Thursday, May 3, 2012

Emmigration fears II: Taking a pay cut

This post has a happy ending.

As we move up along the academic ladder we expect to earn more money. Not an earth shattering statement to open a blog post with but relevant. When my partner got his offer for a TT position at University E, after currency conversions, we found that he'd be earning as much as I am now as a post doc. He's in a field with average salaries lower than my field, and it was a significant raise from his post doc, so we only had a few misgivings. Then we were told by many that the tax rates in that country are very high. Normally, I don't pay a lot of heed to "they'll take all your money in taxes" talk, because we will be purchasing more services with those tax dollars than we do in the US. However, given my already strong reluctance to emigrate, I let this become a concern.

On my end, I don't know how much I'll be earning at my new postdoc. Apparently the calculation of that amount depends on a lot of paperwork, some of which I've been slow to supply. But, from the estimates I've been given, I'll probably take a cut in my gross pay as well. Again not a reason to turn down a job, but enough for my ego to grumble.

We spent a good chunk of yesterday dealing with financial and immigration minutiae: dull, dreary, stressful work. At one point, I looked over my partner's shoulder to see what his monthly take home pay was. I was surprised. He is taking home significantly more than I am each month. After he qualifies as a single parent for purposes of taxes, he'd be bringing home more.

We get the same net pay. I pay less in taxes, but then I also pay for healthcare for Epsilon and myself. My partner pays for universal healthcare in taxes. I contribute to an employee matched defined contribution retirement fund. He contributes (less) to a defined benefit pension. If I were to stay in this job until retirement, unless I managed to retire in the midst of another phenomenal stock market bubble, at my current contribution rates, the benefits I will receive due to my accumulated contributions will be less than what he will receive from his pension.

By the end of my career if I stay in the States will I likely be bringing more home after taxes and other necessary incidentals? Probably. On the other hand, if I wanted a job for the money, I'd do something else. The lesson I'm taking away from this is that sometimes a pay cut isn't.


  1. Thats the only way you can console yourself why you aren't earning as much as anyone with bit of smartness at your age, and probably its too late to change directions as well. This is exactly where I find myself,a nd don't know what to do about it. After spending almost all of my adult life in academia, I find myself not useful for doing anything else.

  2. Barefoot, if you werent one of my favorite people, I would say with glee: If anyone deserves to pay more taxes, its you :)

    Ironically, you are headed to the one fiscally responsible country in Europe. gute Reise!

  3. Thanks to both of you for your comments and perspective on this post. Though I must emphasize the happy ending of this post again. In spite of having more taken out of my paycheck to the big bad government, my partner is bringing more home because he's having to pay less to the open market to buy the same services that he wants.

  4. As someone who used to live in Europe (the UK) and now lives in the US, I was pleased to read your post. I always had a suspicion that the higher taxes back home were compensated for by not having to pay extra for healthcare (amongst other things), but it was too hard to compare the cost of living between cities etc for me to bother doing the actual maths ;-)