Author Topic: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal  (Read 3215 times)

8oLibPu2FrLf7lEHfQ

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Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« on: April 03, 2018, 10:40:08 PM »
I'm going to describe my financial and job situation, and also my feelings and thoughts.  I'm in the US.  I need some direction.

Online Savings:  $48
Physical Checking:  $5
Credit Card / Lines of Credit debt:  $9500
Student Loan:  $90000 (4 years into an Income-Based-Repayment plan)
Self-employed retirement account (Vanguard):  $400
Retirement account from an old job:  $8700

No car.  I bike.

Job:  Self-employed math tutor:  $14000

Living:  180 sq. ft. room.  Shared kitchen, shared bath.
Rent: $475 per month incl. all utilities and WiFi.

No gf, no kids.  It's a college town in an agricultural state, so my social life is nonexistent since moving here 14 yrs ago.  I came from a tropical, metropolitan city.  I do not party at all.

Degree:  B.S. Mathematics

Age:  44

I moved to this college town of 250,000 people for college.  I was a nontraditional student.  I did not like the culture and I did not like the university.  It did not feel like a place for learning.  I stayed to complete my degree but I am not proud of it because I do not feel the institution is honorable.  I wish I did not feel forced to honor it by listing it on a resume or using it to portray knowledge.  At the same time I did want to go on for a PhD.  Now, I do not trust that a PhD program would be a better experience, and besides I do not believe it will change my job outlook so much at my age, but I'm not too sure.  I like pure math a lot.  I'm not too into applications though.  I'm not interested in teaching high school students.  Not because of the level or lack of rigor, but more so because of the students.  It seems more behavioral than about the math.  University students are better but they still tend to have a bad attitude towards learning on average.  This may not be entirely the fault of the student.

At this point I feel like a failure.  No family, no career, and my education level is probably lower than my intelligence.  I feel stuck and sometimes compromised.  I'm able to eek out a living by tutoring university students in upper-level math but I do not feel drawn at all to any conventional job.  At first I kept myself in this sort of no-commitment lifestyle because I knew what it took to focus on upper math.  You have to minimize your outside obligations.  I've remained fearful of changing that because I still don't feel like my education in the subject is completed.

I do usually get completely booked up as a tutor each term.  Indeed, I usually end up turning away 25-30 percent of the inquiries due to a lack of space in my schedule.  So the only way that I see to raise my income would be to raise my rate (it's below average for the area right now).  I have had thoughts of moving back to the city where I'm from (I loved it there but had no real ties except for some old friends from my youth and my mother), but right now my income is tied to the college here.

I can live comfortably on 20000, so things are tight now.  I cannot get ahead.

« Last Edit: April 04, 2018, 06:04:05 PM by 8oLibPu2FrLf7lEHfQ »

MoStache

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2018, 11:30:36 PM »
I will write more tomorrow.  For now just know that we have some things in common and the best thing you can do for yourself is to be kind to yourself.


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Freedomin5

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2018, 08:58:29 AM »
First rule in business: If demand is greater than supply, price is too low. Raise your prices. If you have been tutoring for several years, you should be charging a slight premium. Keep raising prices until you have a comfortable work schedule. Donít be afraid to ask for more than what you think youíre worth. Often we underestimate our own skills and the value of what we offer.

What are you charging now? $14k per year. Assume you work when school is in session, so 8 months per year. Assume 20 hours per week, so around $20/hour? For college level math tutors, charge at least $25-30 per hour.

Also, Iím assuming you are working all peak hours (e.g., weekends, afternoons/evenings). Saturdays and Sundays alone should give you at least 15 hours of work. And Iím also assuming youíre minimizing travel time - make the students come to you, or meet in a conveniently accessible spot, so you are not wasting non-billable time traveling from student to student.

Cranky

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2018, 09:11:32 AM »
$20/hour is *very* low, unless you are doing group tutoring.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2018, 09:27:05 AM »
Can you do online tutoring?

Can you find a class that you could teach online (through an online university or even a more traditional school)?

Can you apply for teaching jobs at a community college or high school in the area that you prefer to live?  Even if you hate it, is it worth one year with a guaranteed job so that you feel more confident making that move?

Are you interested at all in data science/informatics type jobs?  Some of them have a very heavy emphasis on statistics and math.

solon

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2018, 09:39:06 AM »
Would love to know what your name stands for?

civil4life

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2018, 10:10:06 AM »
I agree with the increasing your rates.  If you are turning away business then you definitely could charge more.  I agree with the many other job options.  Do you tutor during the summer too?  If not time for another summer job?  Another job idea would be bookkeeping?

It does sound like you are an intelligent person and probably are qualified to find a more regular "day" job, however your heart does not seem to be in that either.

I think the real work you need right now is some soul work.  What do you really want?  Dreams?  Goals?  You shared what you do not want?  What do you want?

8oLibPu2FrLf7lEHfQ

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2018, 10:26:44 PM »
First rule in business: If demand is greater than supply, price is too low. Raise your prices. If you have been tutoring for several years, you should be charging a slight premium. Keep raising prices until you have a comfortable work schedule. Donít be afraid to ask for more than what you think youíre worth. Often we underestimate our own skills and the value of what we offer.

What are you charging now? $14k per year. Assume you work when school is in session, so 8 months per year. Assume 20 hours per week, so around $20/hour? For college level math tutors, charge at least $25-30 per hour.

Also, Iím assuming you are working all peak hours (e.g., weekends, afternoons/evenings). Saturdays and Sundays alone should give you at least 15 hours of work. And Iím also assuming youíre minimizing travel time - make the students come to you, or meet in a conveniently accessible spot, so you are not wasting non-billable time traveling from student to student.

I charge 24 per hour now and 48 per hour-and-a-half for groups of up to four.  I meet students on campus, so no more than a 1-20 minute walk from wherever I'm at.  I give myself a 30-minute buffer between sessions.  95 percent of the students I meet are university students at at least the calculus level.  Some students I've worked with for some time have turned into math majors, so I get an opportunity to work at much more abstract levels which I love.  Otherwise, it's "simple" engineering math - calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, and vector analysis.  I rarely work with students in arithmetic or classical algebra/symbolic arithmetic.  Another 5 percent of my students are recommendations like professor's kids who are in AP calculus, for example.

The mean rate for the area was 30.XX per hour two years ago.  The median was 31.XX.

Quality goes way down after meeting, say, five students in a day.  It's too draining.  I've met up to eight, but because of the usually vastly different personalities, adapting is draining.  I've always felt that 3-4 sessions per day is plenty.  I no longer offer meetings more than two hours; no one can usually focus for so long.

My strength is in creating my own problems.  I spend a lot of time thinking about them and coming up with them.  Usually 5-10 per topic at two different levels or from two different perspectives or frameworks to be ready to adapt to a professor's choice.  Anyway, such preparation can take 4 hours at least for one problem set without solutions.  But the benefit, of course, is being able to use the problems again and again.  I hand write them and make copies for now.

It seems that 3-4 hours of preparation or problem creating per day plus 3-4 students per day seems reasonable.  But that's still an 8-9 hour day without a real break.  The point is that it would be nice if I could charge enough so that I could include some prep time in my work day.  As it stands I do it around everything else.

8oLibPu2FrLf7lEHfQ

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2018, 10:28:14 PM »
Would love to know what your name stands for?

The name has no meaning.  It was a case-sensitive random string without special characters.

NorCal

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2018, 10:36:32 PM »
I would start my response with a question.

What is your primary goal for yourself now?  Is it an improved financial situation?  Is it the PhD to say you have it?  Is it to to keep teaching math?

I realize this might not be an easy question to answer.  But your best path forward will be determined by the answer.

If your goal is simply improving income, you're probably looking at jobs completely unrelated to your interests or experience.  But that's a choice a lot of people don't want to make.

8oLibPu2FrLf7lEHfQ

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2018, 10:41:47 PM »
Can you do online tutoring?

Can you find a class that you could teach online (through an online university or even a more traditional school)?

Can you apply for teaching jobs at a community college or high school in the area that you prefer to live?  Even if you hate it, is it worth one year with a guaranteed job so that you feel more confident making that move?

Are you interested at all in data science/informatics type jobs?  Some of them have a very heavy emphasis on statistics and math.

I am considering online tutoring.  I've never thought it would be as powerful.  The hurdle is writing math for both parties.  Equation editors are way too slow and using a stylus is too sloppy for now it seems.  There also needs to be a way for the student to share the problem they're working on quickly instead of having to re-write on a shared whiteboard.  Remember, the math I'm doing is significantly different usually than basic algebra.  It's not uncommon for solutions (or drafts of them) to be two pages.

That's a good idea about the high school or CC.

I've never looked closely at those types of jobs.  I only know basic statistics and counting at this point.  It's something to consider.

MoStache

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2018, 11:09:43 PM »
It sounds like you're feeling "stuck" and demoralized.  If that's the case I can relate.  I'm single, 40, in debt and don't have much in terms of family/friends.  I have a computer science degree and I drove for Uber/Lyft full-time for two years.  Largely because - like you - conventional corporate jobs aren't a good fit for me.

What got me "unstuck" was consistently taking some steps forward on a goal.  Any goal.  Make progress weekly and 6 months from now you'll surprise yourself with how much better you feel and how much your situation has improved.

Here are 3 books that really helped me start making progress:
The Tools
Coming Alive
Designing Your Life

These books are great because they are self betterment for analytical minds (like ours) that are turned off by new age woowoo BS.

koshtra

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2018, 11:21:15 PM »
Whew.

Well, you're not a failure. You're making a living by working in the academic field that you love, without having an advanced degree. That's actually something of a feat.

Yeah, you can certainly bump your prices up a few bucks. That's not going to change the basics of the problem here, though. You need to make tens of thousands a year more -- and hold your spending steady -- to get out of debt and build yourself a retirement.

To make enough money to get ahead, you're going to have to do work you're not (presently) interested in. If making up problems interests you, then you could possibly work up an interest in programming -- that sort of algorithmic thinking is what it takes. And if you can learn to do it on your own and demonstrate your ability, (and the economy holds up) you can get much more remunerative work. Other math-friendly fields (accounting & so forth) tend to require credentials that are expensive in time and money.

The financial trouble here is you need to make a lot of money, and to do that you have to bring something to the market that people are paying a lot of money for. Tutoring (unfortunately and unfairly) just doesn't bring in the cash on that scale. I think your perception that you've pretty much maxed out your returns on it is probably right.

The other trouble here -- and this may be the one to solve first -- is that you just are not happy where you are: you don't have a community that feels supportive, you're discouraged and tired and isolated. It may be that you need to go back home, if that's at all possible, and take on any sort of work you can find -- washing dishes, mopping floors, whatever -- and find yourself some some support, before you can go on to a new thing. Or maybe you can find people where you are. Everyone needs a few people in their corner rooting for them -- that's not a weakness, it's just the way humans are built. We're social animals, even us math types. It doesn't have to be partying, unless partying is what you want to do -- just people to hang out with, cook with, go for walks with, brainstorm and laugh with. Whatever. You need a social life. Everyone does.

MoStache

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2018, 11:40:12 PM »
First rule in business: If demand is greater than supply, price is too low. Raise your prices. If you have been tutoring for several years, you should be charging a slight premium. Keep raising prices until you have a comfortable work schedule. Donít be afraid to ask for more than what you think youíre worth. Often we underestimate our own skills and the value of what we offer.

This absolutely!  Consider the time you are putting into prepping.  I'm guessing you are significantly better than the average math tutor.  Actually, I don't have to guess because the demand exceeds the supply.  I don't have tutoring experience but I bet you could raise prices to $30/hr and still have a full schedule.  That would go a long way in closing your income gap of $20k/year (if you want to stay in the same town).  Also, you might find that the students at that price level are less of a PIA and more fun to work with.

My strength is in creating my own problems.  I spend a lot of time thinking about them and coming up with them.  Usually 5-10 per topic at two different levels or from two different perspectives or frameworks to be ready to adapt to a professor's choice.  Anyway, such preparation can take 4 hours at least for one problem set without solutions.  But the benefit, of course, is being able to use the problems again and again.  I hand write them and make copies for now.

I don't know much about high level math but I know quite a bit about online business and this sounds like pure gold to me.  It seems highly likely that you could sell custom problems or copies of problems you've previously created online.  Heck, you don't even have to do it online.  Bottom line...  this sounds like something tutors/profs/ta's would pay for.  You're doing something here that very few people can do and you're doing it for free.  I hope this is starting to sink in.

MoStache

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2018, 11:44:40 PM »
To make enough money to get ahead, you're going to have to do work you're not (presently) interested in. If making up problems interests you, then you could possibly work up an interest in programming -- that sort of algorithmic thinking is what it takes. And if you can learn to do it on your own and demonstrate your ability, (and the economy holds up) you can get much more remunerative work. Other math-friendly fields (accounting & so forth) tend to require credentials that are expensive in time and money.

Wrong and wrong.  1) You can make money doing what you love but you will have to put in the work to build the business yourself.  2) 99% of programming jobs have nothing to do with solving interesting problems (I speak from experience).

ElleFiji

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2018, 12:21:38 AM »
I agree that your rates need to go up, but I also think you need a second income stream. Think about what that could look like:
An online business (tutoring, non academic math classes, a non math subject / a lifestyle business)
A job that uses your analytical or teaching skills
A job that doesn't drain you (for me, this could be a cashier position)

A lot of smart people don't fit into the traditional job market, and this leads to them being underemployed and broke, or breaking into a niche and being ultra wealthy. For example, full time tutoring for really rich families can pay more than an entry level tenure track position, or a side gig can take off, or you can only tutor your best for 4-5 hours/day and live on the margins.

You could decide to keep the tutoring gig as is, and then look at what you need to make in a year extra... Let's say another $700/month because I don't want to do math. That isn't a super scary number... doing errands for 7 people a month, on retainer. Or lawn mowing/snow removal contracts. Cleaning 7 houses/month. Or 70 ish hours minimum wage. Or 40ish on an awesome contract. Or subcontract tutoring to someone else. Turn it into a business, and share your original problems.

If you do think you'll move, maybe look at online work. If you think you'll stay, look at going to 2 meetups/month. You want a family? Time for dating!

I say this all as a self employed, former under-earner, working every day to do better.

Freedomin5

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2018, 12:32:23 AM »
If youíre doing groups, I hope you are charging $48 per person for 1.5 hour sessions. Groups are a great way to lessen prep time and increase per hour rate.

My husband tutors and charges $125 per hour (we are in a HCOL area that can bear it, but the idea is the same). Basically, if you want individual tutoring itís $125 per hour. If you find someone to split the cost, itís ($125/2) per hour. If you find three friends, itís ($125/4) per hour.

When I tutored, I had a slightly different model. $20/hr for individual lessons. $15/hour per student for 2-4 students. This was 20 years ago and I was a high school student, so thatís why prices were low. I loved having four students because that meant my hourly rate was $60/hr, and all I had to do was grade a few more sets of homework to which I already had the answers.

In your case, either model should work. But definitely start by upping your prices. You should be charging $35-40 per hour for individual sessions. Donít suddenly double your prices or people will get mad. I know because I recently increased my rates by 20% and my clients freaked out...but only just a little. Theyíll eventually adjust to your new rates, at which point you want to up the prices again until you get them to where you want them.

 I would use the second model in your case and charge $30 per hour for groups of 2-4 students. Encourage current students to get their roommates or friends to join. Offer them a 50% discount on their own tutoring if they can get three friends to sign up with them for a group session. Or some other incentive, like one free session for every new student you introduce to me.

 By maximizing the number of groups you run, you will effectively have quadrupled your current hourly rate without quadrupling your workload.

Edited for clarity : Because sometimes my brain works too fast for my fingers when Iím excited, and when I reread my post I realize Iíve skipped several steps and sound like a lunatic. people might find it difficult to follow.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2018, 12:42:19 AM by Freedomin5 »

westtoeast

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2018, 05:12:08 AM »
Since you enjoy tutoring, you have any interest in teaching high school or middle school? Math teachers are usually in high demand in many parts of the nation. You can do a one year teaching program and continue tutoring to support yourself. Teaching is great because it really doesn't have that traditional job feel. But, of course, you should only go this direction if it sounds exciting enough that you'll want to work really hard at it!

tralfamadorian

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2018, 06:34:26 AM »
No one had mentioned this yet- have you thought about becoming an actuary? A math BA is sufficient and it sounds like you possess the ability to pass the tests, the studying and fees of which are typically paid by your employer. The work is not abstract, quite the opposite really and a little morbid, but there is more pure math than any other in demand, high paying job of which Iím aware.

Demand is high so you can live where you want. Working hours are fair and low stress so you would still have time for tutoring if you wanted to keep it up because you enjoy it.

Salaries typically start at ~100k and go up to 150-200k in a few years. You could knock out those cc and student loans in relatively short period of time.


jlcnuke

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2018, 07:14:06 AM »
I would start my response with a question.

What is your primary goal for yourself now?  Is it an improved financial situation?  Is it the PhD to say you have it?  Is it to to keep teaching math?

I realize this might not be an easy question to answer.  But your best path forward will be determined by the answer.

If your goal is simply improving income, you're probably looking at jobs completely unrelated to your interests or experience.  But that's a choice a lot of people don't want to make.

This post is the best response I've seen in this thread imo. Until those questions are answered, I really don't see any relevant discussion possibilities beyond "charge more" and similar stuff that has been well-covered already.

MrsWolfeRN

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2018, 07:29:01 AM »
Have you read "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" by Orwell? Your post reminds me of it.

asiljoy

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #21 on: April 05, 2018, 07:29:43 AM »
If you're tutoring the same classes/etc on the repeat, do you see the same problems/roadblocks for the students regularly? If so, is there a way you could develop a pamphlet/workbook/study guide that addresses those problems that they could work through on their own?  You could sell those to augment your wages/help hit that last 30% that you don't have time for.

I know when I was in those kind of classes, my complaint was usually that there wasn't enough practice problems with answers that I could check my process against before going in for the test.

koshtra

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #22 on: April 05, 2018, 10:01:32 AM »
To make enough money to get ahead, you're going to have to do work you're not (presently) interested in. If making up problems interests you, then you could possibly work up an interest in programming -- that sort of algorithmic thinking is what it takes. And if you can learn to do it on your own and demonstrate your ability, (and the economy holds up) you can get much more remunerative work. Other math-friendly fields (accounting & so forth) tend to require credentials that are expensive in time and money.

Wrong and wrong.  1) You can make money doing what you love but you will have to put in the work to build the business yourself.  2) 99% of programming jobs have nothing to do with solving interesting problems (I speak from experience).

I agree that the problems are almost never intrinsically interesting. (I too have been programming for a long time.)

civil4life

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #23 on: April 05, 2018, 10:12:03 AM »
If the mean and median are ~$30, I think you could easily charge $35-$40.  What are the current max and min?  Tutoring AP you could probably charge even more.  In that case the parents are usually paying and are more than willing to shell out cash for their kids.

Have you considered taking the problems you have created and write some study guides?  Sell them online/Amazon?  Possibly consider Cheat Sheets for the common courses that you mentioned.  Maybe hooking up with the schools bookstore to sell them there?  Or work with the professors to have them recommend them as additional reading for their courses?  Possibly create a youtube or Udemy channel where you record you working through various problems.

8oLibPu2FrLf7lEHfQ

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Re: Stuck in a financial rut and it may be personal
« Reply #24 on: April 05, 2018, 12:58:55 PM »
Have you read "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" by Orwell? Your post reminds me of it.

I did read that, and you are right to some extent.  I always thought that book was about self-assessment.  Great book.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2018, 04:25:20 PM by 8oLibPu2FrLf7lEHfQ »