Author Topic: Mustachianism for Liberal Arts Degrees (Help me convince my boyfriend!)  (Read 9502 times)

ethereality

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Hi everyone,

I have plans in place where it's possible to early retire by the time I'm 28 - 32 years old. I just turned 23. I had a long conversation with my boyfriend about my said plans to retire early. He claims it's not really a likelihood for him because he hopes to go the route of master's degree, then phd. We both went to liberal arts schools - I graduated with an English and a Music degree; he graduated with a Music Composition and a Philosophy degree.

So, with these higher ed plans (in fields like Composition, it's exceedingly difficult to get scholarships, and paid fellowships are incredibly rare), it seems unlikely that he'll ever have much saved. He's not a big spender and leads a frugal life, but I've done the reading on the phd route for really narrow subjects such as Composition (he specializes in electronic computer music). He said the phd to professorship was a back-up plan as he hopes to pursue a freelance career.

I told him it might make more sense to postpone school, find a job, save like crazy since he already has frugal tendencies, retire early, and then pursue composition without worrying as much about money. He's so dedicated to his composition, he can't really imagine postponing it or doing it on the side for 5 or so years.

Since my graduate school aspirations are in fields that definitely don't translate to career, my plan is to go later when I'm closer to having enough money to pay for it all anyways, or don't go unless I can go for almost-free.

His family is upper middle class and he had parents who paid for undergrad as well as  invested $30K in a Roth IRA for him. I'm lower middle class, have bad financial models for parents, and paid my way through school - perhaps that partially explains our differences in ideology?

What should I advise him? (I realize that I can't control someone's decisions - just trying to provide a better framework when I discuss MMM ideas with him) Any other artists who chose grad school or people pursuing mustachianism with less lucrative career prospects?

chucklesmcgee

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It sounds like his parents are already supporting or are at least semi-subsidizing him. If he's able to support himself and save while doing what he loves, early retirement isn't so essential. Being a professor or freelance writer usually gives you much more flexibility than most other jobs. If he had enough money to retire early, what would he do then? If it's just continuing those same jobs, it doesn't make sense to defer that and pursue a more lucrative job in the short term.

Those are a lot of big ifs though. If you weren't certain you could support yourself, no way in hell would I suggest a PhD in composition. But if he's alright living the poor-graduate school role for a decade plus as a grad-student then post-doc, eh, why not?

Frankies Girl

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Grew up lower middle class, had good role models for saving and was lucky enough to have most of my schooling covered by scholarships and parents. I have a BFA in illustration and an associates degree in graphic design and the design stuff is how I make a living. I had no interest in pursuing a higher degree, since it wouldn't be worth it in the income department, and the idea of racking up school loans and debt to pay for something that would not pay for itself seemed frivolous and wasteful to me.

Getting a higher degree in the arts generally doesn't pay off from what I've seen. If you have talent, you don't need another piece of paper with more letters on it to prove it - you go out and get a job in your field that does that.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but it sounds like your boyfriend wants to be a career student, and as long as he doesn't have to leave the sheltered, safe environment of school, why should he? Is his current degree supporting him in any way? If no, then how IS he supporting himself? Will getting an advanced degree actually make a difference in the real world? If he wants to teach, that's great, but going for a phd just to have teaching as a fallback seems like a silly move - but it does mean he can stay in school even longer, which seems like his main goal.

But of course I might be slightly biased as in my group, those that went after all the advanced degrees were the ones that really were terrified of growing up and weren't able to deal with going out and being responsible for themselves, so they stayed in school as long as humanly possible.

I don't think you're going to convince him of anything since he probably sees this as two pathways:

1. Parents support him as long as needed, he doesn't have to experience any real world issues like where the money will come from to cover the bills or working for someone he doesn't like and he gets to continue playing around with music and doing exactly what he really wants to do without any consequences.

2. He leaves the sheltered environment of college and has to get a job that he dislikes, working hours he has no choice over and with people he may dislike, leaving him little time to do what he really wants to do.

Of course, this is all predicated on the idea that he is not working right now to support himself in any meaningful way. If he is using his talents to pay his bills, then that changes the big picture. But not much you can do to convince him to go work and delay gratification when there's no incentive for him to do so if he's happy and his parents are happy.

So I'd suggest you really think about how this effects you and how you feel about his chosen path if you are serious about this relationship. You're right in that the only person you really have any control over is yourself. So the big thing to consider is if you are okay being the only one working and saving for early retirement and if you think his schooling is actually a noble pursuit that you can accommodate and whether (if you two do decide to cohabit or marry eventually) you are okay with the idea that his music is more important that just about anything else. And do talk about how you'd manage money and kids and home stuff too if you're getting to that point. It is possible to be with someone that isn't on the same ER path as you (Jacob of Early Retirement Extreme and his wife who continues to work is one example) but you both should have some serious talks and listen to each other to figure out how you'd both come out of this happy.

« Last Edit: May 08, 2014, 12:35:32 AM by Frankies Girl »

ethereality

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Thanks for the thought-out responses. His parents will not continue to support him, and he has no desire to be a burden to them. He's been travelling and conducting self-designed study on a fellowship (just enough to live on, but not to save). These questions are coming up because it's ending in August. We may move in together at that point, and he's looking for a non-related job to support himself.

Yes, his biggest fear is that he'll have to work long hours and have no intellectual/emotional energy to compose, which is more important to him than money.

But, I have other friends pursuing this route and end up sick of living near poverty, so I don't know where he'll fall.

Outside of money, my concerns are that his career choice may end up leading him to living in many places, whereas mine are rooted to the local community. It is hard to be in this phase of  relationship where it's been long enough that you are committed, but not to the point of lifelong commitment. If we were married (unlikely until closer to thirty, if it's to be with him), then I would subsidize part of his living expense, in exchange with him taking hard of household things (we're both okay with this.) But, since we're not at that point in our relationship, things are more mine and his.

If anything, relationships help me reevaluate why I am pursuing my own values and goals.

samburger

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Here's a tough question: Are you trying persuade him to go the FI route to save the relationship?

It sounds like you two have very different values. I would be freaked out in a big way if my wife decided that sculpting is more important to her than money. That's shortsighted crazy talk, and it would be a death knell for us in the long run.

The bad news is that I don't think there's anything you can say. He doesn't seem to understand money at all yet--he thinks toiling in poverty is romantic and artistic, or he straight up doesn't realize it's a possibility. I have a dear friend with a boyfriend like this. She decided to wait it out, and while it took a few years, he's sorta kinda started to come around. Kinda.


Thegoblinchief

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Getting a PhD is a terrible backup plan.

All of the musicians I know, whether on performance or composition side, work multiple jobs to make ends meet if they stay in field.

If he enjoys electronic music, two avenues would seem promising:

1. Composing music for games.
2. Doing more DJ style composition/mixing.

If he lives frugally, he wouldn't need a soul-sucking FULL TIME job to make ends meet. Maybe a soul-sucking PT job would be enough ;)

Cpa Cat

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Yes, his biggest fear is that he'll have to work long hours and have no intellectual/emotional energy to compose, which is more important to him than money.

But, I have other friends pursuing this route and end up sick of living near poverty, so I don't know where he'll fall.

The problem with upper-level music degrees (which you have already pointed out) is that it ain't free. He's not going to have the emotional energy to compose if he piles on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

I've known some very talented musicians who were crushed by the student loan debt of their various degrees. There's just no payback for most people. Advanced music degrees have a negative Return on Investment.

The problem here - and it happens a lot with people who pick a degree without a ton of real world job prospects - is that your boyfriend legitimately can't imagine how he will make a living with music. Once he's out of school, he probably can't support himself with his music. So, like so many people in his position, he's thinking about delaying real life a little longer. He's going to delay it first with Master's degree and - since he still can't support himself - delay it some more with a PhD.

The problem with this mentality is that the journey eventually ends - usually with $100k+ of student loans to pay back.

I don't know what to say. Obviously you like/love the guy and you don't to crush his dreams. On the other hand, hitching your wagon to a career student and all the debt that comes along with that is not the way to FIRE.

Financially, he's better off not going back to school. Instead, he can try to scrape up a living with music. One way or another, he's probably going to end up living at the poverty line and living at the poverty line is easier without a ton of student loan debt.

MissStache

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You say that you have plans in place to retire in 5-10 years.  Do those plans include the money he would be bringing to the table, or is that entirely independent of him?  I think the main question you need to ask yourself is:  "Will he delay my plans to retire early, and if so, am I OK with that?"

I will say that I think his backup plan is foolish and short-sighted, but if he feels a passion for what he is doing, it is also foolish and short-sighted of you to think that you can steer him away from that.  He may eventually mature enough to accept that his chosen career path isn't likely to be enough to support himself, or he may not.  He also may grow to resent you for not supporting him in his goals.  It's a tough situation, but you sound like you have a good head on your shoulders, so think hard and trust your gut.

Noodle

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It seems to me that there are two big, separate questions here. The first is that you want to retire early and stay in your community, and he will probably have to work all his life as a musician and won't be able to guarantee a regular income. Life in the arts means a lot of hustling, probably a fair amount of moving around, and even if he did do PhD + professorship you probably wouldn't be in your hometown. Some people are perfectly OK with living modestly and working all their lives in order to do what they love. I'm in that camp. I won't ever retire early but I like what I do and I have no debt and a pile of FU money in case the circumstances of my specific job change.

The second is how this musical education gets paid for--is it a good idea to take out astronomical loans for an arts PhD?

It seems to me that the first question is the one you really have to think through for yourself. Honestly, your life visions seem really different. It's possible either of you may change your perspectives as you get older, so are you OK with enjoying "for now" even if you eventually do decide your lives are going different directions, or do you really only want to be in relationships that seem to be heading towards a permanent commitment (neither is the right answer, it's just about what's right for you.)

On the PhD front, I would encourage BF to try the freelance route for a year just to get an idea of the income and costs involved, and also before making a decision on grad school to really run the numbers as to the monthly obligation that will result, and have some serious talks about what that would mean for both of you.

senecando

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A problem with the masters->phd->prof route that I didn't realize until recently is that you are pretty much at the whim of the whole operation as to where you are living for the rest of your life.

I ended up not applying to graduate school for a lot of reasons, but that was one of the big ones.

And, if he happens to be an ancient philosopher, there's no better way to convince him that music ought to be studied in FIRE/leisure than by obnoxiously and gratuitously quoting Aristotle:

Quote
It is clear then that there are branches of learning and education which we must study merely with a view to leisure spent in intellectual activity, and these are to be valued for their own sake; whereas those kinds of knowledge which are useful in business are to be deemed necessary, and exist for the sake of other things. And therefore our fathers admitted music into education, not on the ground either of its necessity or utility, for it is not necessary, nor indeed useful in the same manner as reading and writing, which are useful in money-making, in the management of a household, in the acquisition of knowledge and in political life, nor like drawing, useful for a more correct judgment of the works of artists, nor again like gymnastic, which gives health and strength; for neither of these is to be gained from music. There remains, then, the use of music for intellectual enjoyment in leisure; which is in fact evidently the reason of its introduction, this being one of the ways in which it is thought that a freeman should pass his leisure.

madgeylou

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also, lots of really talented productive artists made art while also holding down day jobs:

http://www.fastcompany.com/3022985/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/10-famous-creative-minds-that-didnt-quit-their-day-jobs

philip glass was a plumber! there's definitely something to be said for being free to create your art 100% on your own terms without relying on it for financial sustinence, and most people find that they are able to be more creative and productive when they get enough to eat/aren't worried about money.

please, also, read the second letter in this advice column. just so you're aware of what can happen, so you make sure it doesn't happen to you.

http://the-toast.net/2014/05/02/advice-on-coworkers-and-being-poorer-than-you-want/

samburger

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philip glass was a plumber!

This is the single best thing I have ever heard.


please, also, read the second letter in this advice column. just so you're aware of what can happen, so you make sure it doesn't happen to you.

http://the-toast.net/2014/05/02/advice-on-coworkers-and-being-poorer-than-you-want/

X2 on this recommendation. This was the first thing that came to mind when I read your post, OP.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2014, 09:55:58 AM by samburger »

Lans Holman

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There's a great Phillip Glass story about how he was driving a taxi to make ends meet and picked up a rich lady who saw the name on his license and said something like "Did you know you have the same name as a famous composer?"

One relevant suggestion that someone brought up on the "side gigs" thread is that you can make some decent money submitting little clips of original music to stock audio sites.  Essentially he could take some little sketch that never turned into a larger composition and let people pay to use it in their videos or whatever.  Might be a fun thing to look into.

mboulder

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I have a friend who got her phd in music (performance, not composition) a few years back, hoping to become a professor. It took her two years to land a job as a professor, and that job involves moving her and her family several thousand miles away. She also has student loans approaching $100k. During those two years the only music related job she could find was as a teacher in a local music studio, part time, making something like $9/hour. Just about every professor job she applied for had 100+ applicants.

I don't know if your boyfriend's plan is a bad idea or not, but if he hasn't, he really needs to research his backup plan. How easy will it be for him to get a professorship once he has his phd? Can he talk to people who hold positions that he wants to work, and see what the job market is like? What's the pay like, and what would his budget look like to pay his loans and otherwise live based on that pay? His idea is not much of a backup plan if he ends up with $100k in student loan debt and few, if any, prospects for a job.

My gut feeling is that it makes more economic sense to skip the phd, work a day job (perhaps even part time if his budget allows, even better if it's in the music industry somewhere) and pursue music in off-time. I'm a songwriter myself, and I know many struggling songwriters who do just that, and yes there are days where you just feel burnt out, but if it's a passion you try to follow it, even if just a little. There are stories all over of great songwriters working crap jobs while they follow their artistic dreams. Then again, I don't know the market for phd's in composition, so maybe I'm missing something.

waltworks

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As someone who has been (in the past) a "career student" and has several nigh-useless (and some useful) degrees - this is a complex problem and there are a couple different things to consider.

If YOUR main goal in life is FIRE/staying in your community, and HIS main goal in life is making music - can you make those sets of goals complement each other, or not? Because it's not *wrong* to not care about money and be ok with a life of poverty while you make music. That's a legitimate choice, as much as some of us here would never choose it. People pursuing knowledge for it's own sake over the last 10,000+ years is what, arguably, makes our modern post-industrial early retirement *possible*, after all! So all those artists and inventors and dreamers who died penniless deserve respect.

You also need to think hard about what your plans are post-FI. Heck, traveling around to see him at gigs or whatever could easily be doable - what are you going to be doing with your time when you're 32 and no longer need to work? No matter how much you love where you live I bet some trips to new places would be fun. Of course if he needs/wants to be based somewhere else that's a problem.

And then there's the question of whether you'd be willing to work a few more years to let HIM be FI (well, sort of) on your $. I work more than I'd like and won't be FI nearly as soon as I'd prefer so that my wife can be a career academic because that's what she loves and it makes both of us happier, and it's a choice I'd make again. Would you support him? Would he be ok being supported by/dependent on you?

Lots going on. Good luck!

-W

expatartist

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Hey OP,

It sounds like you're being very level-headed about trying to reconcile your SO's idealism with your own pragmatism. Will he come around eventually? Maybe, maybe not. Many have given you great advice above, and thanks for posting that excellent link.
 
I'll add this one: http://snaap.indiana.edu/snaapshot/#dashboard It's a survey I participated in recently, for arts graduates. There are some great insights if you look at the stats: how much did student loans affect career decisions, which careers did arts grads go into, etc.

There is intense pressure in most fine arts careers to 'make it' when you're young and fresh, malleable and relatively cheap. He may be feeling that. I'm not as familiar with the music industry as with the visual arts. What I have noticed - and experienced during my undergrad years - is that, since arts students are constantly told that making groundbreaking work will mean they have few income-earning prospects, the only way they can envision a middle-class lifestyle like the one they grew up in (because let's face it, most arts grads come from the middle, not working class) is to remain in academia. It's all they know. But there are many peripheral jobs to every creative industry. There are many options besides teaching.

Before pursuing any further education he should take a year off and do something extraordinary in his field, to make himself stand out from other PhD applicants. A self-funded internship, a residency overseas or in a local underserved community. He should do whatever he can to get scholarships. He should be able to graduate with no debt. But he will need to be able to envision this first.

ethereality

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Thank you all for the food for thought. My boyfriend has looked into the some of the replies and we talked further. We're not in a place to make plans as if we'll be together forever, with the volatility of our respective career paths, which are both important to us. But, I think, as a pragmatist, that it's incredibly important to communicate about this if we ever want to get to that point.

His plan is to take a year off, and freelance in my area. He's had the fortune of spending the last year networking without worrying about the bills and no debt. He's also applying to jobs that he is qualified for (non-music related). My initial thought was since his music career is almost entirely hinged about who he knows, the priority in the next year should be to make enough money to stay out of debt, but to leverage personal relationships. Does that make sense? We fear that if he just works as many hours as possible in a non-music related field to make some money, the slim chance that he might make it as a musician in the first place would slam shut.

Money is not his end goal, but of course, neither is poverty. Currently his track is to pursue an Ivy League education, one that is a merged technology and music program. He thinks that the degree will be relevant in the start-up tech industry, since what he does is highly technical and is related to computer science. He may be a Romantic, but we're not romanticizing poverty either. Another possibility is to do the degrees in Europe, where there's a larger audience for computer music outside of academia, and cheaper graduate school. But then he'd be restricted in how many hours his visa will allow him to work.

Long story short, freelance for a year while working another job, prepare portfolio for graduate school, continue the investments his parents generously started, and then reevaluate. Both of us will research and set a limit to how much debt is reasonable in pursuit of our dreams. For me, it's about $20,000. If I can't manage to find the rest of the money, then I'll postpone graduate school. Is it stupid to take these risks while you're in your twenties, with plans that you can recover later? We have no plans to be yet another artist with 100K in debt with no hopes of paying it off. But, the future is unpredictable!

ethereality

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Thank you all for the links - I love the Phillip Glass/Charles Ives story. As for the relationship front, I can't deny that I fear the perspective of the advice column writer. I'm drawn to creative-types, who traditionally have bad career prospects. I don't know - I want to naively believe that someone's money does not define them, but I also know how many couples split because of financial problems.

The money I have saved is for myself, but I don't have firm goals for my own ER. I think I'll always work in some way, but I'd also love to travel. So that's all up in the air.

In any case, I hope this kind of soul-searching and communication before crisis strikes will alleviate future problems. 

schoopsthecat

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I'm a tenured orchestra conductor at a big ten university.  The thing I question about your initial post is your assertion that there are few assistantships for composers and that he will have to pay for school.  Lots of major universities (ours included) offer graduate music fellowships and assistantships that cover full tuition plus $15-$20k a year for 20 hours or so of work (typically teaching an undergrad class in theory, ear training, or music appreciation).

If he sticks with it and manages to get through school and a job in academia without going into debt, it's an amazing life.  I read about how so many people in here on ER live, and I think that is exactly how I live without being retired...but I get to do what I love for 20 hours a week.

My sincere advice would be to have a very serious conversation, and suggest to him that rather than give up his plans or dreams, he should absolutely never pay a dime for grad school.   He should work on developing a portfolio that will earn him an assistantship and then find a school to pay him to be a grad student.   If that isn't possible after a few years, he probably isn't going to make it in the field anyway.  It sounds like he's pretty prolific, so I wouldn't think this would be too hard to find.  A suggestion would be for him to target a half dozen programs he's interested and make an effort to get to know the composition faculty there...maybe take a couple lessons with each.  This foot in the door is hugely helpful for getting the assistantships that exist.

Good luck to both of you.


schoopsthecat

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Btw, off topic, but I have a good friend who makes close to a half a million dollars a year with a double major in English and Music, so maybe this will all be a moot point.

beltim

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I'm a tenured orchestra conductor at a big ten university.  The thing I question about your initial post is your assertion that there are few assistantships for composers and that he will have to pay for school.  Lots of major universities (ours included) offer graduate music fellowships and assistantships that cover full tuition plus $15-$20k a year for 20 hours or so of work (typically teaching an undergrad class in theory, ear training, or music appreciation).

Schoops is dead on here.  I'm not in music, but I can tell you that generally, if you're not getting your Ph.D. paid for with scholarships/fellowships/assistantships, you're not going to be able to get a job as a professor.  There are, of course, always exceptions, but those tend to be field-specific, and often with different terminal degrees (MD for med school faculty, MBA for business school faculty, etc).

BronzeByGold

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Hey folks! So… I’m the subject of this thread. I’m the “boyfriend. :D (Thanks “ethereality.” Also, nice user name…) But seriously, thanks for the comments everyone! I may not share the goals of many people on this forum, but I have no interest in self-delusion, so your comments are helpful and timely. A few points that you may enjoy simply as a curiosity perhaps.

1. I will compose until the day I die and happily work a day job to make that happen if necessary. I have no interest in retiring… ever, because, as chucklesmcgee shrewdly guessed, what would I do with retirement but compose? Composing IS my end goal in life and all my performance metrics of “success” or internal and nonmonetary.

2. I have no interest in ever buying a house or car. The only major expenses I truly value are quality healthcare, free time, and enough disposable income to keep myself stocked with scotch!

3. Coming from an upper-middle-class family, I have the advantage of having graduated with my undergraduate from a good school without loans, and I’ve been reasonable successful with competitions, grants, etc. in my field. I feel that my portfolio is strong.

4. Since my field of interest is in computer algorithms as applied to the composition of live experimental music and/or sound art, I could, at any point, get a little more education and get a job with a tech startup, or doing game music, or doing interactive advertising in Shanghai… or I could seek a degree in library science or information technology (for which I have job experience). I don’t expect to ever be in danger of being destitute as long as I don’t get into serious debt!

5. No one is "supporting me," nor would I accept that, although my parents have helped me out with a generous IRA, so my "non-retirement" is on track for now. For the time being I'm living on a research grant.

6. My short-term earning power is low whereas the potential value of the time I invest in other things now stands to significantly increase my earning power in the long run. Therefore it makes no sense for me to work above a survival level for the time being. Instead my time has much more utility as an investment towards my future earning potential.

7. In terms of a more traditional career trajectory, my goal is to support myself as an experimental sound artist through private and institutional commissions and grants. I knew this career would be a chance in a MILLION even as a young teen, but I choose to take that risk and I’m happy with that choice. This is a bit like “planning” to hold some high political office (except that my work doesn't actually fix peoples' real-world problems or do much else for that matter...) in that not all factors leading to that result are under one's control and other factors are intractably chaotic. As with most things, however, it is still possible to reach some broad conclusions about what practical steps lead in the right direction…

8. Commissioned artists (like politicians) benefit from making a lot of friends in their field and in circles that might conceivably commission work. (Okay, you’ve got to be fantastic at what you do too, but that’s actually the easy part. There are thousands of great artists that never get any exposure.) With this in mind it seems important that I live in a setting where I can meet future collaborators or commissioners. Currently the highest concentration of these people are at academic institutions. Additionally, I simply need more knowledge in order to program at the level I aspire to, so I will need more education in some form.

8.1 Given that I can’t let myself get into debt, it seems that two possible routs are open to me at this point:

8.1.1 Either I can work my way through a program at a small and unknown collage and hope to make it in The Show based on the strength of my artistic work alone...

8.1.2 Or I can seek a full ride at an Ivy-League-type school for my masters and/or PhD.

10. I’ll shoot for a tenured academic position if (7) doesn’t workout. Given the extremely poor quality of some PhD research I've seen in my life, I suspect the poor job numbers for aspiring liberal arts academics reflect the number of dunces who go this rout rather than the true poverty of the job market (especially including over-seas positions), but either way, from points 8-8.1.2 it seems that a PhD (if I receive funding to pursue it) stands to greatly advance my career goals as compared to other options.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2014, 01:59:56 PM by BronzeByGold »

samburger

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10. I’ll shoot for a tenured academic position if (7) doesn’t workout.

Drop this right now. This is not a back up plan: it's extremely risky pipe dream. There are hundreds of qualified, talented candidates for every tenured position in the arts. People get their PhDs for the sole purpose of teaching, and even they can't nab a permanent position.

Now, if you mean you want to teach development writing or math at community college, you have a slightly more reasonable plan.

As it stands, you're effectively saying, "I want to be an A-list actor, but if that doesn't work out, I guess I could be a senator or a rock star."

You need a stable, achievable back up plan.

Other than that, you sound a little more reasonable than the original post suggested. Go forth and compose! I wish you the best of luck.

MissStache

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Wow, from the little bit I've heard from the two of you, I'm genuinely impressed.  You both come off as intelligent and thoughtful and likable.  Let's be friends!

Dibbels81

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Reiterating what people have said before--do NOT pay for an advanced music degree.  There's no rush to get a PhD or M.M, so keep plugging away and applying until that assistantship offer comes in.  I have a B.A. and M.M. in Music Performance (M.M. via full scholarship), and my classmates who ended up paying for it themselves are really struggling.  I think the most important thing is to keep working on those frugality muscles.  Even though my modest, degree-related job pays around 32k a year, I'm socking away about 16k a year, and I had a six figure positive net worth at 30.  ER won't come as quickly for me as others, but that has never kept me up at night.  In fact, I sleep just fine.

BronzeByGold

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Quote
As it stands, you're effectively saying, "I want to be an A-list actor, but if that doesn't work out, I guess I could be a senator or a rock star."

Yes, but I see no problem with that plan, especially since I'm willing to be a plumber like Mr. Glass... (And what a plumber he is, my friend...!) But of course, I do see your point. It's just that money above a certain basic level is not a priority for me.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2014, 03:06:48 PM by BronzeByGold »

schoopsthecat

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Hey Bronzebygold, do you know Peter Gilbert?  He teaches composition at New Mexico and does a lot of stuff with experimental electronic music...also one of the most interesting brilliant people I've ever met.  petergilbert.net

samburger

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It's very noble that you're "willing" to make 100k/year as a plumber...! ;)

I'll second this:

I think the most important thing is to keep working on those frugality muscles.


totoro

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Outside of money, my concerns are that his career choice may end up leading him to living in many places, whereas mine are rooted to the local community.

I see nothing wrong with your boyfriend following that path - seems a sensible and admirable plan in many ways given his goals and dreams.

I think there is only one real issue here and that is compatible lifestyles. 

Are you eventually going to resent the lack of a partner that shares the goal of early retirement?  It will be harder for you to reach FI if you have to move around, and even harder if you don't have someone else rowing the savings boat with you. 

Seems like you need to find a shared plan that you can both get behind.

ethereality

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Wow, from the little bit I've heard from the two of you, I'm genuinely impressed.  You both come off as intelligent and thoughtful and likable.  Let's be friends!

Haha, thanks! We're two people who aren't going traditional routes, just trying to figure it out. All of my peers are going into the sciences and for the time being, life's relatively straightforward -> grad school, med program, etc.

And I don't mind being FI alone, at least not now. I value a partner that loves his life, though with a dose of pragmatism. It's more important that they're happy with their life and with me, than us both being FI and not on the same page. We both value individualism and artistic goals, and are young enough (and maybe arrogant enough) to think that we can make it work!

And money isn't everything for me either. We're both spending the year apart for career reasons, and I'm pushing FIRE so hard right now because I don't know if I'll always run my current business, which has become wildly more successful (personally and financially) than I could've hoped for. So it's easier to save when you're essentially living like a single person, and I want to set the frugal skills in motion before my boyfriend moves back.

Thank you everyone for the responses. It's helpful for me personally because I also studied music (in performance) and am debating grad school in the liberal arts. Also, anyone else realize that teaching private lessons is like the perfect FIRE plan? I only need 8 - 10 students to cover my living expenses, and I have close to that with very little effort, so I could live off of that almost indefinitely.

Also, awesome to hear from the musicians and artists here! I've spent a lot of time on the forums and it can feel business/engineer/science-oriented!

limeandpepper

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You can give him both the objective facts and your subjective opinions/observations, but at the end of the day it's his life to choose. It's great that you're both here on this thread reading all the responses, there are so many helpful perspectives here and it can certainly shift one's mindset or uncover other possibilities if both of you are open to it.

Anyway... I think the academic/opportunities stuff has been well-covered. I think it's great that your boyfriend is so passionate about his music. Personally I studied music too, but ultimately I wasn't serious and persistent enough to make a music career happen in the end, and I've never been good at networking with the right people either, which as has been stated, is very important.

My boyfriend and I are going our own non-traditional routes too and we may or may not reach retirement at the same time. I think it can work as long as you can agree on how you'll deal with the hurdles. Good luck! :)

historienne

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Quote
As it stands, you're effectively saying, "I want to be an A-list actor, but if that doesn't work out, I guess I could be a senator or a rock star."

Yes, but I see no problem with that plan, especially since I'm willing to be a plumber like Mr. Glass... (And what a plumber he is, my friend...!) But of course, I do see your point. It's just that money above a certain basic level is not a priority for me.

Right, this is fine as long as you have backup plans to this backup plan.  I'm a college professor in the humanities; the job market in my field is much, much better than it is in music composition, but it's still pretty bad.  You cannot count on a Ph.D. leading to a tenure-track job, even if you are very very good at what you do.  Your assumption that it's the "dunces" who are not getting jobs is just not true.  Those folks do exist, but there are plenty of very smart people who do excellent work and still don't get tenure-track jobs.  I have friends with well-reviewed books from major university presses who are still adjuncting, four years after they graduated.  And again, this is in a field with significantly better job prospects.  If you are committed to your field, however, it's true that a Ph.D. stipend is one of the few ways to get paid at least a little bit for working on your music. 

Also, listen to those who tell you that you should not go into a PhD program unless you are fully funded (ie, tuition plus a living stipend).  Even if you do get the golden ring at the end, a tenure track job does not pay enough to let you pay back the kind of debt you'd rack up paying for a PhD.  But it's not just that - good programs will give stipends to the students they really want.  If you are not getting a stipend, either 1) your program is not that great or 2) they don't *really* want you, in which case you have problems beyond the money.  Hold out for a place that will pay you, even if it means reapplying for a few years.

Finally, I don't think anyone here is saying you should care about money for its own sake.  This is a forum precisely for people who don't want money to govern their lives.  However, I guarantee you that there will come some point in your life where you will have to care about money in some way, whether it's because of an unexpected health issue or a fabulous career opportunity that has a financial cost.  Thinking about money upfront, and making sure that you have some savings built up for such occasions, will mean that you don't have to worry about money later on. 

Daleth

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So, with these higher ed plans (in fields like Composition, it's exceedingly difficult to get scholarships, and paid fellowships are incredibly rare), it seems unlikely that he'll ever have much saved. He's not a big spender and leads a frugal life, but I've done the reading on the phd route for really narrow subjects such as Composition (he specializes in electronic computer music). He said the phd to professorship was a back-up plan as he hopes to pursue a freelance career.

I hear a train wreck happening.

The PhD market (by which I mean, job market for professors) in the humanities is horrific. Don't take my word for it; go to the forums at the Chronicle for Higher Education (http://chronicle.com/forums) and post something like what you just said ("My boyfriend is planning to get an MA and PhD in music composition, a field for which fellowships are incredibly rare, so that he can have being a professor as a backup plan while he pursues a freelance career"). Then see what advice you get. There are hundreds of very active people at that forum and basically 90% of them are working in academia (tenure-track profs, deans, adjuncts, visiting profs) and the rest are still in their PhD programs (or much more rarely, MFA programs) or on the job market. There is no better source on the internet for advice on PhD programs and academic jobs.

So I strongly advise you to go there and see what advice you get (or suggest your BF do that on his own behalf). But I can all but guarantee you that the advice is going to boil down to, "DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT pay for a PhD in any humanities field! The job market is horrific [myriad examples, possibly including statistics]. Paying for an MA and PhD will put you $100k+ in debt for a job that barely exists anymore and that, in any event, you have at best a 1/500 chance of getting. Not to mention, how are you supposed to build a freelance career while also being in a graduate program? The only way to do that is to half-ass both the freelance career and the PhD, which means you'll fail at both. You don't need a PhD or $100k in debt to build a successful freelance career, and trying to do both at the same time will stunt your freelance career anyway. If you want to be a freelancer, dedicate yourself 100% to that--you have a much better chance at that than you do at becoming a music professor."

Oh, and they'll also point out that if you can't get into a good school with a free ride, it means you're one of the people who isn't going to be able to get a tenure-track professor job, either. Going to a lesser-known school is just shooting yourself in the foot, and *paying* for it--even at a well known school--well, is your goal in going to grad school merely to take out $100k in loans in order to subsidize the grad students who are getting free rides and will be getting the academic jobs you want? If not, don't do it.

There will also be some posts inviting you to do the math and really realize what it means to be $100k in debt (or more, if your BF took out loans for undergrad). Like, what does that mean in terms of how much money you will have to spend every month until you're 45 years old?

The math is really, really sobering. So much so that even the lucky few who do get tenure-track university positions sometimes question whether it was worth it... and the vast majority who don't get such positions are stuck with basically a mortgage to pay off and no chance of getting the job that they got the degree for in the first place. How would your boyfriend like working in the Barnes & Noble music section while paying $1000+ a month towards loans for a degree that got him nowhere? Or even, best-case scenario, how would he like trying to kick start a freelance career ten years later than he could have started it if he had just gone for that (i.e., for what he really wants) rather than wasting a decade and $100k on one of the world's worst (in terms of least likely to succeed) backup plans?

So that's my advice to you, or rather to your boyfriend, but I invite you to get it directly from the source by asking the professors, PhD students and other academics at the Chronicle forums.

Yes, his biggest fear is that he'll have to work long hours and have no intellectual/emotional energy to compose, which is more important to him than money.

That's exactly what will happen if he goes to grad school.

Outside of money, my concerns are that his career choice may end up leading him to living in many places, whereas mine are rooted to the local community.

If he gets a PhD and is among the lucky few who get an academic job, wave goodbye to your local community, to your state, and probably to your entire region of the country. It is the nature of academic jobs that you cannot go from a PhD program to your first job unless you are completely mobile, willing to live anywhere in the country that will hire you. This is because there are so few academic jobs to go around. And that's especially the case with humanities jobs, because the *only* market for most humanities degrees is a college or university position--people with advanced degrees in engineering, law, business etc. can work in academia or in industry, so there aren't as many people applying for each academic job and thus they can be pickier. Music composition? NOT the case.

« Last Edit: May 10, 2014, 03:00:41 PM by Daleth »

Daleth

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philip glass was a plumber!

This is the single best thing I have ever heard.

Seriously. That's awesome.

Also, OP? Becoming a plumber is a much better backup plan than spending $100k in the hopes that you will be the lucky one hired by some college on the other side of the country. First off, it doesn't cost $100k--you spend a few grand on some trade school classes and then you start work as an apprentice, immediately earning something like $25k/year. Within a couple of years you're at $40k. Once you're licensed, you can hang out your shingle as an independent plumber and set your own hours--for which you can then charge $60-$100+ an hour.

In other words it's a much easier and stronger foundation to build a freelance music career on than spending $100k to use up all your time and energy on grad school.

Daisy

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Also, awesome to hear from the musicians and artists here! I've spent a lot of time on the forums and it can feel business/engineer/science-oriented!

I applaud your efforts. As an engineer wanna-be artist, sometimes I question my chosen field of work. It is providing a nice cushion for my "second" life pursuing more artistic endeavors.

It's funny, or more likely interesting, that my peers while growing up all seemed to pursue more of the "practical" fields of study like engineering, architecture, law, medicine, business. We were all first-generation Americans and, not that our parents pushed it, but somehow we ended up in these fields. There were just certain fields of study I never thought of studying even though now in my life I find very interesting (English, nature, conservation).

Now, fast-forward to the next generation...my nieces are choosing liberal arts degrees in college. They are straight-A students going to the best schools. At first I tried to counsel them and steer them toward these more practical degrees so that they could be more employable after college. I told them I understand their interests, because that's what I want to do in my second half of life.

I wonder what's more preferable:
- Go through college studying something more practical, get a good job, get FI, and pursue these artistic endeavors while not worrying about money
- Go ahead and study what interests you most, get a job getting by and enjoying it, but not be able to FI or RE but essentially live the life we are all yearning for
« Last Edit: May 20, 2014, 08:58:14 PM by Daisy »

lhamo

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Check out this program at Northeastern U:

http://www.northeastern.edu/camd/music/academic-programs/ms-in-music-industry-leadership/

One year program and from what I understand they have an excellent track record of people actually getting industry jobs.  Get in touch with Tony DeRitis.  He is an experimental musician/composer, chair of the department (though he may have stepped down now to focus on his multiple projects), and the person who spearheaded the development of the program.  If you really are "all that", he might be impressed and able to find a position for you on one of his projects, or identify other types of funding.  He will also have good advice about the realities of the field.  He is very, very good at what he does and has an international reputation, but I think he will also caution you that thinking you can support yourself indefinitely through grants and commissions is risky.    If you can learn how the BUSINESS of music works and position yourself to at least be able to make a basic living that way, you will have a better shot of sustaining this over the long term.

Also agree with all the comments about not assuming a professorship is just going to fall in your lap.  It is ugly out there.  Not sure what kind of crap research you think is floating around out there, but nobody doing crap research is getting academic jobs these days. 

Dude.  Phillip Glass was a plumber and drove a cab.  Phillip fucking Glass.  It's fine to have big dreams, but temper them with a big dose of reality before you start off down a path that is going to put you in massive debt without any assurance that you will be able to pay it off at the end.


expatartist

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Check out this program at Northeastern U:

http://www.northeastern.edu/camd/music/academic-programs/ms-in-music-industry-leadership/

One year program and from what I understand they have an excellent track record of people actually getting industry jobs.  Get in touch with Tony DeRitis.  He is an experimental musician/composer, chair of the department (though he may have stepped down now to focus on his multiple projects), and the person who spearheaded the development of the program.  If you really are "all that", he might be impressed and able to find a position for you on one of his projects, or identify other types of funding.  He will also have good advice about the realities of the field.  He is very, very good at what he does and has an international reputation, but I think he will also caution you that thinking you can support yourself indefinitely through grants and commissions is risky.    If you can learn how the BUSINESS of music works and position yourself to at least be able to make a basic living that way, you will have a better shot of sustaining this over the long term.

Also agree with all the comments about not assuming a professorship is just going to fall in your lap.  It is ugly out there.  Not sure what kind of crap research you think is floating around out there, but nobody doing crap research is getting academic jobs these days. 

Dude.  Phillip Glass was a plumber and drove a cab.  Phillip fucking Glass.  It's fine to have big dreams, but temper them with a big dose of reality before you start off down a path that is going to put you in massive debt without any assurance that you will be able to pay it off at the end.



Word.

I get being in your 20s and having pockets full of talent and drive. Creative egos are over-the-top - it's how we manage to get work out of our studios in the first place, past the self-doubt. But Lhamo is spot-on.