In this episode, Emily interviews Dr. Natalia Bielczyk, a PhD-turned-solopreneur who helps researchers step into fulfilling careers outside of academia. Natalia started investing in a variety of sectors during her PhD training, finding success in some areas and disaster in others. She shares her hard-won lessons into how to invest according to your individual personality and not be influenced by marketers and trends. Natalia emphasizes the importance of building financial stability prior to starting to apply for jobs and presents a unique framework for choosing among post-PhD career and financial priorities.
Links Mentioned in the Episode
- Vitamin PhD Podcast
- PF for PhDs E-mail
- PF for PhDs Twitter (@PFforPhDs)
- Dear Grad Student Podcast
- What is out there for me? The landscape of post-PhD career tracks (Book by Dr. Natalia Bielczyk)
- PF for PhDs Community
- Natalia Bielczyk’s LinkedIn
- Natalia Bielczyk’s Personal Blog
- Natalia Bielczyk’s Twitter (@nbielczyk_neuro)
- Ontology of ValueTM YouTube
- Ontology of ValueTM Website
- Ontology of ValueTM Test (Emily’s Affiliate Link)
- PF for PhDs: Podcast Hub
- PF for PhDs: Subscribe to Mailing List
00:00 Natalia: As long as I was on the safe side and I was investing in real estate and the stock exchange, so more traditional markets, I was doing very well and I was always beating the market. But once I went to these speculative markets like crypto, like I kind of fell into this trap where, you know, your lizard brain takes over and then your intelligence and your like knowledge about people in the world doesn’t matter anymore. Because you go with your greed and fear and this kind of takes over you. And you start making really stupid decisions.
00:39 Emily: Welcome to the Personal Finance for PhDs Podcast: A Higher Education in Personal Finance. I’m your host, Dr. Emily Roberts. This is Season 10, Episode 11, and today my guest is Dr. Natalia Bielczyk, a PhD-turned-solopreneur who helps researchers step into fulfilling careers outside of academia. Natalia started investing in a variety of sectors during her PhD training, finding success in some areas and disaster in others. She shares her hard-won lessons into how to invest according to your individual personality and not be influenced by marketers and trends. Natalia emphasizes the importance of building financial stability prior to starting to apply for jobs and presents a unique framework for choosing among post-PhD career and financial priorities. Earlier, on the day I’m recording this, I was interviewed for the Vitamin PhD podcast. That interview will be published in January 2022, approximately. It reminded me how much I love working with other podcasters and creating this kind of content not just on my own feed. I would love to connect with other podcasters in the academic space, particularly ones with U.S. audiences. You most likely listen to such podcasts. Can you recommend any podcasts to me or even introduce me to another host as a potential guest? Please hit me up over email at emily@PFforPhDs.com or on Twitter @PFforPhDs. By the way, no need to connect me with Dear Grad Student as we already have an interview swap in the works! But any other recommendations would be excellent. Thank you so much!
Will You Please Introduce Yourself Further?
02:23 Emily: I’m so excited to share with you today an interview with Dr. Natalia Bielczyk. She is a PhD-turned-solopreneur who helps other PhDs and researchers transition into careers that are a great fit for them. And she has had a lot of really interesting sort of financial experiences, especially regarding mindset, both when she was in academia and now as an entrepreneur. And we’re just going to get a lot out of this conversation today. So I’m really excited to introduce Natalia. Will you please tell the audience a little bit more about yourself?
02:53 Natalia: Thank you so much, Emily, for your kind invitation and for the great introduction. Thank you so much. And what can I say? Indeed, I finished a PhD in computational neuroscience, and since a few years I’m helping indeed researchers in finding a new way in their lives and it’s a very exciting career path, I have to say, and very rewarding as well. In the meantime, I wrote a book entitled, “What is out there for me? The landscape of post-PhD career tracks”. I think the title is self-explanatory. And I also recently created an aptitude test called the Odyssey test, or the Ontology of ValueTM, and it’s meant to help professionals, PhDs, but not only, in finding the right working environment for them, for themselves, and also the right role to play, given their personality, values, and natural working style.
03:47 Natalia: And I’m very bullish on this test because it’s working really well. And it’s a result of two two full years of work. And I’m very excited for this premiere that actually happened like a few weeks ago. And other than that, I indeed have a lot of interest in personal finances and I find it a very important aspect. You cannot really tell these areas of life apart. Like when you talk about career, it’s hard not to talk about finances because it conditions your decisions. And that’s also what I would like to talk about today a little bit, because it’s hard to also give good career advice to someone who is desperate to get a job because they have an empty account. And I always talk about it in the courses and also in the talks I’m doing for PhDs, because this is a very important aspect of career building. So I’m very excited that I can be here today and talk a little bit about that.
Financial Experiences Overview
04:43 Emily: Yes, we’re so excited to dive more into that. Before we get into these more sort of specific thoughts that you wanted to share, can you give us a bit of a background or an overview of what your financial experiences have been, both while you were pursuing the PhD and since, so that we know some topical areas that will come up later on?
05:01 Natalia: Yes, actually indeed I come from a family where finances were not topics that were often discussed. I think both my parents are more idealistic and they believe in creating value by virtue of like using your own hands and actually working hard rather than saving and investing money which is a pity, I think. But indeed when I came to the university as an undergrad, I fully focused on my studies initially. And then, only then, in my mid-twenties, I realized that, you know, it’s better like in the long run to think about your savings and to invest them. And I actually have to say that I had some beginner’s luck because when I first got to investing in the stock exchange, I think I made a few really good bets.
05:57 Natalia: And my strategy initially was to look into, by the way, I’m not a financial advisor, just a little disclaimer. So my initial bet was just looking into companies that have good value that have like rather luxurious products. And I personally believe that these products are good. I use them, myself. Like good clothing brands, and video games. Everything that I could trust myself as a client. And I had quite good shots there. And then, so I initially thought, well, I have to be good at this because every single time I’m out beating the market. So for a few years in a row, like I was making 60, 80, a hundred percent per year. And I was like, oh, I’m a genius, apparently. But then, you know, I also realized that, really, it’s not that I am overly like a talented investor.
Real Estate Investment
06:53 Natalia: It’s more that I kind of personally fit that type of investment. I found these few companies that I was absolutely sure about at the right moment. And I had a little bit of luck. And in fact in the long run, investing is so much more than that. But in my grad school, I also have to say that I was one of the few people in my environment that spotted the opportunity when the housing market was recovering in 2014, 2015. And back then, it was still not very popular, especially among PhD students, to buy their own properties. But I have to say that I was one of the first who must have noticed the opportunity, because the mortgage capability was going up, the interest rates were going down at this point. So I saw the window of opportunity to get my own property when I was still a second-year PhD student.
07:45 Natalia: So that was a great opportunity. And back then, I was thinking of myself as a future professor in neuroscience, and I wanted to live here next to the university. So I had a very clear picture of where I want to live and where I want to buy property. And I have to say that I hacked the system because this area was not the cheapest, but I figured out how to avoid bidding against other other candidates for houses. So I basically determined where I want to buy property, and then I distributed leaflets with information that I am this nice person who studies neuroscience and I want to do great research in this house and I really need some calm place to live where I can do my awesome research on human brain. And I have to say that I spent a month distributing these leaflets in mailboxes around the quarter, and about 10 people contacted me and they were willing to sell me the house, like, you know like by a handshake.
08:48 Natalia: So without bidding, without competition, I could buy quite a few good houses this way. So I was also the only person who kind of figured out that it’s possible this way, and that allowed me to buy a house way below the market value and avoid the bidding, avoid the competition. And that was also, yeah, I’m still proud of it because yeah, at that time, I could not afford to do it in like a usual way by competing with other bidders. So this was my only chance and it worked and I have this house until this day, it’s great. And I also have some passive income from it. I have some rental room. So that also helped me, like in more difficult times after my contract expired, it was a source of passive income.
The Dangers of Speculative Markets
09:37 Natalia: So I have to say that this was one of the best decisions I ever made. And then after my contract expired, I also had some bad decisions because I went into much more speculative markets. So as long as I was on the safe side and I was investing in real estate and the stock exchange, so more traditional markets, I was doing very well, and I was always beating the market. But once I went to these speculative markets like crypto, like I kind of fell into this trap where, you know, your lizard brain takes over. And then your intelligence and your like knowledge about people in the world doesn’t matter anymore because you kind of go with your greed and fear. And this kind of takes over you, and you start making really stupid decisions.
10:29 Natalia: And also, I have to say that I was quite naive after my PhD, because I was not used to the environment where people can tell you, like they have vile intentions. Like they will tell you things that they never intend to do, because honestly, researchers, you know, some of them might have difficult personalities, but at the end of the day, they have good intentions. And I was always surrounded by honest people who have pure intentions. And if they commit to something, they will do it. And when I found myself in speculative markets, I lost all my money also because I was trusting the wrong people. I was just very naive. So, it was a really painful lesson for me.
11:15 Natalia: And I have to say that now I know that there is no such thing as a good investor or bad investor. There are so many different ways of investing and you have to figure out who you are, what your strengths are and what types of investments will work best for you. And now when I invest again, I always look into value. And I think in the future I will become more of a value investor. So, it’s definitely, I’m not into trading. I’m very bad at this. I’m too impulsive. And now I know what my weaknesses are. And in the long run, I’ll just orient myself towards the markets and opportunities where I know that I have some grasp on what’s actually going on. So like, I had a lot of painful lessons to take. But also, one thing I learned is that indeed there is no winning strategy. There is no algorithm. Because at the end of the day, everyone’s different. And what works for me might not work for you. So it’s like you have to learn through trial and error, what type of strategy works best for you.
It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
12:23 Emily: So what I took from that story, which was fascinating, is that you were operating in these early years very much off of intuition. And it worked well for you in some areas, and it didn’t work as well for you in other areas. And now that you’ve learned that about yourself, you are sort of shoring yourself up with more research and like systems to make sure that your weaknesses are not going to come through in your investment strategy, the way that it did before. And I think this is really interesting because I actually talk with a lot of people in my audience, and I’m not saying that’s the majority, but people who choose to speak with me, sort of have the opposite. Like they’re so cautious and they don’t want to take any steps because they don’t want to make any mistakes.
13:06 Emily: And so what I love about that overview that you just gave us, and we’ll go a little bit more into the subject shortly is like, it’s okay to make a mistake. Yes, it’s painful. Of course, it’s painful to make a mistake. Of course, you should try to avoid it. But the downside of making a mistake is not so huge that you should miss out on the upside of actually pursuing your investments or pursuing these strategies. So, yeah, we’re going to talk more about that in a moment. I’m so excited about that.
13:29 Natalia: Well, I think at the end of the day, you most regret things you didn’t do, rather than the things that you did.
Negative Views of Money
13:36 Emily: Yeah. I agree. So when we prepared for this conversation, we talked a little bit about how money is viewed in academia, specifically not favorably. And so I wanted to know based on sort of your observations, your personal experience, and I can share mine as well, how that voice in academia saying that, you know, money’s bad, don’t pursue money, blah, blah, blah, how that actually materially affects the personal finances of people who survive academia.
14:07 Natalia: A very good question. I think it’s not only a disease of academia, but of the whole public sector, I believe. And yes, that’s actually another painful observation I had to make in grad school because I was one of the few like misfits who were interested in the economy and personal investments, while most of my friends from grad school were spending evenings on just having, you know, beers like downtown. And they didn’t really understand my interest in reading about the economy and the financial markets. So, yeah, I heard about myself that I was greedy, that I was so materialistic, that I was an aggressive capitalist. Like I heard those things, but I also know what my aims are in the long run and I just didn’t, I’m happy now that I chose to develop myself in this direction. And I would definitely recommend it to anyone, regardless of what you do.
15:09 Natalia: Like money is not a bad thing. Money is a good thing. It gives you opportunities. And indeed the picture of money in academia is quite negative. And I feel this is what they also do to program you to be poor, you know? And when you like read like popular press and go online, like what they always sell you is these negative pictures of successful people and like big entrepreneurs. And it’s like, there is a lot of bad press around success on financial markets, and don’t buy into it. Because at the end of the day, like money will not change you as a person. It will just give you more chances to do what you would do otherwise. So, I’m always trying to fight with this black picture of money in academia. And when I do courses with PhD graduates who are now looking for careers, I always underscore how important it is to have a financial cushion and to take care of your finances, and that it’s actually a good thing. You’re only going to have more chances to do good if you have your finances sorted out.
Negative Impact of Separating Finances from Career
16:18 Emily: Okay. So let’s continue on from this thought about, okay, academia has this low view of money. Let’s say that does impact most people’s finances negatively while they’re in academia. They’re not earning very much. Maybe they’re not, you know, enticed to invest as you were and so forth. How does that then translate into the career space? How does that affect their career search and their job selection, and so forth?
16:39 Natalia: Yes, obviously it does affect your job search because as mentioned before, the separation doesn’t really serve you well. And you don’t have a clear view of the opportunities, once you have this bias that you actually have to find something and you have just less freedom to choose and to wait for the right opportunity. So definitely it does affect, like the lack of money does affect your career in a negative way, of course. So indeed, there’s a correlation there, or even causation between a lack of funds and some problems with developing careers. So at the end of the day, you know, I always tell it to the course participants, you know, you have to, at least manage your expenditures and control them and just control your finances.
17:35 Natalia: Even if you don’t feel like you’re the best investor, at least you can watch your expenditures and make sure that you pay yourself first. That’s at the very minimum. It’s good to put aside like 10% of your income. And don’t tell me that you can do it, because everyone who, at least here in the Netherlands, everyone with a postdoc contract is able to do it. I mean, if someone says, they’re not, they’re not saying the truth to themselves, because there is such a disproportion in salaries between PhD students and postdocs that if you spent everything as a postdoc, that means you inflated your lifestyle way too much. So that means you should take a look at your expenditures. So, if you do it right, then you should always be able to pay yourself and set aside some amount. So you don’t have to be a genius. You don’t have to be another Warren Buffet to be financially safe. You just have to be reasonable with your finances.
18:33 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude. If you are a fan of this podcast, I invite you to check out the Personal Finance for PhDs Community at PFforPhDs.community. The community is for PhDs and people pursuing PhDs who want to take charge of their personal finances by opening and funding an IRA, starting to budget, aggressively paying off debt, financially navigating a life or career transition, maximizing the income from a side hustle, preparing an accurate tax return, and much more. Inside the community, you’ll have access to a library of financial education products, including my recent set of Wealthy PhD Workshops. There is also a discussion forum, monthly live calls with me, and progress journaling for financial goals. Our next live discussion and Q&A call is on Wednesday, October 20th, 2021. Basically, the community exists to help you reach your financial goals, whatever they are. Go to pfforphds.community to find out more. I can’t wait to help propel you to financial success! Now back to the interview.
Make Your Own Decisions
19:41 Emily: So you mentioned earlier a few, you know, negative experiences you’ve had in this investing sphere and about having your crypto stolen and meeting up with bad actors and so forth. Are there any kind of like takeaway messages maybe that you have for the listener, like about how to not fall into these situations that you have?
20:04 Natalia: Right. Well, first of all, you have to make your own decisions. First of all, get informed about possibilities, and try not to follow the crowd. Because at the end of the day, once something’s already, like there is a hype on the media, usually it’s too late already. So usually it’s already a bubble. And if you join at that point, it’s better to just like try to figure out early that something is promising. Some project is promising and it’s just about to take off, and observe closely to see if that crowd sentiment will follow and just jump in just before the crowd, not when it’s already making headlines, because that’s already, usually, too late. And also don’t follow the advice too much. I would say like my best decisions were always my own independent decisions, and all these companies that I found in the stock exchange, like nobody told me to buy into those companies.
21:02 Natalia: I just made my own decisions. I came to my own conclusions, and, they turned out to be good decisions. And so, at the end of the day, it’s all about your knowledge and your gut. And now I can see that, especially since the Corona crisis started, there are so many of these false like financial advisors on YouTube. And they became really popular and they started all these systems to become rich quick, or they legitimately actually became rich because they have some successful company, but then they will tell you, you know, this is how I did it. This is what you should be doing to, you know, to follow my success and become successful. But you have to craft your own way that fits you best, and there is no algorithm.
Assume That Your Mission Matters
21:55 Natalia: So if it works for them, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. And I have to say my own way to get like closer to wealth is very different from any of what these financial advisors are telling you. So like none of the rules that, you know, I tried many pieces of advice that they suggest and the sales techniques, et cetera. And none of them really worked. Like for me, for instance, what worked best was just assuming that like that your mission matters. And when I was buying a house, basically I was just telling people openly what I’m going to do in this house and how I’m going to take care of it. And in the end, I got a very good deal because someone liked my purpose and me as a person.
22:43 Natalia: And this is something that no one will tell you in this, you know, in the space of financial advisory. And now I’m kind of doing the same. So I also work on my personal mission. I have a vision of, if my company becomes really successful, what I want to do with with the money I earn, I would like to build the most beautiful house of all time, somewhere in the woods and host startups and people who want to build their careers there, and have a place where we can find value and develop value in people and projects. And the more I talk about this, the more I also sell my products, because people like the mission. So, and this is something no one will tell you on the internet, you know, that they will tell you, well, you should build a CRM model and you have this like bulletproof system to acquire clients. Nobody will tell you that you actually have to have meaningful purpose, right? So every single time, like, just think for yourself, like, what do you really want? What’re you good at? And also, start with why, right? Why are you doing this for? Like, why do you want to get wealthy? And just have a good purpose. I think that really helps.
23:57 Emily: So much that I wanted to emphasize in what you just said. To play off the last point, I’ve also found in growing my business, I haven’t taken like the mission driven approach that you have, but what I found has been most valuable for me is relationships. Like literally just developing relationships with other human beings. And the podcast is one way that I do that. And that’s been the biggest driver of revenue for me, for sure. And like, again, that’s not something some internet marketer is going to tell you, because it’s an investment, it’s time consuming to develop relationships. But in any case, for my business model, which is not the same as anybody else’s, it pays off, right? So O just want to emphasize, yeah, like you don’t have to follow all the techniques that everybody is trying to teach you in your own finances, in your business, whatever it is that you’re doing.
Understand How They Make Money
24:42 Emily: The other thing that I wanted to add about like how to sort of avoid making mistakes, and like you were saying, like, sort of forging your own path. Once the media is, you know, proclaiming something, it’s already over, the trend’s done. You have to get in early if you’re going to get in, kind of at all. Just to emphasize in there, it’s really important when you’re listening to people, from anywhere, to understand how they make money. Whether it’s directly selling you a product and they’re getting commission off that, that’s at least straightforward. That’s easy to understand their motivation for, you know, pitching you the product. It’s maybe a little bit harder when people are driven by, you know, advertising revenue perhaps, like on YouTube or something. Or it’s also hard if they’re just, they’re not directly making money, but you going into the thing that they’re hyping feeds the bubble and allows their investments to grow.
25:29 Emily: Just ask yourself that question, like, how is this person making money, and does that influence, it doesn’t necessarily, does it influence the message that they have for me? I welcome all of my listeners to ask that about me and about my business and, you know, listening to this podcast. How is it that I make money? And should you be listening to me? And so forth. And I think that my business would stand up to that scrutiny, but it’s up to the individual to do that everywhere that they listen to money, advice, or business advice, or what have you.
25:56 Natalia: Yeah, totally. I absolutely agree. And I can also say that I get entertained by some of these financial channels as well. And, I mean, I would rather choose this over some entertainment shows. And so when I have free time, I would rather listen to good financial advice, but I always choose people who don’t sell you anything, at least, you know, they just say what they know. And yes, they get some revenue from the sense that YouTube pays them. But at least they are not selling you any system. So at least to some extent they are objective. But I agree with you, you always have to look at their business model. And that will tell you a lot about how credible they are.
Time Management in Managing Finances
26:44 Emily: So you mentioned earlier that when you were in graduate school, your friends might be out at the bar having a drink together, and you were at home, you know, learning about more about your investments or something. What have you learned about appropriate time management when it comes to your finances? Have you swung too far to one side of the spectrum or the other? What do you think is like the happy medium in terms of how much attention and time to pay to your finances?
27:07 Natalia: Very good question. I think that also very much depends on the type of investments you do. But I think also, there were periods of time when I was spending way too much time, especially after my PhD contract expired. And I had all the time in the world to do the projects I liked. And at some point I went down the rabbit hole, and for a few months, I was spending time mostly on reading about these speculative markets. And I felt that, the more time I was spending on that, the more I was losing the overall picture. And now I don’t spend as much time. I attend some online groups to discuss the progress in the field, and I try to be there every week, and I read once in a while. But I’m trying to keep this time limited, and I can feel that I’m much better at spotting the valuable projects and valuable concepts that have a future if I look more from the distance.
28:04 Natalia: Because like the closer you get, the more, you know, you’re also influenced by people you’re talking to. For instance, like everyone who is developing a new product, they do it for a reason. That’s why they do it, because they believe that none of the mainstream projects are the future. So like when you talk to them, they will obviously criticize the like mainstream projects, just because otherwise they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. So, they are kind of biased, even if they have the best intentions. Then you have to take into account, the more you interact with people in the space, the more biased you get.
Be Like Master Yoda: Everywhere
28:42 Natalia: So now I really am trying to keep a healthy distance, and I’m trying to be like this like Master Yoda that talks to everybody and has some wisdom, has some knowledge, is everywhere, you know–talks to employers, talks to recruiters, talks to professionals who are looking for careers, talks to business developers who are building their own businesses, talks to people who are in financial markets. But I don’t get, like, I always keep some level of distance to everything. And I try to keep my emotions low, be objective, look from perspective, and I’m doing much, much better this way. So I would say like too much time can work against you, as well. At least that’s my experience.
29:25 Emily: Yeah. And I would say to drill that point down even further on like specifically financial management, I would say like, so when I was in graduate school, it’s fair to say I was pretty obsessed with my finances. But not in a way that was super helpful and actually improving like my net worth in a big way. So like, for example, I did not get into entrepreneurship when I was in graduate school. That was after I finished graduate school. And actually earning more money at that time when I was earning very little for a graduate student stipend would have been a bigger ROI than just focusing on frugality, which is a lot of what I thought about. Now, I did good things like, you know, my frugality fueled investments. So that was good and that did increase my net worth. But now that I’m an entrepreneur and maybe you’ve had a similar sort of transition, I think a lot more about how to earn more money, and that’s worth more to my bottom line than spending a lot of time being really frugal.
Do You Have to Go Through a Proving Period?
30:19 Emily: But you know what, I think there’s also some value in, and maybe you agree or not, going through a period of being a little bit obsessed and really learning a lot, learning a lot about yourself, in whatever space you’re in. And then after that point, when you’ve invested a lot of time, you can pull back, like you were just saying and see the bigger picture, like more easily. What do you think about that? Do you have to go through like a proving period of, you know, really, really diving into a subject?
30:44 Natalia: That’s a very good question. I don’t have one clear answer to that. I think again, like just that careers cannot be like treated separately from finances. I think that your finances cannot be treated separately from your personality and who you are. So you have to learn it somehow, like what fits you best. And indeed, you need some knowledge to make educated choices and allocate your assets, which are your future, basically in the right, like baskets. There is some effort, like there is no freelance, so indeed perhaps, yeah, spending time on it and effort is of course necessary. I’m not sure if this is absolutely necessary to spend a period of your life on it, like full-time or maybe it’s sufficient to, let’s say, allocate one evening per week and do it systematically. Maybe that’s healthier. So I don’t have a clear answer to that, but for sure, this is like a compound interest. Like you have to have some space in your life for this, and it’s lik compound interest. If you allocate time for it on a regular basis, you will become a pro in a period of time. So for sure.
How to Contact Natalia
32:01 Emily: Love that answer. Okay. So we’re going to get to your best financial advice in just a moment. But before we do that, I just want you to remind the listener where they can find you, where they can find all the stuff that you’re doing in the career space.
32:12 Natalia: Right. So yes, I think the best way to contact me at the moment is my LinkedIn profile. So you can find me on LinkedIn, I’m open to new contacts. So please contact me and let’s talk. And you can also find me on Twitter. And of course I can recommend my book that also contains one chapter about finances. So I hope you can find some link to the book somewhere here as well. And yeah, I think this is at the moment, the best way to find me. And there is also a YouTube channel. There is my company website with everything I think will be linked below. So, please find me. I’m always, I’m not a financial advisor, but I like talking finances. I think it’s an important area of life. So I’m always happy to talk.
Best Financial Advice for Another Early-Career PhD
33:01 Emily: Yes. We can find all those links in the show notes for the show or in my mailing list, email, which you should get the day this is released, if you’re on my mailing list. Okay. So last question, Natalia, what is your best financial advice for another early-career PhD?
33:17 Natalia: Well, so I would say two pieces of advice. I couldn’t choose, so I will just list two. So first of all, what is also related to the topic of my book. In my book, I talk a lot about like a very important choice you have to make once you get from academia out to the big world. And this is a choice between safety and freedom. So, if you go to public institutions or large corporations, you have to compromise a lot on your freedom. You will have to follow the procedures, follow the local rules, follow your boss, follow expectations. But you will gain a lot of stability. You will get good working benefits and an opportunity to stay for a long time in one place. So, you’ll sleep well at night, but you will have some limited freedom. Versus if you go the opposite way and you start your own business, or you continue in academia, or you go like work in a startup in some speculative markets, then you will experience much more stress because your future will be much more uncertain.
34:25 Natalia: But you will also gain a lot of freedom. So it’s always a compromise. You either go for one or the other. The only exception, the only group of people who can afford to be free and to be safe at the same time are those who are wealthy. So money is a measure of safety, and it’s a measure of freedom. And this is your only chance. So in fact, most people who get wealthy, they don’t do it because they want to have a lambourghini in their garage. They just want to be free, and they want to be safe. And that’s how you should treat it. And if you treat the money like this, I think it’s a really good mindset to start with.
35:06 Emily: I just, I hope you don’t mind. I want to add onto that point because I love the way you articulated that. It’s not something I’ve thought about before. So I’m so glad that you brought that up. For my own life, personally, obviously I’m an entrepreneur. Longtime listeners may know that my husband, who’s also a PhD, works at a startup. And so we both, pretty much immediately after we finished our PhDs, went down this freedom, less safety route, although certainly his is more safe than mine because he has an actual job. So we went down this like freedom over safety route that you were just articulating. However, we radically reduced risk of undertaking those job choices because of the financial wherewithal that we had built up during graduate school, because we had savings, because we had investments, because we paid off almost all of our debt. That risk was much, much less to us, as you were just saying. So we were able to shift that, you know, get more freedom, feel like we were providing our own safety, even in these like unsafe careers, basically. So love the way you articulated that. So brilliant. Thank you. What was your next piece of advice?
Think About Your Mission
36:05 Natalia: My last piece of advice would be referring to what I said before. Think about your mission. And this is like, again a bit counter-intuitive, but there are at least two good reasons to think about your mission. First of all, if you have a goal that you can think of every time you negotiate, you become a better negotiator, because you see a purpose. You see like a big picture of why you want to negotiate a better salary, better honorarium for your work. That also helped me because that was initially my problem as an entrepreneur, that I couldn’t really value my work properly. And I was doing a lot of work for free. And I was just afraid to ask for money for my career services at first. And I was always feeling guilty.
36:49 Natalia: But once I started thinking, okay, this is my big picture. This is what I want to get. I need to start valuing my work, because otherwise I’ll never get there. So, that helped me. That gave me courage. And now I’m standing my ground much better when it comes to negotiation. So that helped a lot. And the second reason is because people will make it easier for you. People like helping individuals who have vision. And people are good. If they see that you have a good purpose, they will make it easy for you. You can even get donations. You should have big dreams, and should articulate them. Because most people, they keep their dreams to themselves. They believe that nobody cares or that, you know, people will only make it harder for you. They will either laugh, or they will put locks on your feet. But it’s not true. It’s the opposite. If you have a good cause, just articulate it. Say it loud, and you will see that wealth will come to you much faster.
37:55 Emily: I love that. I need to take that one to heart. Natalia, this was a wonderful interview. Thank you so much for giving it. I hope that the interested listeners will reach out and connect with you. And just thank you so much again.
38:05 Natalia: Thank you! Thank you so much for your invitation. It was great.
38:09 Emily: Emily here, with a quick postscript. When we conducted our interview, Natalia was in the middle of a rebranding. Her business is now officially named the Ontology of Value and can be found at ontologyofvalue.com. In the interview, Natalia described the Odyssey test, or the Ontology of ValueTM test. If you would like to take this test to learn how you most naturally create value in the world, and which professional and employment sectors fit your value proposition, please register through my affiliate link, PFforPhDs.com/ontology. That’s P F F O R P H D S.com/O N T O L O G Y.
38:56 Emily: Listeners, thank you for joining me for this episode! pfforphds.com/podcast/ is the hub for the Personal Finance for PhDs podcast. On that page are links to all the episodes’ show notes, which include full transcripts and videos of the interviews. There is also a form to volunteer to be interviewed on the podcast. I’d love for you to check it out and get more involved! If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, here are 4 ways you can help it grow: 1. Subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or whatever platform you use. 2. Share an episode you found particularly valuable on social media, with an email list-serv, or as a link from your website. 3. Recommend me as a speaker to your university or association. My seminars cover the personal finance topics PhDs are most interested in, like investing, debt repayment, and effective budgeting. I also license pre-recorded workshops on taxes. 4. Subscribe to my mailing list at PFforPhDs.com/subscribe/. Through that list, you’ll keep up with all the new content and special opportunities for Personal Finance for PhDs. See you in the next episode, and remember: You don’t have to have a PhD to succeed with personal finance… but it helps! The music is “Stages of Awakening” by Podington Bear from the Free Music Archive and is shared under CC by NC. Podcast editing by Lourdes Bobbio and show notes creation by Meryem Ok.
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