hoping I can do so in the next few years.  Once my wife can get back to work, we will go onto savings hyper-drive.

Thank you for your warnings.  I need to hear this often to always revisit my career motivations and plans.  Who knows?  Things may change, and I'll have to jump ship. 

Daleth

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Thank you for your concerns.  If I wasn't in the situation I'm in right now, I'd totally jump ship.  The field is scary.  The only reason I'm keeping at it is because I might be able to get a faculty position at my university one day.... It'll be a "decent" paying job at $40,000 with higher for adjuncting.  I also get free healthcare for myself and free lunch during the school year, so I'm actually getting "paid" a lot more.

For that chance, you're proposing to spend $15k/year for 5 years ($90k, or really more like $100k+ when you factor in that tuition goes up every year). That's a huge investment for a $40k/year job. If you do get the position you're describing, I can see it being worth it because a dream job is a dream job. I would do a PhD under those circumstances too, probably--that is, if I were virtually certain of getting that job--but I still wouldn't pay for it. Have you researched where you can get a PhD in theology (or whatever related field your PhD would be in) for free? That is, with a tuition waiver and stipend? Also, since your school has that department, do they do PhDs and can you do yours there for free or for substantially reduced tuition? You would be in a better position, I think, if you could pursue your PhD while maintaining a position of some kind at your current university. That is, unless your profs and/or the dean tell you that they don't hire their own PhD's--many places don't; they want more intellectual diversity.

The dean already wants me to teach as an adjunct, so I'll get the teaching experience. 

If you get a UK PhD, that teaching experience will be 5 years in the past when you go on the market. You will still be terribly handicapped when compared with people who got their PhD's at American universities. Also, adjuncting in the humanities often is not the same kind of experience as being a TA while pursuing your PhD. As a TA in a US university, I got to design my own classes (within certain set parameters of course), choose my own textbooks, etc. Often adjuncts are just given a preexisting class plan and told to teach it--in other words they have classroom teaching experience, but little or no experience in curriculum design, pedagogy etc. That may not be the case with your adjunct position, but I'm just putting this out there because if it IS the case, it still handicaps you relative to other applicants.

Even if I can't get hired as a faculty member, I'm hoping that with the Ph.D and continual research, I'll be able to use my networks at my academic society for possible positions.

You, and every other aspiring PhD in your field (as well as every PhD who is working as an adjunct or a visiting professor), have that same hope. You are all gunning for the same positions. It's like playing musical chairs with 1000 people and six chairs. (I'm making those numbers up, but I'm sure you can do the research: find out how many people get PhD's in your field each year, and then look on the Chronicle.com job boards and elsewhere to see how many jobs in that field are offered each year--and I mean tenure-track or comparable positions, not adjunct positions.)

In the meantime, I'll still have a job, and my wife will get a free master's degree. 

What field is she in--can't she find a funded master's program? I'm not aware of any humanities field where there are no funded master's programs. Also, remind me again, does your wife *need* that master's degree in order to go into the career she wants?

As for the concept of doing a UK PhD part time while continuing to work and possibly adjuncting, here are the problems:

- There is no way you will have time to do a PhD, work full or near full-time, and adjunct. AND parent AND be a husband, too! When you contemplate that, you are seriously underestimating the work involved in a PhD--even a part-time one.

- I've looked into UK humanities PhD's myself, and I have yet to find one that does not require you to spend a pretty significant chunk of time in the UK. The part-time ones I've seen often require attendance on some or all weekends (i.e., they are for people who work in the UK) or chunks of weeks or full semesters in residence. So my guess--though I could be wrong, so please correct me if I am--is that either you haven't looked at the "fine print" on the UK university websites you're looking at, or you are looking at degrees from no-name universities. Having a degree from a no-name university in another country is a serious handicap on the job market. Everyone understands a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, and most people would understand a few other places in the UK, but the list of UK universities that are well known here is pretty dang short.

When I googled "theology PhD UK," these 23 programs came up. All but the last one is described as being "on campus":
http://www.phdportal.eu/search/?q=ci-30|di-99|lv-phd||517208d2&start=0&length=10

And as for the last one, when you look more closely at that program it says that though it's part-time, "you will be supported throughout by regular supervision, seminars, and workshops with peer and academic engagement. There will also be a summer school drawing together professional doctoral students in practical theology from other universities offering this programme."
http://www.phdportal.eu/studies/47071/practical-theology-doctorate.html

Now, Birmingham is not a no-name uni in the UK, but I doubt many people have heard of it here, and in any case it still seems to require a fair amount of travel to and time in the UK, which might be not only incompatible with your job, but expensive (air fare etc.). Also, just FYI, as someone who has studied at a UK university I can tell you that they can and do flunk students regularly, and at least when I was there, flunking meant you got one more chance to pass the final exam and if you didn't pass it, your options included: leaving school; sitting out the year and trying again next year; or taking a downgrade to your degree (e.g., from Honors to no honors or from a dual major to a single major). Things may have changed, but it would be something to look into--you shouldn't assume that either (1) you won't ever fail an exam or (2) if you do you can just retake the class.

Again, if you can get the job at your current school then I can certainly see the investment being worth it, because a life spent teaching a subject you love at the university level for a decent salary sounds great to me. I'm just urging you to really get the details of how you can best accomplish this nailed down, and to set yourself up with a decent plan B. I'm no expert in your field but it seems to me that especially if profs AT YOUR SCHOOL, where you eventually want to work, are saying North American universities are your best bet, you really should look closely at that and consider whether you can make it work to do a FULLY FUNDED PhD at a US university with a highly ranked program in your field. That would set you up for a plan B (if you don't get a job at your school, or later on find yourself wanting to leave that school) much better than some random UK PhD.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2014, 02:22:54 PM by Daleth »

lhamo

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Three websites need to go on your daily reading list immediately:

1)  The Chronicle of Higher Education -- lots of their articles are now paywalled, but you can probably access them through your university library portal.

2)  Inside Higher Education

3)  The Professor Is In -- Karen Kelsky's blog/coaching service.  She is writing some of the most clear-headed stuff about what the academic job market is like.  Highly recommended.

If you can pursue your dreams within your budget, go for it, but I agree with those that have posted above that you need a MUCH better understanding of what the job market is.  Don't enter into a long-term professional/financial commitment like a Ph.D. program with nothing more than a vague indication from a dean that they may hire you some day.  Most universities don't work like that anymore, and I don't know that the ones that do are the ones where you want to be long term. 

I really question the value/utility of an online Ph.D.  Talk with that program long and hard about what their job placement record is before you commit to that.

Understand that your wife may have her own calling, but seriously seriously consider whether it is a smart move to have two people pursuing advanced degrees in order to enter two of the lowest paying fields out there.  Maybe she can find a way to respond to her call in a somewhat more lucrative profession.  Don't know what that might be -- geriatric social worker or hospice nurse, maybe? 

Finally, congratulations on what you have been able to save given a very low, single income.  Quite impressive, actually.  Most people with your salary/family size would be up to their eyeballs in a pile of different kinds of debt. 

Argyle

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Another academic reporting in here.  As I understand it, you are hoping that an online PhD from a UK university will qualify you for a job teaching theology/religion at the university where you work as a non-academic now.  Is that right?  You've been approached for a staff job in that department, and you know they like you.

My question is: how are academics (tenure-track or tenure-equivalent faculty) hired at your university?  In most universities, there's a rule that they need to do a national search for them.  In a few private universities, they don't necessarily do a national search.  I did know someone who based his plans for his entire career on getting a job in a certain department, had extensive contacts there, was assured by everyone involved that the job would be his — and then it wasn't.  So it's risky even if they don't conventionally do national searches.  If they do do national searches, well, it's risky indeed.  So then you'd be in the situation where you'll be competing with 400 other applicants for jobs in the back of beyond.  But the real truth is that only about 30% of PhDs in the humanities end up in tenure-track jobs.  And every one of those unemployed 70% though they were going to defy the odds.

The standard advice is never to enter a PhD program that doesn't pay you a stipend.  But online programs don't have stipends, and UK programs don't operate the same way, so I'm guessing this isn't possible for you.  The only UK programs with overwhelming hireability in the States are Oxford and Cambridge, and I've seen a number of their applicants fail too — you still need to be sharp, professionalized, energetic, and always on top of the game and the market. 

I know all this is totally what you don't want to hear.  And I know the life of a professor can sound like a dream job.  In some ways it is.  Dealing with the certain proportion of complainy slacker underprepared students and endless committee meetings, not so much.  And the pay is pretty poor.  You hear about the high salaries, but they're few and far between.  As you note, $40,000 is not an unknown academic salary — and it's not going to go up from there.  We academics here read about the rest of the folks making $100,000 at age 35 and our jaws drop to the floor.   At my university the 60-year-old senior professors don't make $100,000 and never will.  But the real point is this — your chances of getting one of those badly-paying jobs are statistically pretty poor, and the cost is high.  I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

huapala07

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Hello everyone,

Thank you for your great input.  I am very nervous indeed about my job prospects.  About a year ago, I seriously looked into physical therapy programs because I knew that getting a job in academia was next to impossible. 

I'm applying to the University of Aberdeen.  It's one of those schools that is either very well-known or not known.  They just started a distance PhD, and when their research quality was assessed in 2008, they were #2 in the UK behind Durham and above Oxbridge.  The next assessment is coming out in Dec, and I'm hoping they are still ranked high.  I know I can get into Birmingham, but I thought Aberdeen is a better school.  If I can't get into them, I'll try Durham, which was ranked #1 in 2008.  I already got rejected by Oxford.

I appreciate everyone's concerns.  They keep me grounded.  I'll be applying for May 2015.  If I get my acceptance decision in a couple of months, I'm going to watch keenly of any indication of my future prospects.  The #1 factor will be if I can get at least instructor position when I move to the College of Religion.  If I don't, then I will probably have another career crisis and look into DPT programs again, or even PTA schools (although they only top out around $50000). 

A reason for my hope is that we had two guys get hired as instructors, one who is on track for an assistant professor position once he finishes his doctorate.  The guy I'm replacing is the other instructor and they would've given him an assistant professor position too.  I'm hopefully taking over his job (dean already talked to me about it) because he's going to the U of Denver on a full ride (no stipend).  He advised me to negotiate hard for an instructor position.  Our school also likes UK PhD's.  It's a unique situation, and one reason why I don't want to leave for a NA PhD.  However, I will be continually reassessing my options and gauging my chances of hire into faculty.  If it doesn't look right, I'll be open to jumping ship.  Hopefully, that will be before I start the PhD.

Regarding my wife, she is thinking about becoming a hospital chaplain (which will require a MDiv) or going into counseling.  Her degree is in English and Intercultural Studies, so it's not a lucrative degree either.  She is also eyeing a counseling degree, but that is also not a lucrative field.  Something that we do accept is that our desire is to help people and understand that we will not be high-income earners.

The $15000 tuition is actually a very high estimate.  The part time fee is under $8000, and I estimated high for travel, lodging, and food. I have a year of Post 9/11 GI Bill at 90%, which should cover two years at part time.  That means I'll have to cover 3 more years.  I'm also thinking about asking my parents if we can move into their small rental home here if their tenants leave, and renting out our house.  My parents aren't rich, but they are generous with what they have, so I think they'd be open to it.  They want to sell the house, so if I stay and pay minimal rent, their house will appreciate more, so it's a win-win situation, and hopefully I can get $1000 profit if I can rent out my house for $1200.

What do you guys think?  Do you think I'm still in a bad situation?  Anyone know about the physical therapy field?  I'm really appreciating your input and concerns.  They are duly noted and taken into account.

samburger

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A Scottish PhD you got online will not get you one of the hard-to-come-by American tenure-track position. Full stop.

little_owl

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Your career path is really interesting!

I am curious: Is you goal to be FIRE?  If so, I would have a very different set of ideas for you to consider.

It seems from your posts that your goal is to live a more efficient lifestyle and also pursue your professional goals.  At your current income and with the plans you have laid out, FIRE seems further off.

huapala07

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Little owl,

I actually wasn't thinking of FIRE until I discovered MMM recently.  I didn't think it was a possibility even though I've done decently so far.  My hope was that I'd have what I now know as MMM's 75% investment retirement rule by the time I was 65-67.  I don't mind working for another 25 years, if I'm in the industry I am in right now because I enjoy the pursuit of knowledge.

But if I were to change my goal to FIRE, what do you suggest?  I'm all ears.

zarfus

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I'm sorry if I missed it, there's a lot of info on this thread....but what is your degree and what is your prospective PHD in?  Knowing this would help with goal recommendations.

Argyle

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Aberdeen is not a bad school, but it is effectively unknown in the U.S.  (Incidentally, I'm an American with a UK PhD.)  So if your current plan to get this upcoming job doesn't work out, you've gone through a lot of time and money for something that has very little chance of proving useful.

What I notice is that all your plans for yourself and your wife involve going back to school and paying for a credential which will get you into a job — although it's still a low-paying job.  Every single one.  I'll submit that paying for a credential that gets you a low-paying job is a bad deal.  There are plenty of low-paying jobs you can get in which you work your way up, while they pay you and you learn on the job.  The entry levels aren't glamorous. They may not even look like they're on a trajectory to the job.  But you come out many thousands of dollars ahead, plus you don't have to worry about whether you end up with a job in the field -- because you're starting out with a job in the field!

The ways I've seen people end up in the jobs I'm talking about is that they just get a foot in the door.  They get the low-level entry jobs and learn a ton and watch the career paths of others to see how it works.  They talk to people in desirable positions and ask how they got where they are.  They do volunteer work with organizations in their field.  (Literacy training, social outreach, hospital work, you name it.)  They're on the spot and known to people when the positions open up.

It's true that this is not the way to get a faculty position.  And if the faculty position you have your eye on opens up and you can get it and you'll be there for the rest of your life, then you'll have to get that PhD beforehand.  But it's really putting all your eggs in one basket, because if for some reason that position isn't available, or they close it down or change it or whatever, you've spent a lot of time and money for something that will not get you a different faculty position.  It's kind of like paying $15,000 for one specific job.  That's a very big finder's fee.

My impression is that you're somewhat hesitant about going for jobs, and that you feel safer with your eye on a specific hopefully sure thing.  But really the safest option is to have skills/experience/credentials that make you widely employable.  Those will most likely be skills/experience/credentials from working at various jobs, not for paying for a degree.  That's my experience -- as an academic.

lhamo

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There are lots of jobs around the margins of academia that enable you to help people without requiring advanced degrees.  I have one -- I manage major scholarships/fellowships, so I basically get to give people money and help them make effective use of it.  How cool is that?  Granted, I do have a Ph.D., and the background that gave me has been immensely helpful in a lot of ways, but it isn't a requirement for my job.  Jobs in international student offices, academic advising, career counselling, etc all have this "helping people" aspect to them, and while they may not be very lucrative, they are good ways to earn a living without sinking tons of time into additional schooling and/or taking on debt. 

Daleth

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A Scottish PhD you got online will not get you one of the hard-to-come-by American tenure-track position. Full stop.

Absolutely right. There is no online/distance learning PhD, particularly not one from a foreign country, that will be taken at all seriously by hiring committees in American universities. (If the degree were from Oxford, Cambridge or the Sorbonne, you might have a fighting chance since people would tend to give such famous and eminent schools the benefit of the doubt--in other words they might think, well, Oxford wouldn't offer a distance-learning PhD if it weren't rigorous, etc.--but those schools don't offer such degrees, and in any case I'm putting heavy emphasis on the word "might").

This is the kind of PhD that *might* help if you were, say, a certified public school teacher and you wanted a graduate degree to up your pay. In other words, if you already had a job you were qualified for and just wanted to qualify for higher pay. But to be remotely competitive for a US academic job, you need a PhD from a bricks-and-mortar school that you physically attend, preferably one in the US.

I don't want to rain on your parade--I just want to help you achieve your dream or some form of it without wasting tens of thousands of dollars. There is no chance that someone with an online foreign PhD will beat out the hundreds of competitors you will face for every good job (i.e. tenure track or equivalent) in any American university or college's history department. So unless you know for a fact that your current school is willing to hire you into the position you want with that specific degree--have you asked them?--you will have, with this degree, exactly ZERO chance of becoming a college professor in the US.

If you haven't taken my earlier advice to go to the Chronicle for Higher Education forums and ask for tips there (http://chronicle.com/forums), PLEASE do it now. Do not waste $45k to $100k on a degree that is incapable of helping you get a US academic position. I notice that you keep thinking it's a 5-year degree--that would be a good speed for a FULL-TIME PhD in the US, and on the Aberdeen website it is described as being AT LEAST 60 months for part-time students, but potentially as many as 84 (seven years).

The $15000 tuition is actually a very high estimate.  The part time fee is under $8000, and I estimated high for travel, lodging, and food. I have a year of Post 9/11 GI Bill at 90%, which should cover two years at part time.  That means I'll have to cover 3 more years. 

Does the GI Bill cover anything other than tuition and fees? If not, you will have several grand a year to pay out of your own pocket for the first two years, as well as the entire cost for the last three years. Tuition goes up every year there, as it does here, and the exchange rate fluctuates but the time when your tuition is due does not. I got caught out with bad exchange rates a couple of times when I was studying in the UK--once it was close to $1.70 a pound, which makes a huge difference when you were counting on it being like $1.45 and your tuition bill is for thousands of pounds.

And I don't think you're estimating high for travel, lodging and food. You don't live in NYC and you're not flying to London. Tickets to more out-of-the-way places like Aberdeen cost a lot more than tickets to tourism and business-travel hotspots like London. I just went on Orbitz and even if you leave from a major US hub (I randomly picked Chicago) and buy your tickets a month in advance with a Saturday night stay, you're still looking at roughly $1100-$1300 per round-trip ticket. And yes, you can fly into London and take a train, but trains are not cheap in the UK and Aberdeen is a good 7+ hours from London, which makes for a pretty grueling trip once you factor in the 6 to 11-hour flight (depending where you're leaving the US from).

« Last Edit: April 14, 2014, 07:21:46 PM by Daleth »

Daleth

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What I notice is that all your plans for yourself and your wife involve going back to school and paying for a credential which will get you into a job — although it's still a low-paying job.  Every single one.  I'll submit that paying for a credential that gets you a low-paying job is a bad deal.  There are plenty of low-paying jobs you can get in which you work your way up, while they pay you and you learn on the job.  The entry levels aren't glamorous. They may not even look like they're on a trajectory to the job.  But you come out many thousands of dollars ahead, plus you don't have to worry about whether you end up with a job in the field -- because you're starting out with a job in the field!

I can't second that loudly enough. If you guys want to help people and are willing to take lower-paying jobs, brainstorm a bit to see what other options you have. Here are a couple of thoughts to get the ball rolling:

- You could become a high school teacher. That job really helps people, pays around $40k-$50k/year, does not require a PhD, and gives you true summers off (which college professors generally don't really have--they're supposed to be doing research/writing, and sometimes they serve on various committees, most of them very dull).

Look for teaching jobs in religious or other private schools if that would feel more college-like to you; they tend to pay less than public schools, but as a perk, they tend NOT to contain any "worst of the worst" type students and often they don't require state certification. If certification is required (some private schools require it and public schools definitely do), it will definitely NOT take five to seven years to get certified, and it will definitely NOT cost you $45k-$100k.

- Your wife could go to work for a nonprofit. Given her literary/humanities background, she could become a grantwriter. If she's interested in that, I can't recommend this book highly enough:
http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Good-Cause-Persuasive-Nonprofits/dp/0684857405

On the other hand, if she wants to deal directly with the people the nonprofit is helping (which grantwriters don't typically do), she can volunteer to do that and work her way up from there... and it's far better to spend $0 and be paid $0 to get qualified for a nonprofit job than to spend tens of thousands of bucks on a master's degree!


« Last Edit: April 14, 2014, 07:20:34 PM by Daleth »

Thegoblinchief

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The warning bells are going off in my head, as someone who made the mistake of getting into an unfunded PhD and then having it fall apart for a variety of reasons.

1. Even the most teaching-focused faculty position expects some academic writing.

2. Have you gotten any papers published? Getting really good quality papers published does far, far more for your career than adding a PhD. It will also pay major, major dividends in getting a funded degree from an American uni.

3. Even if you get into this program, please decline. LISTEN to the advice above. You're about to make a major financial mistake. I'm still paying off the debt incurred by my mistake.

huapala07

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Thank you for your warnings everyone.  I had written a more thorough reply to respect your time, but I've been having a difficult time getting onto this site and had my reply erased.

I presented a paper, and that is currently under review for inclusion in an edited book.  However, everyone's warnings have been duly noted.  I was up late last night looking at fast and affordable associate's degrees in case I do change (PTA, OTA, Dental Hygenist). 

I also spoke with my associate director whose husband can probably get me a job as a store manager of an up and coming gas station company, which will start me off at $53000 with monthly bonuses. 

I told her that if I don't get this job, I'm definitely switching careers.  Even if I get the job, I'm going to assess the situation for about a year (I wouldn't start the PhD for a year), and see if faculty position will be offered.  If I don't think it'll be offered, currently I'm leaning toward everyone's warnings.  Thank you.

MsSindy

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I'm glad everyone who has knowledge/experience in this area took their time to post such well thought out, researched, and reasoned responses for the OP - this is an amazing community.  I'm also hopeful that it is starting to sink in for him (you all may have just saved a life :) )

Also, one thing that wasn't touched on at all is the desire to have another child.  Even though children can be raised frugally, they DO cost money and will have further impacts on your current plans, both time and money.  Just something else to consider as you're mapping out your next set of big life decisions, and how to make it all work.  Better to be thinking and planning about these events and make thoughtful and informed decisions, versus just letting life happen to you and then having to deal with it.

Although I know it can be painful, going through these "challenge" exercises now will be incredibly helpful later in life, regardless of the actual decision you make.  I'm glad that you have the courage to ask for input.

catccc

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Didn't read all the replies, but FYI I am part of a one-earner mustachian family of 4, it can be done.

Also, my employer uses fidelity.  I moved to this job from an employer that used vanguard, but with some help from fellow mustachians, came up with an allocation and expense ratio not far off from the vanguard target fund I used to invest in.  Here is the thread:
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/investor-alley/new-job-new-401k-w-fidelity-allocation-help/msg246698/#msg246698