Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hardships: financial and otherwise

PUI prof had an interesting post in The Two Body Problem about her financial bummers a few days ago. She writes
But I have to admit that I'm having this thought: "We are two Ph.D's with secure jobs. We shouldn't be having these difficulties. Professors are supposed to be- not wealthy- but comfortable."
 before admiting that this is a bit of an entitled thought process.

I have to admit that my thoughts have followed a similar entitled strain recently. If I'd been an MD like my parents wanted, or if I'd gone into industry or finance like so many of my fellow undergrad study budies and graduate school cohort, I could be earning at least as much as I do now, with more stability, a nice apartment in a large city in the US, and living with my partner for the forseeable future. I wouldn't be worried about whether we have enough money in USD to last us until we move in the summer, or if my partner needs to send "remittances to his wife and kid back home." We're not actually poor by any stretch of the imagination. It's only striking when we compare it to where we could be if both my partner and I had chosen different career paths.

I've never felt that a post-docs or graduate student's salary was insufficient in the context of who it supposedly pays for. If one is a young single person with no family obligations, it is possible to live comfortably, though probably not the way you did at your parent's house, on a STEM grad student or post-doc salary at an R1 University in the US. (Note the number of caveats. I am not making generalizations to all grad students. I know some fields and places pay peanuts.) Especially given the knowledge that the income will double going from grad school to post doc, and jump again for a TT position.

We are not poor. But given the emotional, and physical costs of having two academics in one family, we do not have the finances to buy a comfortable life. This is a different problem than the one PUI prof addresses, but somehow, somewhere the expectation of being able to live a comfortable middle class life with all my education rears its head. Though actually, what I want is an comfortable middle class life with all my education and my carreer choice, which is a different matter altogether.

1 comment:

  1. I have a theory that much like finance has this bubble where CEOs or financial occupations make probably more than the market will be able to sustain, professors' salaries are artificially low. I have no real advice except that for anyone who can get out of research/teaching and can get into industry I recommend it. I know a 9-5 job is not for everyone. But I think being a professor is tough enough for your family, and so difficult for a dual academic couple.