Emily published the first episode of this podcast in July 2018. This is the one hundred and fiftieth episode, and over the last three and a half years, the podcast has featured 134 unique voices in addition to Emily’s. The last episode in 2021 catches up with the guests from Seasons 4 through 6. The guests were invited to submit short audio updates on how their lives and careers have evolved since the time of their interview. They also included their best financial advice for an early-career PhD if their answer has changed since the initial interview.
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; Season 5, Bonus Episode 1; and Season 8, Episode 18) — website, Twitter
- John Vsetecka (Season 2, Episode 2) – Twitter, email
- Dr. Lourdes Bobbio Smith (Season 3, Episode 11; Season 5, Bonus Episode 1; and Season 6, Episode 18) — Twitter, Instagram
- Jane CoomberSewell (Season 4, Episode 8) — email
- Abigail Dove (Season 4, Episode 9)
- Patrice French (Season 4, Episode 15) — Twitter
- Dr. Zach Taylor (Season 5, Episode 10 and Episode 11) — email
- Dr. Rachel Blackburn (Season 5, Episode 12)
- Courtney Danyel (Season 6, Episode 17) — email, website
- Meryem Ok (Season 6, Episode 18) — Twitter
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Book Club
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Podcast Hub
- Personal Finance for PhDs: Subscribe to the mailing list
00:00 John: You know, life doesn’t wait and you can still be financially sound while in graduate school.
00:10 Emily: Welcome to the Personal Finance for PhDs Podcast: A Higher Education in Personal Finance. I’m your host, Dr. Emily Roberts.
00:19 Emily: This is Season 10, Episode 20, and today I am featuring many guest voices! I published the first episode of this podcast in July 2018. This is the one hundred and fiftieth episode, and over the last three and a half years, the podcast has featured 134 unique voices in addition to my own.
00:41 Emily: For our last episode in 2021, I thought it would be fun to catch up with the guests from Seasons 4 through 6, and a couple from earlier seasons as well. 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, as well as to provide their best financial advice if that has changed since our initial interview.
01:03 Emily: 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.
01:28 Emily: You’ll hear an update from me first, followed by the rest of the guests. Happy listening, and I am wishing all good things for you in 2022!
Dr. Emily Roberts
01:43 Emily: Hi! This is Emily Roberts from Personal Finance for PhDs. I am of course the host of this podcast and you hear from me every week!
01:52 Emily: It seems strange to say, but 2021 was a banner year for me and my family.
01:59 Emily: On the personal side, my husband and I bought our first home, which I discussed in great detail in Season 8 Episode 18. We now live in the San Diego area, which has been our dream for over a decade. Our children are in kindergarten and preschool, and after being out of school for over a year due to the pandemic, it’s really wonderful for our family to be in a routine and for them to be around their peers. We are loving playing tourist in San Diego and enjoying the incredible weather and wealth of outdoor activities.
02:32 Emily: As for my business, Personal Finance for PhDs, I am so grateful that it has grown quite a lot in the last year. I’ve simplified my paid offerings so that I can focus on what seems to be in highest demand: 1) my personal finance seminars, both live and pre-recorded, which are hosted by universities; 2) my tax workshops, which can be purchased by individuals or in bulk by universities; and 3) the Personal Finance for PhDs Community, which individuals can join. To each of you who have joined the Community or one of my workshops in 2021 or recommended me within your university, you have my sincere thanks. The reason I can continue to create this podcast and all of my free resources is the revenue that I generate in these other areas.
03:20 Emily: I’m really looking forward to starting 2022 off strong with tax season and admissions season. If you know any PhDs-to-be who need help in either of those areas, please send them my way!
03:49 John: Hi everyone. It’s John Vsetecka from Season 2, Episode 2 on the personal finance for PhDs podcast. Several years ago, I got to talk with Dr. Emily Roberts about negotiating PhD offers and I wanted to just offer a quick update on how I think that has benefited me up until this day. So since that time, many things have happened. I got married during this time. I’ve moved and now I’m actually living outside of the US. I am currently in Kiev, Ukraine working on the last stages of my research for my dissertation, so I am now at the tail end of my graduate career.
04:29 John: When I last spoke to Dr. Roberts, we discussed how to go about negotiating PhD offers and I want to offer an update now about why I still think you should this. When I was applying to programs prior to 2017, I was able to successfully negotiate offers at several universities. This has really, I think benefited me to this day because I was able to choose the school, not only with a great funding package, but also great benefits that I’ll talk about in just to second. I know things have changed since the pandemic and many programs last year halted admissions, and this has made many programs and departments more competitive, and so you might be a little hesitant to negotiate an offer if you receive one, but I still think you should. If you receive a funded offer and you should absolutely make sure that any offer you receive is funded, this is really important, I think you should still ask if there’s anything else that that department or program can do for you.
05:29 John: Now, this can mean more money. This can mean insurance benefits. This can mean grant money, travel money, or any other resources that they have. See if there’s anything else that they can tack onto your package to help you be more successful in your program. And if you’re fortunate enough to have multiple offers, you should still negotiate these and see which one is the best one for you. And this might not be the one with the most money, but I think the ones that tend to offer the most money and the most incentives tend to be the best bet for your graduate career because life doesn’t wait and you can still be financially sound while in graduate school, if you can start by looking at what your department can offer you so you can plan ahead and make the best of your earning while you’re in graduate school.
06:18 John: So my advice remains the same. Again, if you receive multiple offers, don’t be afraid to ask. In some ways this is just like a job offer. It’s okay to negotiate. It’s okay to ask what else they can do for you. You’re going to do a lot for them. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the director of graduate studies or whoever’s in charge in your department and see what else they can do for you, if your package sort of insinuates that maybe there’s more that is available. I’ll leave you with that and of course, if you have any other questions about graduate school or negotiating offers, you can always get in touch with me on Twitter. My handle is @JohnVsetecka, or you can feel free to email me, it’s email@example.com. Best of luck to those of you who are applying and I hope you have successful negotiations.
Dr. Lourdes Bobbio Smith
07:22 Lourdes: Hi listeners. My name is Dr. Lourdes Bobbio Smith and I’ve been on a few episodes of the podcast. I was first on Season 3, Episode 11, where I gave a budget breakdown as an NDSEG fellowship recipient at Penn State University. I was also on Season 5, Bonus Episode 1, where I discussed my life as we entered social distancing in early 2020, and on Season 6, Episode 18, where I discussed some best practices as a side-hustling graduate school. Since those episodes, I have defended my PhD, started a business and gotten married.
07:55 Lourdes: In my first episode I spoke about how I use targeted savings accounts to save for various mid- and long-term financial savings goals, which hasn’t changed. My husband and I were able to fund our wedding with a combination of the wedding targeted savings fund I discussed in the episode, as well as savings my now husband had, and some generous gifts from our parents.
08:15 Lourdes: Since getting married and joining finances with my husband, we still use the target savings accounts, but we’ve modified what those different savings buckets are. Buying a house, which was previously a long term goal, has now become a more short to mid-term goal as we are looking to settle down in a house of our own. We also recently adopted a cat and my husband’s car is on the older side, so we are making sure to keep a pet fund and a car fund well funded as part of our monthly targeted savings. Investing is also a big priority in our household, and we’ve been able to max out our Roth IRA for 2021 and invest outside of the Roth in taxable brokerage accounts.
08:52 Lourdes: Post-PhD I’m working on a few different things. I have a job as a research associate at Penn State, I continue to work with Emily on this podcast, and I’ve also started a wedding stationery business this year. It’s been a fun adventure to learn both the management and financial sides of owning a business. I initially invested some of my own money, but it’s been self-sustaining for the last few months and I will even be turning a profit in my first year in business.
09:17 Lourdes: I was asked to give my best financial advice for early-career PhDs and I would say, invest as early as you can, even if it doesn’t seem like you can contribute a lot. When I was first on the podcast, I was early in my own investing journey, only able to contribute a little each month, and it seemed like the progress was slow growing. But even in the two years since then, I’ve been able to see how powerful compound interest can be when it comes to growing your money.
09:44 Lourdes: If you’d like to connect online, you can find me on Twitter @lourdesb1012, that’s l o u r d e s b 1 0 1 2. You can also find my business on Instagram @cardsmithdesignstudio. Thanks for listening and have a good new year!
10:08 Jane: Hi Emily! It’s Jane CoomberSewell of CoomberSewell Enterprises here, and we last chatted back in Season 2 (editors note: this should be Season 4), Episode 8, and we talked a lot about working on a budget, and self-sufficiency when you have a family and you’re doing a PhD and you’re also running a business. We talked a lot about menus, budgeting, gardening, both for practical reasons and for your mental health. And in terms of early career financial advice, none of that’s really changed except remember to have some fun. So occasionally after you’ve obviously dealt with all the bills, go and have a drink with friends, or have a meal out, or go and do what we did at the weekend, which was go and have a game of bowling, but only with adults, no children in tow. It was lovely.
11:03 Jane: Thanks so much for the timing of this as well. I finally got to my graduation yesterday. Within the business, Joyce, my other half has very much rebranded herself as an autism advocate and that’s going really well. And for me, I’m concentrating on research, but not in the academic sense. So at the moment I have two family biographies that I’m writing that people are paying me, have commissioned me to write, as well as attempting to turn my thesis into something slightly less theoretical for the commercial market. That’s my update. Everybody take good care and if you want to get in touch, it’s Jane@CoomberSewell.co.uk.
11:53 Abigail: My name Is Abigail Dove, and I was on Season 4, Episode 9, where Emily and I discussed the graduate Student Savings Act of 2019. I spearheaded the endorsement of this bill by the Federation of American Societies for the Advancement of Science, also known as FASAS, as part of a science policy fellowship. The graduate student savings act is a bi-partisan bill that allows graduate students and postdocs to be able to contribute income from a fellowship stipend to an individual retirement account or IRA. Previous IRS wording prevented contributions from fellowships as they were considered unearned income.
12:27 Abigail: Since we recorded that episode, I have a few big updates on the personal side. I have a daughter who is 18 months old, and I will be defending my PhD in a couple weeks and looking forward to the post-graduate student life.
12:40 Abigail: The big update in relation to the episode where I appeared on is that trainees can now contribute to IRAs while receiving fellowship stipends. The language from the Graduate Student Savings Act was added to an omnibus spending bill HR 1865, and was passed into law at the end of 2019. Emily did touch on this update after our interview to share the good news with everyone in a bonus episode in season four, for more information, be sure to check out that episode. But this is really fantastic news for anyone on fellowship stipends and wants a say for retirement.
13:11 Abigail: My updated financial advice has thus changed a result of the new laws. Since everyone is now allowed to contribute to an IRA, I highly recommend that if you have the financial ability to do so, do it. There’s a maximum contribution cap for IRA accounts and right now that cap is set at $6,000 for anyone under the age of 50. Additionally, there are income caps, but graduate student stipends are unfortunately well below those income caps so not something that we often have to worry about. That $6,000 cap may sound intimidating, so contribute what you can or put aside a fraction of your paycheck towards an IRA contribution. It’s never too early to start contributing to a retirement account, and it’s a good spending habit to start. And no amount is too little.
13:57 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude! Are you a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career PhD considering buying your first home in the foreseeable future? If so, I invite you to join the Personal Finance for PhDs Community for a Book Club discussion of First-Time Home Buyer: The Complete Playbook to Avoiding Rookie Mistakes by Scott Trench and Mindy Jensen of BiggerPockets. I and all the Book Club participants will read the book and come together for a one-time live discussion in January 2022. This is perfect timing for anyone with an eye on the spring or summer 2022 peak buying season. Since it might be hard to find this book in a public library, I will give you a copy of the book after you join the Community. If you want to join the Book Club for First-Time Home Buyer, please fill out the survey, including your availability for the discussion, at PFforPhDs.com/BookClub/. That’s P F f o r P h D s dot com slash B o o k C l u b. Now back to our interview.
15:03 Patrice: Hi my name is Patrice French, I was interviewed on Personal Finance for PhDs on November 25th, 2019 Season 4, Episode 15. I am still a full-time employee and am near the end of my doctoral program. I will defend and graduate in spring 2022. Since then I have made some major financial changes. I’ve sold my house, given the strong seller’s market. I have paid off all of my debt except for my student loans and will be eligible for a student loan forgiveness in March of 2022. I plan to transition to a career outside of higher education, in industry, and will likely relocate. As far as the best financial advice I can give for early career PhD is really create some clear goals in mind and create a plan from which to meet those goals. But don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself if things come up. Save, save, save! I have multiple savings accounts for things so that it doesn’t really dip into my income. So if I have car repairs, I have a car repair savings account and things of that nature. And definitely don’t pay for an educational program if you don’t have to. I can be reach on Twitter at @FrenchieMSW. And that’s it.
Dr. Zach Taylor
16:44 Zach: Hey everyone. This is Zach Taylor. I was on Season 5, Episodes 10 and 11. I’d like to give a little bit of an update. I’ve taken a new position. I’m now the assistant director of admissions for communication at Texas State University. It’s the first institutional position that I’ve had after having my PhD because I graduated into the pandemic and that was a very tough job field. But I wanted to give a few updates about how I think a little bit of my advice has changed since COVID 19 has happened and has really changed the landscape, especially of graduate education in the social sciences.
17:27 Zach: I know a lot of the harder sciences like your chemistry or engineering requires graduate students to be in a lab, working with physical materials, but a lot of social sciences PhDs, things like higher education where I came from, sociology, psychology at times, does not require you to be physically in a classroom. And I think people aspiring to earn a PhD, people in graduate school right now need to think how important is the on campus, in the classroom environment? How important is that physicality? And can you save money by taking online classes or taking hybrid classes. Think to yourselves about how much time and money is spent on commuting, especially in urban areas, coming from an Austin perspective. If I was still going to school living where I live now, I would have at least an hour long commute, including a car ride, a bus ride, and a walk. And that hour could be used to make money, could be used to do academic work.
18:29 Zach: So I think that might really change my perspective on the advice that I would give for an early career PhD is really considering online options, in addition to everything else I spoke about — the cost of living in your area, what you’re willing to go without and how you can side hustle to make a little bit extra cash. If anyone has anything that they want to reach out to me, please do so. My email is ZT@UTexas.edu, just my initial ZT at U Texas dot edu. Thanks everyone.
Dr. Rachel Blackburn
19:08 Rachel: Hi, this is Rachel Blackburn and here is my update. So since I last recorded the episode of personal finance for PhDs (Season 5, Episode 12), I actually got thinking about finance quite a bit. I was in a tenure track position, teaching as a professor, but I decided that the thought of not getting tenure, and that forthcoming potential instability was a little bit much for me. And I also considered what if I do get tenure and then I’m committing to this place for the long term and is that what I really want? And the thought hit me, when’s the last time I got to choose where I lived? I also took a look at the finances because I was teaching at a public university, I was able to take a look at salaries and I could see that even by the time I might get full professor, if that was what was in the cards for me, that my salary would not go up by a whole lot. It occurred to me that I really wouldn’t reach my financial goals. So I decided to leave academia.
20:18 Rachel: I’m still researching and publishing and writing, but I have left teaching and I’m now a learning consultant for a public company. In leaving my position as a professor and moving on to this company, I gave myself a 70% raise. I’m now making more than I would be if I were a full professor at my previous university. Now I’m learning all kinds of things about employee stock purchase plans and things like that. So that’s actually where I’m at now. I’m saving more money than I ever thought I would. And I feel like I’m meeting my goals a lot faster, so it’s great. And I’m still teaching, I just do it now on behalf of developing training material for a company. That’s where I’m at and thank you again. Good luck everyone! Bye!
21:19 Courtney: Hi! This is Courtney Danyel. I was on (Season 6) Episode 17 of Personal Finance for PhDs, and my topic was how freelancing can take your career from academia to affluence. And that’s my brand AcademiaToAffluence.com, where I teach other people with an academic background how they can learn to freelance and grow their online income like I did. We talked about how I actually only work maybe 15 or 20 hours a week, but I earn full-time income as a freelance writer. And the reason I’m able to do that is because I find writing gigs that are highly specialized in my niche and so I’m able to earn higher income for work that takes me less time to do.
22:04 Courtney: We also talked about how freelancing gave me the freedom to travel around the world and live wherever I want and so I’ve been spending the past seven years actually living in Africa, in Ethiopia. Since that episode, which was back in August, 2020, I’ve actually immigrated back to the United States, where I continue to freelance and I continue to work maybe 15 or 20 hours a week on that, but now actually have another part-time job here in the United States also. Another great thing about freelancing is that it gives you the flexibility if you wanna have multiple careers you can have them, and you can earn full-time wage as a part-time influencer and pursue a career in academia or elsewhere, which is really nice. That’s something that’s changed in life since I was first on the podcast.
22:53 Courtney: My best financial advice for any early career PhD is to diversify your income. Give yourself options. Be a freelancer, be an academic, have your own business, do something on the side, but never put all your eggs in one basket and always have options for yourself so that when life changes or you want to make a change, like I have recently, you can do that. If anyone has questions about applying your skills from academia to a freelance career like I have done, please do shoot me an email. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
23:36 Meryem: Hi everyone, this is Meryem Ok recording on Friday, November 26, 2021. While I typically work behind the scenes as an editor for the podcast, I was featured in Season 6, Episode 18, along with fellow Virtual Assistant Lourdes Bobbio, for an episode about Best Practices in Side Hustling During Graduate School. As I mentioned in that episode, one of the reasons that I’m grateful for my side hustle is that the extra income provides me with a cushion for those occasional purchases that might happen outside of my usual spending habits. This really comes in handy especially around this time of year when there are a lot of birthdays in my family, in addition to the holiday season, so my spending on gifts and eating out tends to spike up a bit.
24:24 Meryem: This past semester, one of the financial adjustments that I made was when my university moved from paying fellowship recipients on a monthly basis to a once-per-term model. At first, I was pretty uneasy about the change, but after talking to Emily and sitting in on some town halls, I felt more prepared and ready to strategize. When that first lump sum arrived in August, I immediately contributed part of it to my Roth IRA and moved most of the remainder into a high-yield savings account. If you want to learn more strategies, check out Emily’s blog post, “How to Financially Manage a Once-Per-Term Fellowship Paycheck.”
25:06 Meryem: As a personal and professional update, I recently changed my Twitter username, so it’s now @Meryem_T_Ok, if anyone is curious to learn more about my MD-PhD journey and intestinal stem cell research. Shoutout to all my fellow grad students on the research grind – I’m rooting for you and hope you have some time to recharge in the coming weeks.
25:37 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!
Emily: 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!
Emily: 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.