Emily published the first episode of this podcast in July 2018. This is the one hundred and seventh episode, and over the last two and a half years, the podcast has featured 94 unique voices in addition to Emily’s. The last episode in 2020 catches up with the guests from Seasons 1 through 3. The guests were invited to submit short audio updates on how their lives and careers have evolved since the time of their interview. The question with which all the interviews are concluded now, “What is your best financial advice for another early-career PhD?” was not one that was asked in the earliest seasons. The guests who didn’t have the opportunity to answer the question in their initial interviews answer it in this update, so you’ll hear lots of financial advice throughout the episode as you have grown to expect from this podcast.
Link Mentioned in this Episode
- Episode Guests and where to find them online:
- Dr. Emily Roberts (Season 1, Episode 1, Episode 2, and Season 3, Episode 1) — website, Twitter
- Dr. Caitlin Faas (Season 1, Episode 7) — website
- Latisha Franklin (Season 1, Episode 8) — website, YouTube
- Nicholas Giangreco (Season 1, Episode 10)
- Bailey Poland (Season 1, Episode 12) — Patreon
- Lauri (Lutes) Reinhold (Season 2, Episode 1)
- Dr. Gary McDowell (Season 2, Episode 3) — website, Twitter, LinkedIn
- Maya Gosztyla (Season 2, Episode 4) — Twitter
- Dr. Jill Hoffman (Season 3, Episode 4) — website
- Crista Wathen (Season 3, Episode 7) — website, Instagram
- Dr. Gov Worker (Season 3, Episode 8 and Episode 9) — Twitter, website
- Dr. Toyin Alli (Season 3, Episode 12) — website, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook
- Free masterclass: How to Know What to Expect in Your First Semester so You Don’t Have to Be Anxious About Starting Grad School
- Personal Finance for PhDs: The Wealthy PhD
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Community
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Podcast Hub
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Subscribe to the mailing list
00:10 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 seven, episode 16, and today I’m featuring many guest voices. I published the first episode of this podcast in July, 2018. This is the 107th episode and over the last two and a half years, the podcast has featured 94 unique voices, in addition to my own. For a last episode in 2020, I thought it would be fun to catch up with the guests from seasons one through three. I invited them to submit short audio clips to update us on how their lives and careers have evolved since the time of our interview. The question with which I conclude all of my interviews now “what is your best financial advice for another early career PhDs?” was not one I asked in the earliest seasons. I asked the guests who didn’t have the opportunity to answer the question in their initial interviews to do so in this update, so you’ll hear lots of wonderful financial advice throughout the episode, as you’ve grown to expect from this podcast. The audio clips in this episode are ordered by when the original episode was published. If you’d like to circle back and listen to any of the previous interviews you can do so in your podcatcher app, or at my website, pfforphds.com/podcast. To keep up with future episodes, please hit subscribe on that podcatcher and/or join my mailing list at pfforphds.com/subscribe. Since I featured my own financial story from graduate school in season one episode one, you’ll hear an update from me first followed by the rest of the guests. Happy listening and here’s to the end of 2020!
Dr. Emily Roberts
01:53 Emily: Hi, this is Emily Roberts from Personal Finance for PhDs. I was on season one, episodes one and two, and season three, episode one and it’s been about two and a half years since I recorded the first of those episodes. Not a whole lot has changed career-wise in that time. My husband still works for the same startup that brought us to Seattle, and I’ve expanded my business into a few new areas. I now offer one-on-one financial coaching, run a group coaching program called The Wealthy PhD a few times per year, and facilitate the Personal Finance for PhDs community. And of course, continue to host this podcast and give seminars and webinars for universities and conferences. The big personal changes are that we had a second child, so our daughters are now ages four and two, and we moved from Seattle to Southern California in August, 2020. Moving in a pandemic with toddlers was much more challenging and less enjoyable than the move I described in my earlier episode, but it went very smoothly, all things considered my husband and I are now technically location independent, at least for the time being. Our current big financial goal is to buy our first home in Southern California in 2021. For the last several years, we’ve balanced investing for retirement with saving a down payment, so hopefully we’ve done enough on both fronts. I’m really looking forward to stability in the housing area of my life. Thanks for listening to my update. If you want to get in touch, you can visit my website pfforphds.com or find me on Twitter at @pfforphds.
Dr. Caitlin Faas
03:27 Caitlin: Hi there listeners. My name is Dr. Caitlin Faas and I was on episode seven of season one, October of 2018. A lot has changed for me since then. I left my position as a faculty member. I was tenure track at the time earned tenure, became a department chair and then left the position at the end of 2020 to work for myself full time as a certified life coach, I made that decision officially in February of 2020, right before COVID hit. And I knew it was time to take the leap. And then the universe sent me all the tests, my husband being laid off and COVID and so many other things, but I still trusted and knew it was time to leave. And I’m proud to say this year, I’ve earned over a hundred thousand dollars and we paid off all of our debt and all my concerns and worries that I managed along the way are what made it possible for me to be ending the year of 2020 successfully.
04:33 Caitlin: We also, in that time adopted our teenage daughter out of foster care and something I wish I could tell myself, looking back in 2018, as I had an idea that I might want to leave academia and continue to grow my business was I just wish I could tell myself not to stress as much about the debt we had. I took it a little too seriously. It all worked out as it was supposed to, and I didn’t have to hustle and grind my way there. I definitely followed a budget and Dave Ramsey’s plan, but the biggest thing was money mindset and law of attraction, setting those goals for myself and continuing to trust the flow and surrender to the process. That’s what made the difference. So best of luck as you hear my update and go about your own path with Emily.
07:13 Nicholas: Hi, this is Nicholas Giangreco from season one, episode 10. I am a systems biology PhD student at Columbia Medical Center. I’ve kept a budget throughout my studies and living in New York City, logging in my expenses and savings. First switching to a rainy day fund goal, then a more moving fund/cushion goal, and now recently, been able to transition to more heavily into a retirement saving, and that’s because having the budget has helped me be more conscious of my spending and saving decisions over time. That would be my advice for new graduate students — keep a budget. I use Google sheets. Whatever makes you conscious of your decisions and helps you stick with a goal that you have in mind is really important throughout your graduate career. As well as taking advantage of opportunities, such as tutoring, teaching, and internship. They can help you get to your goals and become more financially stable. Hopefully that helps out people and enjoy the rest of your listening.
08:51 Bailey: Hi, my name is Bailey Poland, and you can find me at Patreon.com/BaileyPoland. I was originally on season one, episode 12. I’m now a fourth year PhD candidate in rhetoric and writing studies. And I’m about a chapter and a half away from being done writing my dissertation. I’m currently on the job market, both for academic and industry jobs, especially given the way the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the academic job market. In the original episode, Emily and I talked a lot about side hustling, so I wanted to give a little bit of an update about that. While I do still have my Patreon, my other side gigs have changed a lot and this year I’m on an assistantship that allows me to focus exclusively on my dissertation, so that’s my main priority right now. But in the past couple of years, I’ve worked as a virtual social media assistant for a women-focused finance organization called city girl savings. I took on some extra work in my department as a digital development and promotional outreach assistant, and I’ve done various freelance jobs in writing and editing, especially professional writing and editing, as I’ve had the opportunity to work on those. So despite my stipend only going up a little bit across the time that I’ve been in the program, I’ve managed to hit a six figure net worth over the past couple of years by keeping my expenses low, doing that extra paid work and investing.
10:14 Bailey: And on that note, my best financial advice for another early career PhD is to find a way to save and ideally invest as early as you possibly can, even if it’s just to get into the habit of having some money set aside or having an automatic transfer of some kind of set up. Even if you’re still paying off other debt, even if it’s only a little bit of money here and there, that really, really adds up, especially over the long-term. Time is a huge factor in creating financial security for yourself and the earlier that you can build those foundational habits, the better off you’ll be.
Dr. Lauri (Lutes) Reinhold
10:51 Lauri: Hi, my name is Lauri Reinhold, formerly Lutes, and I was on season two episode one. My main updates are to share that I completed my PhD and amidst the pandemic, which was quite an achievement for me. And I now have a postdoc position. In my episode, I spoke a lot about the ways I took advantage of resources in my area to overcome some of the challenges of being a single mother and a graduate student. One of the goals later on in graduate school that I looked into was home ownership. And I wanted to share this with you because had I looked into it sooner, I probably would have benefited a little bit more. I am settling into a higher cost of living area, especially in comparison to where I grew up in the Midwest. And looking into home buying is quite intimidating due to the average cost of a home. I found in my state in Oregon, there’s a program called an individual development account or an IDA, and this is a three to one matching program where I can contribute $2,000 and walk away with $8,000 that I can use for a variety of different expenses — educational buying a car retirement. However, I was most interested in using these funds for a down payment on a home. Unfortunately since I looked into this later in my career and my admittance into this program was delayed due to the pandemic and this perfect storm of things occurred, my current income puts me just over the threshold to qualify for this program, so I’m no longer able to participate. However, I am happy to report that I have learned a lot about the home buying process along the way, and that I am still actively pursuing this long-term goal. My advice to you is if you have these financial goals, I encourage you to see what’s available in your state and take advantage of these programs sooner than later, so that you can start saving. And perhaps you might be more likely to meet some income thresholds and take advantage of some of these opportunities to get ahead.
Dr. Gary McDowell
12:54 Gary: Hi, I’m Gary McDowell and I work as a consultant on early career researchers and affecting change for and with them. I’m now based at Lightoller LLC, but you may have heard from me on season two, episode three, when I was the executive director of the nonprofit Future of Research. I’m doing almost exactly the same kind of work and have the same motivations to work on behalf of the interests of early career researchers. Now I’m just in a different business model. I’m also now more permanently settled in Chicago, Illinois. I spoke about our effort on postdoc salaries with you before, and I’m still working on that in my spare time. I’m currently embarking on a new set of data requests from universities, and I hope to have five years of data to look at and share with you all in the not too distant future.
13:38 Gary: But I think the best advice that I can give to you at the moment is that you should be very proactive in bringing up the topic of salaries when talking with current or potential supervisors in an academic setting. I mentioned this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my sense is that compared to when I started working on salaries nearly five years ago, it has become much more acceptable to talk about money, hopefully in no small part because of the efforts of people like myself, constantly putting this up as an issue publicly with academics. This is particularly true, I think, in the present situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased financial burdens that that’s placing on early career researchers. I think it’s important that you try, if you can, to advocate for yourself.
14:23 Gary: Secondly, I always advise that you bring this up with a potential supervisor because how they react can tell you a lot too. Even if you don’t get a raise in the salary offer from the discussion, if they react with, “why would I pay you more?” I think you should probably question generally whether this is the person you actually want to work for versus someone who might respond that they can’t give you a raise, but then talks about how that could be explored through fellowship applications or talking to the department chair, or just generally seems willing to about it. If you don’t feel able to advocate for yourself, maybe you have a precarious visa situation, for example, find ways of advocating with others through a union or association. There’s strength in numbers and decades of recommendations from blue ribbon panels that you should be paid more. So make sure you’re advocating for your worth because you are worth it. Feel free to contact me. You can do so through my website, lightoller.org or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can always contact me on Twitter at @GaryMcDowellPhD, or find me on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening.
15:33 Maya: Hi guys, this is Maya Gosztyla from season two, episode four of the podcast, which came out in February of 2019. And that episode was about how during my postbac fellowship at the NIH, I was able to save about 30% of my income despite having a fairly low salary of only around $30,000 a year. We also talked about how I use science communication as a side hustle to earn a bit more money on top of that. It’s been almost two years now, about a year and a half since that was published and a lot has changed since then. I got married to my then fiance and we had a very simple wedding. We just eloped at the cherry blossom festival in DC and spent some money on a two week honeymoon abroad, which was lovely. I also started grad school at the University of California, San Diego, which is also lovely. I love it here.
16:25 Maya: A lot of the things that I talked about in that episode have continued. I still live very simply. I don’t eat out very much and I try to budget very carefully. But of course, 2020 had a lot of things that made it much harder to live the way I had last year. In grad school, I have a pretty similar stipend as I did as a fellow and I also have a fairly similar cost of living, but the difference is now of course it’s me and my husband, not just me living by myself since we were long distance during my fellowship. As a result of COVID, like so many other people, my husband does not have a job right now so we’re basically both living on my grad school stipend. As a result of that, I’m no longer able to save 30% of my income. Unfortunately, we pretty much just break even with the stipend alone. However, I have continued doing my little side comm side hustle, and all of that is kind of on top of my stipend just goes into savings. So that just gives us a little extra buffer to continue saving a little bit toward our goals as much as we can. And having that emergency savings that I did build up during that fellowship was super helpful. It gives us a lot more peace of mind in case we have any major expenses, like when we just had to get some car repairs done, and having to buy health insurance from my husband when he aged out of his parents’ insurance. We were able to do that without much problems. So that’s been really helpful to have that little cushion.
17:45 Maya: Our plans for the future are basically when my husband does get a job, and hopefully this pandemic ends, people can go back to work, we’re going to continue to live on my stipen as much as possible and then try to use anything that he makes to just work on paying down student loans, and eventually saving toward retirement. My advice for students would be definitely save up some emergency savings before grad school, if you can. And if you’re living with a partner, try to live on one income, if you can. I’d be happy to talk to people who are in a similar financial situation and gives some advice, so you can feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. My username is @alzscience on Twitter. Good luck to everybody.
Dr. Jill Hoffman
18:25 Jill: Hi, this is Jill Hoffman from Toddler on the Tenure Track. I was on season three, episode four, where I talked about public service loan forgiveness, as well as the decision that my husband and I made to have him become a stay at home dad. Career-wise, I’m still on my tenure track position and I’m on track to submit my tenure package in October of 2021. Also in September of 2020, my husband started a part-time position that he does from home. So he’s still doing the bulk of the childcare, but we’re switching off with childcare responsibilities when our work hours overlap. Financially, given the pause on student loan interest that’s happened as a result of the pandemic we’ve put our more aggressive student loan payments on hold for now. I still have a significant amount left on my loans and I’m still on the public service loan forgiveness program. And with my husband’s loans we’re waiting to see what happens when the new administration takes office before we start back up with our focus on paying those off.
19:24 Jill: Personally, we’ve had some major ups and downs since I was in the podcast and are currently trying to work out the logistics of a move back East to be closer to family. We’re currently in the Pacific Northwest. Sadly, my dad passed away in late 2019, and we had some other family emergencies that really made us reconsider the distance from family at this point in our lives. And financially, the money associated with traveling back and forth isn’t sustainable for us at our current income level. on a happy note, we’re expecting our second child in may of 2021, so that’s also playing a role in our interest to at least be an easy driving distance to family. You can find more about what I’ve been up to toddleronthetenuretrack.com.
20:08 Crista: Hi everyone. This is Crista Wathen from Richful Thinker. Last time you heard from me was season three, episode seven, where I spoke about the benefits of completing your education abroad and how I am using my PhD salary and Swedish kroner to pay down my US student loan debt. The biggest update since the interview that I have for you is I have finally reached positive net worth after being negative for so many years. I was also asked what was the best financial advice that I can give you, but that has changed in the meantime, and it is increase your savings rate so you can let that. You do have to decide the vehicle in which you want to place it in, but you have to let that grow. Now you can follow my journey as an American abroad. You can go to my blog, richfulthinker.com or my Instagram account, which is @richfulthinkerblog. Thank you guys so much for listening and I hope to speak to you soon.
Dr. Gov Worker
21:12 Gov Worker: Hi, this is Dr. Gov Worker and I appeared on season three, episodes eight and nine. Emily and I talked about the FIRE movement and the FIRE movement stands for financial independence and early retirement. Since that time I’m still on a path towards early retirement and financial independence. And in fact, with the large market gains that have been going on since the time we recorded, I’m further ahead than I thought it would be towards achieving financial independence. Once I reach financial independence, I’m still planning on working right now, but it’s nice to know that if something were to happen, I’d never need to work again, but I’m enjoying my job right now too much to leave.
21:58 Gov Worker: And I know I gave advice on the podcast, but if I had more advice, it would be really understand your employee handbook. Or if you work for a university, the university rules, or the federal government rules. Whatever your workplace is, understand all the rules about your employment, because sometimes you might find a benefit buried somewhere deep in an employee handbook that you don’t know about. And I think a lot of what I am really passionate about right now is educating people on how to get the most benefits out of their jobs that they’re they’re already at. I definitely recommend doing that. And if you want to get in touch with me, I’m on Twitter. You can tweet at me it’s @govworkerfi, and I’d love to hear from you. I love hearing from my readers. I also have a blog governmentworkerfi.com, but if you just tweet me, you can get to my blog.
Dr. Toyin Alli
22:59 Toyin: Hi, this is Toyin Alli from The Academic Society. I was on season three, episode 12 of the podcast where I shared how grad students can find the perfect side hustle while working on their degree. Since recording my episode, my job hasn’t changed much besides doing it remotely. I’m still a lecturer at the University of Georgia, and I’m up for promotion this year. My business, The Academic Society has grown so much since the episode. My YouTube channel has grown to almost 6,000 subscribers and my time management programs and courses are helping so many grad students. I’ve also revamped my signature grad school prep course for new grad students. It’s the resource for new grad students. Inside of my program I help recently accepted in first year grad students uncover grad school secrets by learning about the culture of grad school. I help them transform their mindset from an undergraduate mindset to a grad school mindset. I help them up level their productivity so that they can actually get their work done, and master time management so they can have time for themselves without worrying about how grad school works. I help grad students become more prepared and understand what grad school is all about so they don’t feel anxious about starting. I’m so happy that my business is in a place that allows me to not depend solely on my income as a university lecture. This summer, I was able to buy my first home, a condo in a pandemic. I’m paying off my student loans from undergrad, and I’m excited about building wealth from my side hustle.
24:41 Toyin: Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to my update and catching up with me. You can find me on my website, theacademicsociety.com on YouTube, my channel is called The Academic Society with Toyin Alli. You can also follow me on Instagram @theacademicsociety_, and you can join my Facebook group for grad students, it’s called The Academic Society for Grad Students. Across all platforms, I talk about time management and productivity, but my overall mission is to show grad students and academics that you can live a fulfilled life and be successful in academia at the same time.
Follow-up from Emily
25:23 Emily: Hey, it’s Emily again, adding onto the last update. After Toyin and I got back in touch for this update episode, she invited me to guest lecture for Grad School Prep, the course you just heard about. The recording of the workshop I gave, “Set yourself up for financial success in graduate school” now lives inside Grad School Prep. If you are a prospective or first year grad student, I highly recommend joining Toyin’s course. In hindsight, I recognize how desperately I needed the skills and information in Grad School Prep when I started my PhD. My contribution lets you in on the financial secrets of grad school, explains the financial mindset you should adopt, and walks you through the financial steps you should take during your application year and first year of grad school. Toyin gave a free masterclass on what to expect from your first semester in grad school and how grad school prep can help you with the transition, including a description of my workshop. You can sign up for the free masterclass theacademicsociety.com/Emily.
26:28 Emily: Toyin’s interview was the last one in season three so we are finished with this update episode. I hope to devote an episode at the end of each calendar year to updates from previous guests. I hope you have a restful and joyful holiday season, despite the year we’ve had. We’ll be back with a new episode on Monday, January 4th, 2021.
26:51 Emily: Listeners, thank you for joining me for this episode. PFforPhDs.com/podcast is the hub for the personal finance for PhDs podcast. There you can find links to all the episode show notes, and a form to volunteer to be interviewed. I’d love for you to check it out and get more involved. If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, please consider joining my mailing list for my behind the scenes commentary about each episode. Register at PFforPhDs.com/subscribe. 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 Poddington Bear from the Free Music Archive and is shared under CC by NC. Podcast editing and show notes creation by Lourdes Bobbio.