Author Topic: any mustachian scientists out there?  (Read 14406 times)

Case

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any mustachian scientists out there?
« on: May 05, 2015, 07:29:06 PM »
[slightly edited to clarify some points]

And by scientists, I mean biologists, chemists, or physicists?  I would accept material scientists, chemical engineers,... or people with lab research oriented jobs.

I hardly ever see any on this forum.  I am a chemist.

I am curious why the majority of mustachians (on these forums) tend to be software engineers?  Does it have to do with the personality type?  Does it have to do with a relatively low amount of training earning a high income (in other words, 4 years of undergraduate study is the norm; I am not implying that these people are less smart); e.g. people who make efficient career choices go for it?  Is it because computer programming is actually boring (and thus drives people towards wanting FIRE; not trying to imply anything negative about programming)?

I often find it hard to relate to the computer scientists and lawyers on this site because their life experience is so much different from mine; these high paying professions have access to great living locations, and enable FIRE more easily.  Don't get me wrong; i'm doing well enough, on my way to FIRE, etc...  If I could re-do things, I'd probably go with programming... but on the other hand, my personality is such that the physical sciences just interested me more. 

The reason I wonder is because one could argue that my profession (chemist... and other scientists jobs as well) are not ideal mustachian choices.  To get the best/most satisfying jobs, you often need a PhD.  That's a good 5 years of low earning year (grad student usually make a stipend of 20-30k).  And then, with the PhD your starting salaries are often on par with computer programming jobs (based on what I've read here).  And, for chemists at least, the job market has been not spectacular for a while.... but not abysmal either.

Anyways, just looking for people to relate to.  Think I saw a guy whose user name is Scandium once... maybe you're a chemist too?
« Last Edit: May 06, 2015, 05:56:34 AM by Case »

plust

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2015, 08:55:41 PM »
In a masters program studying breast cancer. Background is mostly cancer biology.

I'm looking to go to D.O. / PhD or M.D. / PhD after this.

KungfuRabbit

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2015, 09:07:39 PM »
Chemical engineers have very high earning levels...if good. I'm making over $100k at 30 y/o as one.

PhDs my age are the same pay grade as I am now, but in addition to lower lifetime earnings due to grad school I have an extra week of vacation (more time at company). So hah.

I'll be FI soon-ish, but like my job so don't see myself quitting to become a carpenter.

Squashy

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2015, 09:15:32 PM »
Computational biologist married to a biophysicist.

I think for academic scientists, having a faculty job is living the dream, why would they want to retire? They get to do what they love.

For those of us outside academia, it's still possible to have emotionally very satisfying jobs. And a lot of (experimental) science isn't something you can do casually as a hobby outside of your job, so if you have a passion for discovering things, employment may actually be one of the only ways to do that regularly.

These days PhD-level science jobs (maybe especially chemists) are low in supply and high in demand compared to software engineer positions. Thus FU money should be very attractive...

neophyte

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2015, 09:25:55 PM »
  And then, with the PhD your starting salaries are often on par with computer programming jobs (based on what I've read here). 

If you don't do a post-doc.

Hi. Bioengineering here, more on the bio side.


amberfocus

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2015, 10:11:17 PM »
I'm a molecular biologist. I currently work in biotech R&D, although I did do a short stint in academia before ditching for the much higher salaries in the private sector.

I think Mustachianism and a scientific mentality actually mesh quite well. Science tends to be quantitative, so I'm not intimidated by math or numbers, and will happily bust out with spreadsheets and graphs to model/track FIRE progress. I value a rational, pragmatic, evidence-based approach over emotion-based decision-making, so I can smell bullshit from a mile away and more easily resist the lure of slick advertisements for useless crap I don't need. I love optimizing, experimentation, and problem-solving, so I enjoy figuring out the best and most efficient way to accomplish a task. The education helps, too -- I'm quite willing to get down into the weeds and read the proper (and not just the popular) literature on topics relevant to financial planning and management.

You do make an interesting point regarding the PhD, though. I distinctly recall the surprise I felt when I read in The Millionaire Next Door that while advanced degrees were positively correlated with income, they were negatively correlated with wealth. (The relevant quote is, "For all high-income earners (those earning at least $100,000 annually), the relationship between education and wealth accumulation is *negative*. High-income PAWs are significantly *less* likely than UAWs to hold graduate degrees, law degrees, or medical degrees" p. 74.)

I was strongly considering getting a PhD at the time, and reading that actually factored into my final decision (along with external factors beyond my control, such as my PI losing funding for my position) to delay grad school and pursue a more lucrative career in industry. I figured that if I sold out, I could use my higher salary to front-load my retirement accounts, after which I could pursue grad school with the peace of mind of knowing that my retirement will be fully funded by the magic that is compounding interest.

As it turned out, after jumping ship to industry, I was never able to subsequently justify the opportunity cost of giving up that decent salary and livelihood for the drudgery and indentured servitude that is grad school. I also noticed that, at least in industry, non-PhDs have greater career flexibility than those holding PhDs (this is not the case in academia). At first, I held off because my employer was paying for my Master's, but now I'm quite glad I didn't go for the PhD, because after discovering last year that FIRE is a thing, I realize now that the fastest path to it is exactly what I've been doing -- banking as much change as possible as early as possible. Six years would have been a LOT of time to lose when I can achieve FI without the PhD in twelve or so years.

I do think that science is a career of passion rather than of expedience, though. People don't really go into that field for the money or because they accidentally fell into it somehow. I genuinely enjoy and take pride in my work, and I'm actually struggling a bit internally over actually pulling the plug with FIRE when we reach goal. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

tyir

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2015, 10:15:58 PM »
Is it because computer programming is actually boring?


I don't think that's it in general. A lot of software development is very interesting, it mixes logic, design, art in a nice package. Certainly parts of it can be boring but I think that's true of most jobs. I find it very intellectually stimulating.

I think your other arguments are stronger. The programming mindset leads itself to optimizing all parts of life. The availability of high paying jobs right after a bachelor's helps too, as you mentioned.

acorn

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2015, 10:38:03 PM »
The reason I wonder is because one could argue that my profession (chemist... and other scientists jobs as well) are not ideal mustachian choices.  To get the best/most satisfying jobs, you often need a PhD.  That's a good 5 years of low earning year (grad student usually make a stipend of 20-30k).  And then, with the PhD your starting salaries are often on par with computer programming jobs (based on what I've read here).  And, for chemists at least, the job market has been not spectacular for a while.... but not abysmal either.

I'm doing a biosciences phd mostly because I got a full scholarship (in return for 6 years of service). If I had just continued on working and got paid instead of doing a phd, I would reached FIRE in 7-8 years. Instead it's going to take at least 11 years to reach FIRE with grad school and the mandatory service period.

As a post-doc, you earn maybe 10-20% more than the phd stipend. I've always felt that the starting salaries were never commensurate with the level of education the postdoc has received. And I think there are way more biosciences phds than there are jobs available. I know too many eternal post-docs who have never moved on because they couldn't find jobs.

I think there are better job prospects for phds in engineering and chemistry, but I think biosciences is not great. If someone is interested in career in research, he would probably enjoy the phd process, but he would have to put up with spending the prime years of his life with meager stipends and lousy postdoc pay.

« Last Edit: June 01, 2015, 04:37:42 AM by acorn »

Exflyboy

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2015, 11:22:32 PM »
There are plenty of scientific types on here and engineers of many different stripes..

I'm an ME with a PE license and a masters Degree. As to the relatively little amount of training.. erm yeah, I'll do my best to not take that as insult, but simply point out that the worlds first production reactor at Hanford would never had worked until the engineers re-did the Physicists' calculations and told the powers that be that almost a third more fuel rods would be required than the really "smart" people had proposed..;)

A young friend of mine recently switched his Major from Mechanical engineering to Physics.. I told him "Hey Scotty, you do know the one thing you have to know to be a physicist right?"... "Whats that?".. "Do you want fries with that?"...;)


WerKater

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2015, 11:47:49 PM »
And by scientists, I mean biologists, chemists, or physicists?  I would accept material scientists, chemical engineers,... or people with lab research oriented jobs.
I am a PhD physicist -- but I work in IT now (mostly because of the much better long-term job prospects).
« Last Edit: May 05, 2015, 11:53:31 PM by WerKater »

sol

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2015, 12:28:28 AM »
And by scientists, I mean biologists, chemists, or physicists?  I would accept material scientists, chemical engineers,... or people with lab research oriented jobs.

I'm a PhD geologist.  I won't ask whether that passes your self-righteous quality test, because you seem like the kind of hack who has ill-formed opinions.

These days I generally pay more in taxes each year than I earned per year in graduate school, which I did not escape until the age of 30.  Pulling an MMM-style early retirement at 30 is tough if you've never had a real job before then.

MDM

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2015, 01:36:54 AM »
See also http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/09/17/a-one-question-survey-who-are-the-mustachians/.

Top two from that survey:
   Other Engineering or High Tech Job (18%, 5,859 Votes)
   Software Engineering/Development/Programming (15%, 4,850 Votes)

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2015, 04:50:50 AM »
And by scientists, I mean biologists, chemists, or physicists?  I would accept material scientists, chemical engineers,... or people with lab research oriented jobs.

I'm a PhD geologist.  I won't ask whether that passes your self-righteous quality test, because you seem like the kind of hack who has ill-formed opinions.

These days I generally pay more in taxes each year than I earned per year in graduate school, which I did not escape until the age of 30.  Pulling an MMM-style early retirement at 30 is tough if you've never had a real job before then.

Yes, a geologist does count.  Funny, your assumption about self-righteousness seems to say more about the assumptions you make than about the content of my post.

A scientist by definition is one who practices the scientific method.  This could interpreted loosely as most people, because most people use logic in their jobs/life.  Or it could be interpreted more rigorously, as people who practice science in a more formal (laboratory) setting, and routinely identify hypotheses, test them thoroughly with non-subjective tests, draw conclusions, make new hypotheses, etc...  I'm going for the latter category, which has nothing to do with the self-worth/value of an individual, which seems to be what you are suggesting I am suggesting.  I was also separating out programming professions and the like for reasons stated in the original post.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2015, 04:52:59 AM by Case »

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2015, 04:58:43 AM »
There are plenty of scientific types on here and engineers of many different stripes..

I'm an ME with a PE license and a masters Degree. As to the relatively little amount of training.. erm yeah, I'll do my best to not take that as insult, but simply point out that the worlds first production reactor at Hanford would never had worked until the engineers re-did the Physicists' calculations and told the powers that be that almost a third more fuel rods would be required than the really "smart" people had proposed..;)

A young friend of mine recently switched his Major from Mechanical engineering to Physics.. I told him "Hey Scotty, you do know the one thing you have to know to be a physicist right?"... "Whats that?".. "Do you want fries with that?"...;)

It should not be taken as an insult, but should be taken literally.

One can easily respond to your comment that the Hanford site engineers would have had nothing to engineer had it not been for the physicists.

Each profession has it's place; the physicists do the fundamental work; the engineers make it work efficiently.  To assume one is more important than the other is stupid. 

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2015, 06:00:08 AM »
Computational biologist married to a biophysicist.

I think for academic scientists, having a faculty job is living the dream, why would they want to retire? They get to do what they love.

For those of us outside academia, it's still possible to have emotionally very satisfying jobs. And a lot of (experimental) science isn't something you can do casually as a hobby outside of your job, so if you have a passion for discovering things, employment may actually be one of the only ways to do that regularly.

These days PhD-level science jobs (maybe especially chemists) are low in supply and high in demand compared to software engineer positions. Thus FU money should be very attractive...

I agree with your line of thought, but the impression I get on this forum is that software engineers are more common than physical scientists.  So what gives?

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2015, 06:05:24 AM »
Computational biologist married to a biophysicist.

I think for academic scientists, having a faculty job is living the dream, why would they want to retire? They get to do what they love.

For those of us outside academia, it's still possible to have emotionally very satisfying jobs. And a lot of (experimental) science isn't something you can do casually as a hobby outside of your job, so if you have a passion for discovering things, employment may actually be one of the only ways to do that regularly.

These days PhD-level science jobs (maybe especially chemists) are low in supply and high in demand compared to software engineer positions. Thus FU money should be very attractive...

I agree with your line of thought, but the impression I get on this forum is that software engineers are more common than physical scientists.  So what gives?

I also disagree with academia as being living the dream.  For some people it is, but for a lot it would be a poor match.  Academics end up working long long hours because of pressure to publish and get tenure; after tenure, it tends to continue (though I'm not sure why).  Also, you have a life split between teaching and research; if you love both and working all of the time, then you can excel at both.  But if not, one of the two will suffer.

On the other hand, salaries in academics are not too bad; young professors often conveniently neglect their summer pay (e.g. 1/4 of their income that they can pay themselves via their grants) when complaining about their salaries.  On the other hand again, professors at non-research institutions make a lot less.



G-dog

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2015, 06:32:35 AM »
I am a biologist with a bachelor's degree. Worked in academic labs many years - pay was not great, but good benefits. Eventually ended up in a location where industry was the only job option. Pay is much better, got lucky with great benefits. Even with only a bachelor's, I probably could have gotten to six figure salary. But before that, I transitioned to another job which really bumped up my salary! But in both the lab and the non-lab job, there are still long hours, especially if you don't create and enforce good boundaries to protect the 'life' part of your work/life balance. The company is very happy to have you donate extra time to their interests. That can help your career to some extent, but the law of diminishing returns hits quickly.

More IT folks may note their career here since MMM was in the same profession. I think it is just natural to share that. I don't know the stats for the general pop on % in IT, law, medicine, science, construction..... So, does the forum just reflect the general demographics, or is it skewed?

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2015, 08:22:27 AM »
I have a BS in environmental engineering and an MS in geology.

But I taught myself database design because that's what my employer seemed desperate for when I was entry-level, so I don't really use those degrees.

littlebird

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2015, 10:17:46 AM »
I have a BS in biology and an MS in molecular and cellular biology with 5 years experience in bench research. All of this apparently qualifies me for exactly zero jobs. Many of my program-mates who actually finished their PhDs are also struggling to find work, and are becoming permanent postdocs for insultingly low pay. So maybe there's not as many scientists here because they're all too poor to consider FIRE despite years of training? I'm solving the problem by getting another degree in CS so I can finally get a job. But hey, at least now I'm fluent in two kinds of nerd.

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2015, 10:20:56 AM »
  And then, with the PhD your starting salaries are often on par with computer programming jobs (based on what I've read here). 

If you don't do a post-doc.

Hi. Bioengineering here, more on the bio side.

In the chemical industry, having a post doc under your belt usually has little impact on your starting salary... at least from what I've heard at the big companies.

beltim

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2015, 10:28:43 AM »
And by scientists, I mean biologists, chemists, or physicists?  I would accept material scientists, chemical engineers,... or people with lab research oriented jobs.

I'm a PhD geologist.  I won't ask whether that passes your self-righteous quality test, because you seem like the kind of hack who has ill-formed opinions.

Where on earth did you get that from?

littlebird

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2015, 10:29:55 AM »
I think the point they were making is that most people, in biosciences at least, have to do a postdoc before they can get a real job. So it's several more years before they start making real money. Also, in the biosciences the starting pay for staff scientists with PhDs and postdocs is not as high as for programmers straight out of college.

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #22 on: May 06, 2015, 10:43:44 AM »
Ugh, the biosciences seem like a terrible place to be.  I've heard and seen the tales of the perma-post docs.

The big problem is that undergraduate professors are not educating the undergraduates very wellgh on career choices and their impacts.

mabinogi

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #23 on: May 06, 2015, 12:01:06 PM »
I'm an ecologist (M.S. degree) married to a chemist (Ph.D). Because of the time it took us to get our respective graduate degrees, we are pretty far behind in achieving FIRE - I'm 32, hubby is 35, with a combined net worth of not even 100k. Since moving to podunk Idaho for my husband's job, I've been unable to find a job in my field, so I'm staying home with the kids instead for now.  Ecology doesn't pay that well on the best of days. Chemistry can be lucrative, and hubby's making a very good salary for the area, but he wants to move into academia eventually, where salaries are not as good as they are in industry. Before going back to get my M.S., I was in environmental consulting, making $40k annually with great raises and bonuses every year. Going back to grad school was a mistake for me; when I do get a job, I'll probably make little more than I was making four years ago.

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #24 on: May 06, 2015, 12:22:41 PM »
I am finishing my PhD in natural resource management, and my partner is a couple years away from one in stats. Without a doubt, our schooling has contributed to a lower net worth in our early 30s than we other wise would have had. But my earnings are already significantly higher (I've been consulting the last few years, earning 2-3 times what the average grad student makes) than they would have been with just a biology degree, mostly due to the quantitative skills I gained. And grad school has in no way been indentured servitude for us. It has given us the freedom to set our own schedules, travel a ton because we can work from anywhere in the world, get involved in any project we are interested in, etc. We live very well on our grad student stipends (having both been well funded even before we took on any consulting work). Basically, we want the freedom we've had as grad students forever, and that is what motivated me to seek FI. So will we be FI by 40? No. But we also spent our 20s living a life that looks very much like our ideal FI life, so I can't say I would change it. 

lifejoy

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #25 on: May 06, 2015, 01:11:44 PM »

I'm a molecular biologist. I currently work in biotech R&D, although I did do a short stint in academia before ditching for the much higher salaries in the private sector.

I think Mustachianism and a scientific mentality actually mesh quite well. Science tends to be quantitative, so I'm not intimidated by math or numbers, and will happily bust out with spreadsheets and graphs to model/track FIRE progress. I value a rational, pragmatic, evidence-based approach over emotion-based decision-making, so I can smell bullshit from a mile away and more easily resist the lure of slick advertisements for useless crap I don't need. I love optimizing, experimentation, and problem-solving, so I enjoy figuring out the best and most efficient way to accomplish a task. The education helps, too -- I'm quite willing to get down into the weeds and read the proper (and not just the popular) literature on topics relevant to financial planning and management.

You do make an interesting point regarding the PhD, though. I distinctly recall the surprise I felt when I read in The Millionaire Next Door that while advanced degrees were positively correlated with income, they were negatively correlated with wealth. (The relevant quote is, "For all high-income earners (those earning at least $100,000 annually), the relationship between education and wealth accumulation is *negative*. High-income PAWs are significantly *less* likely than UAWs to hold graduate degrees, law degrees, or medical degrees" p. 74.)

I was strongly considering getting a PhD at the time, and reading that actually factored into my final decision (along with external factors beyond my control, such as my PI losing funding for my position) to delay grad school and pursue a more lucrative career in industry. I figured that if I sold out, I could use my higher salary to front-load my retirement accounts, after which I could pursue grad school with the peace of mind of knowing that my retirement will be fully funded by the magic that is compounding interest.

As it turned out, after jumping ship to industry, I was never able to subsequently justify the opportunity cost of giving up that decent salary and livelihood for the drudgery and indentured servitude that is grad school. I also noticed that, at least in industry, non-PhDs have greater career flexibility than those holding PhDs (this is not the case in academia). At first, I held off because my employer was paying for my Master's, but now I'm quite glad I didn't go for the PhD, because after discovering last year that FIRE is a thing, I realize now that the fastest path to it is exactly what I've been doing -- banking as much change as possible as early as possible. Six years would have been a LOT of time to lose when I can achieve FI without the PhD in twelve or so years.

I do think that science is a career of passion rather than of expedience, though. People don't really go into that field for the money or because they accidentally fell into it somehow. I genuinely enjoy and take pride in my work, and I'm actually struggling a bit internally over actually pulling the plug with FIRE when we reach goal. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

However... If memory serves, the millionaire next door also discussed teachers as being one of those careers where you can save a lot of money. I remember teachers and engineers were examples of careers where you don't have to dress like a lawyer or a doctor, because - my mom is a teacher and my dad is an engineer :)

So maybe PhDs can lead to mad savings, as long as you're a teacher/prof?

JJ-

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #26 on: May 06, 2015, 01:38:27 PM »
Geologist/Geophysicist, though I'm rarely in a lab (unless you count "the field" as my "lab").

Albert

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #27 on: May 06, 2015, 02:07:02 PM »
I have a PhD in organic chemistry. Life is good now, but I was 31 when I signed my first permanent employment contract. Five years to MSc, 5 years to PhD and 2 years of postdoc is all it took to get there... Of course the reason for choosing this path wasn't money. It was my passion for learning, for being in the lab and discovering something new.

squatman

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #28 on: May 06, 2015, 02:12:59 PM »
I have a PhD in biomedical engineering, although I immediately moved to various forms of consulting after I finished. If I had to do it all over again I would have stopped with an MS (or no grad school at all), but that's not relevant now. :)

I'm trying very hard to find a job outside of benchtop science that desires my general scientific acument and my other professional skills (ie cares that I have a PhD but isn't in a lab per se), but haven't had much luck.

rocksinmyhead

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #29 on: May 06, 2015, 02:42:45 PM »
Computational biologist married to a biophysicist.

I think for academic scientists, having a faculty job is living the dream, why would they want to retire? They get to do what they love.

For those of us outside academia, it's still possible to have emotionally very satisfying jobs. And a lot of (experimental) science isn't something you can do casually as a hobby outside of your job, so if you have a passion for discovering things, employment may actually be one of the only ways to do that regularly.

These days PhD-level science jobs (maybe especially chemists) are low in supply and high in demand compared to software engineer positions. Thus FU money should be very attractive...

I agree with your line of thought, but the impression I get on this forum is that software engineers are more common than physical scientists.  So what gives?
Mainly because software engineers are farting around on computers all day so are able to check out the MMM site all the time.  While physical scientists are farting around with beakers and test tubes or out in the field playing with dirt so not online as often.

bahaha I actually think that's a big part of it!

I'm a geologist, but the kind that farts around on computers most days. and I don't know if you could call what I do research, since in the end it seems like it's more Wall Street-reviewed than peer-reviewed. drilling an exploration well is basically a poorly controlled geology experiment, though.

opah

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #30 on: May 06, 2015, 02:48:41 PM »
I think Mustachianism and a scientific mentality actually mesh quite well. Science tends to be quantitative, so I'm not intimidated by math or numbers, and will happily bust out with spreadsheets and graphs to model/track FIRE progress. I value a rational, pragmatic, evidence-based approach over emotion-based decision-making, so I can smell bullshit from a mile away and more easily resist the lure of slick advertisements for useless crap I don't need. I love optimizing, experimentation, and problem-solving, so I enjoy figuring out the best and most efficient way to accomplish a task. The education helps, too -- I'm quite willing to get down into the weeds and read the proper (and not just the popular) literature on topics relevant to financial planning and management.
....
I do think that science is a career of passion rather than of expedience, though. People don't really go into that field for the money or because they accidentally fell into it somehow. I genuinely enjoy and take pride in my work, and I'm actually struggling a bit internally over actually pulling the plug with FIRE when we reach goal. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

+1 to this section of what amberfocus said. I am a PhD Mechanical Engineer and this rings true for me. It took me until my very late 20s to dial in my financial goals, but as soon as I did, I was not intimidated by the spreadsheets/calculations/optimizations needed, rather I was excited. But at 17 and 21 (deciding on grad school) was I thinking of FI? Uh, no. I didn't optimize my field of choice based on FI goals; I didn't even have FI goals! In fact I spent most of my 20s thinking I would go into academia. I chose my field, and level of education, based on my interest and passion and natural aptitude. My quantitative skillset just so happens to dovetail nicely with the mindset necessary to plan for and achieve FI.

This is just anecdotal, but I get the sense that it's also easier to burn out on programming - their work life seems very different from my research-based job that I enjoy immensely.

mm1970

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #31 on: May 06, 2015, 05:07:10 PM »
[slightly edited to clarify some points]

And by scientists, I mean biologists, chemists, or physicists?  I would accept material scientists, chemical engineers,... or people with lab research oriented jobs.

I hardly ever see any on this forum.  I am a chemist.

I am curious why the majority of mustachians (on these forums) tend to be software engineers?  Does it have to do with the personality type?  Does it have to do with a relatively low amount of training earning a high income (in other words, 4 years of undergraduate study is the norm; I am not implying that these people are less smart); e.g. people who make efficient career choices go for it?  Is it because computer programming is actually boring (and thus drives people towards wanting FIRE; not trying to imply anything negative about programming)?

I often find it hard to relate to the computer scientists and lawyers on this site because their life experience is so much different from mine; these high paying professions have access to great living locations, and enable FIRE more easily.  Don't get me wrong; i'm doing well enough, on my way to FIRE, etc...  If I could re-do things, I'd probably go with programming... but on the other hand, my personality is such that the physical sciences just interested me more. 

The reason I wonder is because one could argue that my profession (chemist... and other scientists jobs as well) are not ideal mustachian choices.  To get the best/most satisfying jobs, you often need a PhD.  That's a good 5 years of low earning year (grad student usually make a stipend of 20-30k).  And then, with the PhD your starting salaries are often on par with computer programming jobs (based on what I've read here).  And, for chemists at least, the job market has been not spectacular for a while.... but not abysmal either.

Anyways, just looking for people to relate to.  Think I saw a guy whose user name is Scandium once... maybe you're a chemist too?
I'm a chemical engineer, which - you know, generally makes more money than a typical scientist (without a PhD), but not nearly as much as a software guy.

I guess I don't see that chemist jobs are all that easy to find - I had many friends from volleyball who were grad students in chemistry, and the job market was tight after they finished their PhD.  I think the work is interesting, but when I looked at it, I figured the typical chemical engineer made more money than the typical chemist.  Most people I know who majored in chemistry did something different after graduating (med school, Navy, etc.)

Now, I know physicists who actually make decent money, on par with engineering.

A lot of it depends on the industry that you are in too - I am in semiconductors, and the engineers that I work with have degrees in EE, ChemE, Materials, chemistry, physics...you can pretty much learn anything on the job, for some people.

mm1970

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #32 on: May 06, 2015, 05:08:18 PM »
Chemical engineers have very high earning levels...if good. I'm making over $100k at 30 y/o as one.

PhDs my age are the same pay grade as I am now, but in addition to lower lifetime earnings due to grad school I have an extra week of vacation (more time at company). So hah.

I'll be FI soon-ish, but like my job so don't see myself quitting to become a carpenter.
oh you can just suck it.

I hate it when 30 year olds make more than me, with the same damn major.  :)

Regulatorr

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #33 on: May 06, 2015, 06:51:50 PM »
I have have a PhD in organic chemistry. I managed to find a great job in industry without doing a postdoc (pretty lucky, I know). Coincidentally I discovered FIRE only a couple months after starting my job and I am 100% on board now. I think that what some have said in this thread about perusing science as a career tends to be more of a passion is only half true and perhaps is part of the propaganda that is responsible for the (apparent) lack of scientists in the FIRE community. When you are on track to becoming a scientist, especially as a graduate student, the tag line from all your mentors and professors is that you are lucky to be there and you need to be 100% committed in order to succeed. This makes sure that no graduate student questions the status quo of over work and very long hours, because you don't want to seem lazy, because, apparently you are there for your PASSION. This is especially true if you have any dreams of becoming an academic professor (1%er) conducting your own research. I personally know many scientists who claim they will  "never" retire, despite them being obviously overworked and a little burned out. Perhaps they feel that they cannot give up now due to their "passion" for the subject, or maybe they just dont want to feel like they wasted 10+ years of their life in higher education.

I personally did not pursue chemistry out of an inherent passion (although I crave learning and will never stop in this lifetime). I actually started college focusing on something outside of the science realm, but decided that I didn't want to do that particular thing for the rest of my life (I didn't even know of FIRE back then). Instead, I chose something that I was good at and would be a good career for me. I don't regret choosing chemistry and graduate school at all, since I met many life long friends and had a lot of great experiences, but I only now truely understand the opportunity cost associated with the 5 years of grad school in the prime of my 20s. I am at a stage now where I actually love what I do, and look forward to getting to work every day to run more reactions. However, at the same time I want to pursue my many other interests and long term travel plans. I consider my career now just one phase of my life, which hopefully will contain many more. Just my 0.02 cents from another scientist.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2015, 07:00:13 PM by Regulatorr »

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #34 on: May 07, 2015, 04:54:56 AM »
I have had a very similar experience to yours, and especially agree on the passion part. 

On the one hand, I don't regret my choice because regrets don't accomplish anything, the choices have made me who I am, etc...  On the other hand, if I could re-do it all, I seriously would re-consider my choices because of all the different options that would be available, not to mention locations to live. 

I will comment that although I have made a number of long term friends through graduate school, I sometimes wonder if this is not a good thing: it narrows the sort of breadth of people you associate with.

LAL

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #35 on: May 07, 2015, 07:10:42 AM »
yes phd biologist married to phd chemist.  FI is hard to achieve when you live on $30k/year for a long time.  Anyway we are 35 and 37 with 2 kids and FI pretty much now after 10 years of working.  We are leaving HCOLA for a slightly lower one.  If we had just worked we'd be better off than what we did.  But at the same time we always learned to live on grad student stipends and never changed our living habits we are fine now.

of course if we knew then what we know now?  DH and I would have both been engineers.  And phds start out in chemistry in pharma around $90k.  Phd Biologist only like $75k.

And we both are leaving our respective fields because we don't want to work at the bench.

opah

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #36 on: May 07, 2015, 07:46:45 AM »
I will comment that although I have made a number of long term friends through graduate school, I sometimes wonder if this is not a good thing: it narrows the sort of breadth of people you associate with.

Now you're just trolling us. If by "you" you mean just YOU, sure. Don't generalize to the rest of us. I have actively pursued many social hobbies and all of my PhD friends and co-workers have as well. I was going to start listing them but it would take too long!

neophyte

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #37 on: May 07, 2015, 08:13:37 AM »
  And then, with the PhD your starting salaries are often on par with computer programming jobs (based on what I've read here). 

If you don't do a post-doc.

Hi. Bioengineering here, more on the bio side.

In the chemical industry, having a post doc under your belt usually has little impact on your starting salary... at least from what I've heard at the big companies.

Yeah,  what I meant was if you count your postdoc, it's actually a few more years in the 40-45k range. So it's even longer until you start earning a good salary. And, well, if you end up doing multiple postdocs, you're obviously not in it for the money at that point.

rocksinmyhead

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #38 on: May 07, 2015, 09:36:12 AM »
I personally did not pursue chemistry out of an inherent passion (although I crave learning and will never stop in this lifetime). I actually started college focusing on something outside of the science realm, but decided that I didn't want to do that particular thing for the rest of my life (I didn't even know of FIRE back then). Instead, I chose something that I was good at and would be a good career for me. I don't regret choosing chemistry and graduate school at all, since I met many life long friends and had a lot of great experiences, but I only now truely understand the opportunity cost associated with the 5 years of grad school in the prime of my 20s. I am at a stage now where I actually love what I do, and look forward to getting to work every day to run more reactions. However, at the same time I want to pursue my many other interests and long term travel plans. I consider my career now just one phase of my life, which hopefully will contain many more. Just my 0.02 cents from another scientist.

Dude! You took the words right out of my mouth. Are you me? :)

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #39 on: May 07, 2015, 09:46:51 AM »
I will comment that although I have made a number of long term friends through graduate school, I sometimes wonder if this is not a good thing: it narrows the sort of breadth of people you associate with.

Now you're just trolling us. If by "you" you mean just YOU, sure. Don't generalize to the rest of us. I have actively pursued many social hobbies and all of my PhD friends and co-workers have as well. I was going to start listing them but it would take too long!

You know this is all pretty obvious shit, man.  Doesn't that make you the troll?  I hate how frequently people jump to use that term.

No duh you can take up social hobbies and break outside of your work social group, or graduate social group.  The point is that whether you like it or not, being in graduate school IS going to influence who you socialize with because it is so time consuming; it is more than a 9-5 job.  It is very uncommon for people to not socialize within their graduate group or at least class, and the people that don't usually are anti-social or heavily introverted.  If I had not been in graduate school, I would have had more free time to explore other social options.  This is similar for reasons some people might want to FIRE... graduate school is a 60-80 hour/week commitment typically.

studentdoc2

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #40 on: May 07, 2015, 10:22:34 AM »
I'm defending my PhD in cancer bio in about six months, then have about 2.5 more years of medical school left to finish my MD. By the time I finally finish my education, I'll be about 30 and with a net worth, for all intensive purposes, hovering around zero (thanks to directing any excess money towards undergrad loans). At my institution (obviously, YMMV), most of the graduate students finish up in their late 20s to mid-30s and have a relative low-paying postdoc to look forward to (if they're lucky!). There's a LOT of pressure to go into academia, which can be great if you get it, but the jobs just aren't there. Most of us work 7 days a week, 60-80 hr/week. Not only do we push off our earning years, we also tend to put our personal lives on hold (e.g., while some may start families, most postpone until after graduation). Would I do it again, if I had to start all over? I'm not sure. Quality of life means something different to me now (and is more important) than it did when I started this track at 22.

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #41 on: May 07, 2015, 11:21:41 AM »
I will comment that although I have made a number of long term friends through graduate school, I sometimes wonder if this is not a good thing: it narrows the sort of breadth of people you associate with.

Now you're just trolling us. If by "you" you mean just YOU, sure. Don't generalize to the rest of us. I have actively pursued many social hobbies and all of my PhD friends and co-workers have as well. I was going to start listing them but it would take too long!

You know this is all pretty obvious shit, man.  Doesn't that make you the troll?  I hate how frequently people jump to use that term.

No duh you can take up social hobbies and break outside of your work social group, or graduate social group.  The point is that whether you like it or not, being in graduate school IS going to influence who you socialize with because it is so time consuming; it is more than a 9-5 job.  It is very uncommon for people to not socialize within their graduate group or at least class, and the people that don't usually are anti-social or heavily introverted.  If I had not been in graduate school, I would have had more free time to explore other social options.  This is similar for reasons some people might want to FIRE... graduate school is a 60-80 hour/week commitment typically.
Completely anecdotal, but this wasn't my experience.  I was around my classmates a lot when I was in the lab, but my friends were completely outside of my university.  Since I did spend 60-80 hours at the lab, I wanted to get away from it.  I didn't want to hang out with other graduate students and talk about their research.

That's no problem; I'm just saying that at the university I went to (which I guess but am not certain that was representative of others), in the chemistry program, this was the norm.

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #42 on: May 07, 2015, 12:51:45 PM »
I will comment that although I have made a number of long term friends through graduate school, I sometimes wonder if this is not a good thing: it narrows the sort of breadth of people you associate with.

Now you're just trolling us. If by "you" you mean just YOU, sure. Don't generalize to the rest of us. I have actively pursued many social hobbies and all of my PhD friends and co-workers have as well. I was going to start listing them but it would take too long!

You know this is all pretty obvious shit, man.  Doesn't that make you the troll?  I hate how frequently people jump to use that term.

No duh you can take up social hobbies and break outside of your work social group, or graduate social group.  The point is that whether you like it or not, being in graduate school IS going to influence who you socialize with because it is so time consuming; it is more than a 9-5 job.  It is very uncommon for people to not socialize within their graduate group or at least class, and the people that don't usually are anti-social or heavily introverted.  If I had not been in graduate school, I would have had more free time to explore other social options.  This is similar for reasons some people might want to FIRE... graduate school is a 60-80 hour/week commitment typically.
Completely anecdotal, but this wasn't my experience.  I was around my classmates a lot when I was in the lab, but my friends were completely outside of my university.  Since I did spend 60-80 hours at the lab, I wanted to get away from it.  I didn't want to hang out with other graduate students and talk about their research.

That's no problem; I'm just saying that at the university I went to (which I guess but am not certain that was representative of others), in the chemistry program, this was the norm.
My experience might be rare because there weren't any other women in the facility at the time (and only one other woman in the program).

That's a good point; certainly parts of science are still very male dominated.  My field is... certainly could impact graduate group dynamics.

ohana

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #43 on: May 07, 2015, 01:03:10 PM »
Ecologist.  I get paid to take students to the beach.  What's not to like about that?

I read somewhere (can't find it now) that academics have a very high rate of savings compared to others.  I'm guessing that's all the time they spent making crap in their 20s and 30s. 

That's IF you can get a job in the first place!

Case

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #44 on: May 07, 2015, 01:03:34 PM »
I'm defending my PhD in cancer bio in about six months, then have about 2.5 more years of medical school left to finish my MD. By the time I finally finish my education, I'll be about 30 and with a net worth, for all intensive purposes, hovering around zero (thanks to directing any excess money towards undergrad loans). At my institution (obviously, YMMV), most of the graduate students finish up in their late 20s to mid-30s and have a relative low-paying postdoc to look forward to (if they're lucky!). There's a LOT of pressure to go into academia, which can be great if you get it, but the jobs just aren't there. Most of us work 7 days a week, 60-80 hr/week. Not only do we push off our earning years, we also tend to put our personal lives on hold (e.g., while some may start families, most postpone until after graduation). Would I do it again, if I had to start all over? I'm not sure. Quality of life means something different to me now (and is more important) than it did when I started this track at 22.

I was lucky; I graduated in a little over 4 years, then landed a very high paying post doc, and then switched to industry which got me around the 6 figure area.  It's not as optimal as an engineer who starts out years earlier with high pay, but at least I can close in on FIRE by mid-30s if I so choose.  Unfortunately the MD PhD gives up even more years... hopefully you get great salaries to compensate, and don't incur and student debt.  The worst deal of all seems to be biosciences PhD; very lengthy PhD (7 years according to the above diagram!!!), then post docs are common, and then probably large battles to land jobs.  Might be better to abandon ship in those circumstances.

Also, the very difficult years in grad school did have some fun and were character building.  They forge you into a particular type of scientist that is hard to replicate otherwise.

acroy

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #45 on: May 07, 2015, 01:35:52 PM »

I am curious why the majority of mustachians (on these forums) tend to be software engineers? 

According to the 'Art of not working at work' thread, perhaps because they have easiest access to computers & thus MMM during working hours :)

ChemE here. Technical middle management.

Albert

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #46 on: May 07, 2015, 01:52:14 PM »
That could be it albeit my job as a chemist is also almost entirely on a computer (+meetings). Occasionally I'd do something in the lab myself, but most days no time for that. I have lab technicians for doing the actual chemistry and even they are on a computer up to half their time.

libertarian4321

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #47 on: May 07, 2015, 01:57:44 PM »
I have a BS in Chemical Engineering, though I worked as an Environmental Engineer my whole career before Early Retirement.

My wife is a Chemist.

worms

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Re: any mustachian scientists out there?
« Reply #48 on: May 09, 2015, 01:38:43 AM »
Bio PhD here, range of awesome but low-paid jobs in great locations around the world for 20 years but now in really interesting but low-paid non-science employment in UK.

Found that PhD was a barrier to employment outside science - I think potential employers reckoned I would get bored with a non-science post.