In this episode, Emily interviews Shelly Gaynor, a fifth-year PhD candidate in botany at the University of Florida. After learning of the possibility of a stipend decrease in her department last year, Shelly dedicated herself to raising the stipend in her department at UF. She and a partner even launched an app to collect stipend information from other biology departments around the US. Shelly shares everything she’s learned about the factors that influence how stipends are set and her advice for other stipend advocates. The interview concludes with a round-up of all the stipend and benefits advances Shelly has witnessed in her department, through her union’s negotiations, and at other institutions.
Links Mentioned in the Episode
- Shelly Gaynor (Twitter)
- Shelly Gaynor’s Website
- Biology PhD Stipends
- PF for PhDs Office Hours
- PF for PhDs Ask Me Anything on the PhD Home-Buying Process
- PF for PhDs S14E10 Show Notes
- PhD Stipends
- PF for PhDs Season 15
- Emily’s E-mail
- PF for PhDs Subscribe to Mailing List (Access Advice Document)
- PF for PhDs Podcast Hub (Show Notes)
00:00 Shelly: I think that the conversation has to focus on how competitive the stipend is. I think that is a focus of admins, at least here at UF. That is a big focus, is, you know, they want to compare themselves to other institutions and they want to look good. So, I think that comparison’s really important.
00:25 Emily: Welcome to the Personal Finance for PhDs Podcast: A Higher Education in Personal Finance. I’m your host, Dr. Emily Roberts, a financial educator specializing in early-career PhDs and founder of Personal Finance for PhDs. This podcast is for PhDs and PhDs-to-be who want to explore the hidden curriculum of finances to learn the best practices for money management, career advancement, and advocacy for yourself and others. This is Season 14, Episode 10, and today my guest is Shelly Gaynor, a fifth-year PhD candidate in botany at the University of Florida. After learning of the possibility of a stipend decrease last year, Shelly dedicated herself to raising the stipend in her department at UF. She and a partner even launched an app to collect stipend information from other biology departments around the U.S. Shelly shares everything she’s learned about the factors that influence how stipends are set and her advice for other stipend advocates. The interview concludes with a round-up of all the stipend and benefits advances Shelly has witnessed in her department, through her union’s negotiations, and at other institutions.
01:40 Emily: There are some free recurring opportunities to meet with me that I’d like you to be aware of. First, my Office Hours are back! I set aside 30 minutes once per month to chat with up to 4 early-career PhDs about whatever money-related questions or topics you’d like to bring up. I’ve set the dates for these sessions through August 2023. Register for any of them at PFforPhDs.com/officehours/. Second, through at least September 2023, I’m hosting a monthly Ask Me Anything on mortgages and being a first-time homebuyer with Sam Hogan. Sam is a mortgage originator specializing in early-career PhDs, an advertiser with Personal Finance for PhDs, and my brother. If you are considering or embarking on the home-buying process and have a question about any aspect of it, please join us! Register for the next session at PFforPhDs.com/mortgage/. I hope to see you in one of these calls in the coming months! You can find the show notes for this episode at PFforPhDs.com/s14e10/. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Shelly Gaynor.
Will You Please Introduce Yourself Further?
03:07 Emily: It’s really a special day on the podcast because today I get to interview Shelly Gaynor, a fifth-year PhD candidate in botany at the University of Florida. You may recognize Shelly’s name because she is one of the people behind an advocacy campaign and research campaign around raising stipends in her department and across the field of biology. And that’s gotten a lot of attention in the past year. So, Shelly, thank you so much for agreeing to come on the podcast. I’m really looking forward to speaking with you today! Will you please introduce yourself a little bit further for the audience?
03:40 Shelly: Well, thanks for having me! I study evolutionary biology of flowering plants here at UF and hopefully will be done in about a year.
03:49 Emily: Yeah, that’s great. So, regarding the project that I just mentioned, is there a name? How should we refer to the project?
03:56 Shelly: We call it Biology PhD Stipends.
Biology PhD Stipends
03:59 Emily: Okay. Biology PhD Stipends. So, what motivated you to start to advocate around raising stipends in your own department, which ultimately led to Biology PhD Stipends?
04:11 Shelly: So, I started advocating more formally during my fourth year of grad school. I was starting to plan out my timeline and figure out when I was going to finish my PhD, and it became very obvious that I really should take six years. We had always planned for me to take six years, but I hoped not to because I really didn’t plan for the cost of living to increase so much in Gainesville. Every year, it seemed that rent went up about a hundred dollars, but the cost of living increased even more as we moved through the pandemic. And, you know, friends everywhere were struggling, not just here, but it was very noticeable here that people were starting to struggle to afford to live. So, at first I put together a document with about four other students that outlined what the current salary meant in Gainesville, what was the take-home after taxes, tuition, fees, and health insurance, and how far did that money actually go in Gainesville.
05:05 Shelly: And the conclusion was that it doesn’t cover the average cost. Students are expected to be rent burdened and spend more than 30% of their income on rent, and they could also be health burdened and spend more than 7.5% of their income on health costs due to our really high out-of-pocket maximum. At the same time as we put together this document and distributed it through our department, at the college level, there were discussions about how to deal with the decreasing teaching assistants’ budget. And they had decided that a group of faculty were the ones who had to decide how to decrease this budget, how to deal with those decreases. And one of my dissertation committee members was a part of that committee, and he let me know about discussions regarding cutting the graduate teaching assistant pay and standardizing it across the college. And this is when I started to collect data.
06:05 Emily: That’s a bit shocking. What was the reason behind the overall budget decreasing? Is that enrollment decreasing or something further than that?
06:14 Shelly: I think it had to do, based on the documents that I’ve read, with just general flow of money, there was a line that used to go into OPS budget, which is what the teaching assistants come from, and that had been diverted elsewhere. So, they had to deal with this ongoing decrease, and the provost gave them funds for a few years to help them cover this change, but the decrease was still coming because that revenue flow wasn’t supposed to be there originally. And they just had to start to account for that.
06:48 Emily: It’s not that I don’t appreciate the budgetary strains that I think universities and schools and departments and so forth are dealing with, but it seems to me that making the budget balance seems to be too often placed on the shoulders of the graduate students and it becomes their responsibility. And the effects on them are real <laugh>. They don’t eat as much or they don’t get the type of food that they want. They don’t live in safe housing, et cetera, et cetera. Instead of being a more, I don’t know, academic exercise <laugh> to cut it elsewhere. I think it’s so unfortunate that the budget is balanced on the backs of teaching assistants, for example. Okay. So, you heard that this was a possibility of there’s not even less work to go around, it’s just the same amount of work and potentially for less pay. You started doing the research route, the actual cost of living, what the stipends were.
07:50 Shelly: And there is a happy ending to at least that part is that they did not cut, you know, graduate TA stipends. That was not the end result.
07:58 Emily: So, what happened? What did they do?
08:01 Shelly: They did allocate differently and they cut the overall amount of TA lines rather than individuals’ pay.
08:07 Emily: Okay. So, the work was just distributed among fewer people, but those people were not paid less than they were before. Is that right?
08:16 Shelly: Yes.
08:17 Emily: Okay.
08:17 Shelly: From my understanding.
Building an Argument
08:19 Emily: So, when you started collecting this information and to make this argument for not just maintaining but increasing the stipends, what elements were you looking at to include in this argument?
08:31 Shelly: So, since we put together that document about, you know, how does the pay go in Gainesville, how far does that go? I focused on what would convince those who weren’t swayed by student conditions, what would the admins want to see? And I talked to a ton of faculty and leaders at my institution, but mostly others. And what I learned from that was, you know, you need to know who controls the budget and you need to focus on the importance of hierarchy. So, there are different budget systems at universities, and from my understanding, at the University of Florida, the budget is determined by our provost and our board of trustees. Now, to get to that provost and board of trustees, the faculty members need to convince the department chair to then go to the college and the dean who then can go to the provost and board of trustees.
09:22 Shelly: So, that was part one, is that, you know, it’s a hierarchy that people need to be talking up the list so that everyone cares and is pushing for this agenda item. Now, the second part is that benchmarking is really important. At the college level, and at the university level, the main administration offices should be doing benchmarking. And what I mean by that is two parts. So first we have internal benchmarking, which is just assessing the current status of students. For example, within our department, we found we have 19 different pay rates for the same work. So, are TA positions are at 19 different rates. We also looked into the yield rate, which is the percent of students who accept our offer to come to our program. And we found that in three years, we went from 80% to about 55%. The next step is external benchmarking, and that’s pure institution comparisons, and that is what my database was made for.
10:25 Emily: So, the internal and the external benchmarking, you targeted these as areas that you could, I guess, assist with or bring your own data to. But were the administrators and you know, this hierarchy, people in this chain of command, they were already doing this, right? Or were you bringing different data to them? How were you supplementing the process that they were already engaged in?
10:49 Shelly: So, supposedly they were doing benchmarking and they have presented data at the board of trustees meetings, but it doesn’t match my data. And even if I cherry-pick my data, I can’t find a way to make it match. And one of the reasons is because they’re combining med programs with college of liberal arts and science programs and calling that biology. So yes, we do look a lot better when you take the students who are funded by the med school versus colleges that only fund based on liberal arts and graduate TA ships.
11:22 Emily: So, in your mind, they weren’t really comparing apples to apples, they were conflating a couple of different groups together?
11:28 Shelly: Exactly.
11:29 Emily: Okay. So, the process that you were engaged in was, you were thinking, presenting higher quality data than the ones that they were using in their discussions to hopefully go up this chain to the decision makers. Is that right?
11:42 Shelly: Kind of. I also wanted the data to be accessible at the faculty level. So, when we talked to other faculty, they would ask me, you know, what about the other institutions? Like, that was actually a conversation that we already started having. So, it made sense to collect our own data so that we had something to show.
11:59 Emily: Gotcha. So, it seems like the conception of Biology PhD Stipends was to be able to compare, do this external benchmarking from the University of Florida, but also many other universities would be able to use this data as well to do this external benchmarking. And you mentioned my database, PhD Stipends, which is self-reported and a starting point I would say, but you approached things a little bit differently with Biology PhD Stipends. So, can you explain to us how you were collecting this data?
12:33 Shelly: We should rewind a bit. So, originally I just made a plot of 40 or so departments and realized they didn’t meet the living wage. And once I tweeted that and got a lot of feedback from other departments, that’s when we made it public. The reason why it’s different than PhD Stipends and not self-reported is because admin don’t always want to believe that data. And so we got a ton of pushback saying, well, you know, these are self-reported, they’re probably less, they probably account for taxes already and fees, and that’s not, you know, what we’re looking at. So, we don’t trust this data. Bye. You know, they would push it away. So, my goal was to have something that an admin couldn’t push away, couldn’t discredit, to do as much due diligence as possible. We even have an option on our website to only look at nine-month salaries versus 12-month, even though those nine-month agreements are the only money you’re getting for the whole year. We still allow those divisions so that if that’s where the pushback comes from, you can already see the data that way.
Phases of Data Collection
13:44 Emily: Okay. So, I guess I’m asking maybe two phases. So first phase, when you were collecting data and you created this chart that then later got more attention, where did that data come from?
13:55 Shelly: So, part of that data came from my undergrad institution and from faculty members there who had collected internal or external benchmarking measurements for their own efforts. And the rest of it came from searching the internet or there was this one Google sheet with a couple links in it for EEB stipends. So ecology and evolutionary biology stipends. And I worked from there. So, I just started searching biology PhD stipends to see if I could find reported stipends online.
14:26 Emily: Okay. So, this is what departments themselves say about what they’re paying their students, is that right?
14:31 Shelly: Yes.
14:32 Emily: It’s interesting that, and I understand it, but that the administrators didn’t want to trust the self-reported data in PhD Stipends, for example. But I don’t trust what they put on their websites. You know, you have to get both sides of the story. Right? Okay. But you went with the self-reported in terms of the administrative self-reporting side of things for that initial set of 40 schools. And then you said you tweeted, it got lots of attention as <laugh> I’m sure anyone would be interested. And then how did you expand the data from there?
15:01 Shelly: I started talking with faculty members at a lot of different institutions as a student rep for the Botanical Society of America. And that gave me a lot of connections within my field. And so I knew faculty members at lots of different institutions and I made a Google form and had different faculty members test it out to see if they could report data accurately and if it made sense. And I, in some cases, sent it to two people at one university to see if they would report the same thing. And then we made the shiny app. Part of the reason it was a shiny app which is just a version of R, it’s an interactive R-based plot, that you can put on a website was because my significant other had just launched another shiny app. So it was like, okay, I’m going to learn how to make a shiny app with this data to make it accessible. So, we made the Google form, we put up the shiny app, and we went from there.
15:57 Emily: I guess I’m still wondering a little bit about this data collection process. It doesn’t seem too dissimilar actually from what we’re doing at PhD Stipends, but you mentioned like internally within, I can’t remember if it was your department, you said there were like 19 different pay rates. So how, if you approach a faculty member at a different department, at a different university and say, what are you paying your graduate students? How do they know which pay rate they’re supposed to choose?
16:20 Shelly: So we asked for the minimum, what is your lowest paid PhD student in your department at this time? Not in the incoming class, but in the class that still exists. Who is your lowest paid? What is that rate? And that’s what we’re looking for. We make that very clear on our Google form. And that’s why I sent it to many faculty members was, Hey, does this make sense? Do you know what you’re reporting? Yeah. And the cool thing is that a lot of faculty or a lot of different departments have been reported more than once. So we can go through, compare the wages, figure out what’s going on, and a lot of times it’s the same, which I think is really important to see.
16:59 Emily: Do you get back zeros? Are they reporting that there are unfunded students or is that something that you explicitly exclude?
17:08 Shelly: So, if you don’t have an appointment, a 0.5 FTE, then no, we’re not including you. It’s only if you have a work appointment. In biology, it’s very rare to enroll in a program and not have an associated research assistantship or teaching assistantship. And if that’s the case, run, like don’t be part of that program
17:33 Emily: Yeah. In that field for sure. And then I’m also wondering about people who are not employees, but who rather are paid from what I call awarded income or fellowship income. I’m assuming they’re not included in this survey?
17:47 Shelly: No, they are not.
17:51 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude! We’re doing something special for Season 15 of this podcast, and as a loyal listener, I know you’re going to want to be involved. Season 15 will be a chance to share your financial experiences, even if you don’t want to give a full-episode interview or want to remain anonymous. We’re going to publish compilation episodes around certain themes, and each episode will feature at least a half-dozen different contributors. The contributions can be audio clips or written text that I will read aloud for the episode. If you are interested in contributing, check out PFforPhDs.com/season15/. That’s the digits 1 5. On that page, you’ll find a list of the proposed themes and how many volunteers I’ve identified for each episode. Your next step is to email me at emily@PFforPhDs.com to let me know which episode you’d like to contribute to or if you have another idea for the list. Once I’m confident that we have enough contributions for an episode to be created, I’ll give the volunteers specific prompts and directions to create their submissions. I hope you will choose to participate in this unique season! I can’t do it without you, so please get in touch! Now back to the interview.
Reallocating Funds for TAs
19:14 Emily: So, what happened as the database gained traction?
19:18 Shelly: Okay, so nothing happened here at UF Biology in response to the database gaining traction. Eventually, maybe seven months later, I ended up presenting at faculty meeting and our faculty signed a letter saying they wanted to increase salaries, but then they had voted against every option to increase salaries at the department level. Within a department, there are many ways other institutions have been able to successfully increase TA salaries. It might not be by a lot, but things that other institutions have done include converting faculty hire lines into teaching assistantship salaries. Many have reevaluated the teaching assignments and decreased their TA needs to then reallocate funds. Many admit fewer students. One cool one was fundraising to top up students, which is kind of fun to see. And then another that’s more controversial is that programs have required principal investigators to cover summer pay.
20:21 Emily: Okay. So, all of these options were sort of in the mix. Maybe this could happen, but specifically none of them were agreed to.
20:29 Shelly: Yeah, not so far. We’ll see over time how that changes. I hope that they you know, look at the TA allocations. I think that’s something in the works, but it just hasn’t started yet.
20:42 Emily: So, that’s what was happening at UF. Have you seen other reactions or other effects at other institutions?
20:50 Shelly: Yes, and so I think that’s the more positive side. I’ve seen about 50 salary increases in biology departments across the country this year. We’ve had a lot of users on our site, about 12,000 unique users and a lot of submissions and corrections. It’s always good to hear that it’s been helpful in discussions in other departments and successful in some cases.
21:16 Emily: Yeah, that’s awesome. And you’ve had people like directly attribute like, Hey, we use this data to make this argument. Yeah. That’s amazing. Well, thank you so much for doing this work, and I’m so glad it has had some positive effects for some other people not necessarily at your institution.
Behind-the-Scenes Factors for Administrators
21:32 Emily: Okay. We touched on this a little bit earlier but let’s expand. So, what have you learned about the behind-the-scenes factors that administrators are weighing when they set stipends? And in learning that, do you have any advice for people at other institutions who are advocating for stipend increases?
21:50 Shelly: I think that the conversation has to focus on how competitive the stipend is. I think that is a focus of admins, at least here at UF. That is a big focus is, you know, they want to compare themselves to other institutions and they want to look good. So, I think that comparison’s really important. From that and from behind the scenes, I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is advocacy has to happen at every level. You need to be having conversations about pay with your faculty members, and they need to have those conversations with the chair. And the chair needs to be pushing. Everyone has to push for change to happen. And not only that, the money needs to come from somewhere. We just saw that with the UC system, that in some cases in response to this amazing bargaining agreement, departments are cutting the FTE to be able to afford the pay. So, identifying where the money can come from would also be something important to administrators.
22:55 Emily: So far, these levels that you mentioned, I suspect would’ve stopped at the university president, but how about going up to the state level or federal level? Have you given thought to advocacy at those levels yet?
23:08 Shelly: To an extent, yes. In Florida, our universities can submit funding requests in order to raise stipends. And so, Florida State University was actually able to do that. So, they got that from the state, but I haven’t thought about advocacy at that level because I’m in Florida. And I don’t think it would be successful at this time. They would rather have the war against academia than work with us. So, I don’t think that’s a conversation we’ll have here.
23:39 Emily: Yeah, I was thinking about it, because I live in California, when the UC strike was going on like that again, the responsibility for balancing the budget should not be on the backs of the graduate students. It needs to be at the state level, it needs to be at the federal level. And I agree it’s a much harder road to hoe in Florida than it is in some other states. So yes, thank you for those comments. So, I understand that you have a union at UF for graduate students. Is that just for TAs or is it for research assistants? How many people does it cover?
Graduate Assistants United
24:10 Shelly: So, it is called Graduate Assistants United, and it covers teaching assistants. So, as a fellowship recipient right now, it doesn’t technically cover me.
24:20 Emily: Okay. And so what work is the union doing on campus, and how does your Biology PhD Stipends project fit into that?
24:31 Shelly: So, our union is currently bargaining, and in the past they have won tuition waivers, health insurance coverage, and some increases including about a thousand dollars increase to the minimum last year. Biology PhD students are paid more than the minimum. So my data really isn’t helpful for our union because they’re really focused on that minimum and bringing the minimum up.
24:56 Emily: Okay. So the union has made some strides, but your biology department already being above those minimums, it’s a little bit not so relevant. But is there anything else that you want to say about how your work can complement the union efforts?
25:11 Shelly: So, our union is still currently bargaining and they have made past wins, like I mentioned. One thing that makes it really hard in Florida is we’re a no-strike state. So, that puts a lot of burden on what advocacy can be done. As we’ve seen strikes have been, you know, really successful in unions across the country. And with that off the table, I think it’s really difficult to bargain here.
25:36 Emily: Yeah, as I’m learning more and more about this topic of unionization, and because I work nationally, that’s something I need to keep in mind. That not everything operates the same in every single state. It’s really kind of a heterogeneous map. So, then what is the current status of the minimum stipend in your college?
25:56 Shelly: So, at our university, it’s now $17,000, but in the biology department, we found out that our master’s students are actually paid $18,000 while our PhD students are at $20,500 as the minimum. So, this is the same minimum we started at when we started the biology stipends database, but new students who are incoming, there’s a slight win that for the next four years in their degree, the first four years of their degree, they’ll be paid $24,000. So that we see as a win, even if it doesn’t really help the rest of us. There was also an increase in the maximum research assistantships that our faculty were allowed to write into their grants, so that now has increased as well. One other, I would say exciting increase partially because my dissertation advisor was a part of this, our biodiversity institute was able to increase their nine-month fellowships to 30,000, which is a big win.
26:58 Emily: Yeah, I’m so pleased about those things. I’m a little bit surprised actually that the raises that were given didn’t apply to current graduate students and only incoming. Do you know any more about the reasoning behind that?
27:11 Shelly: That has to do with how the university allocates funds. So, in order to, you know, recruit good students, they have funds that are only earmarked for recruitment and incoming students, and those are only four-year fellowships. So, that’s what the funds come from and sadly, they cannot be applied to current students.
27:33 Emily: I guess this is the dangerous downside of using that external benchmarking specifically as a comparison in terms of recruiting other students, is that they can then use that logic of, well, we already have students enrolled, we don’t need to worry about them leaving, we’re just going to focus on recruiting that next class with this extra money. So, a little bit sorry to hear that, but good for them. And thank you again for doing the work that you do to at least benefit those incoming students and really your department overall, if not the older classes. Okay.
Advice for Prospective Students
28:05 Emily: So, what advice, you know, speaking of prospective graduate students and being recruited and so forth, what advice do you have for prospective graduate students in light of everything that you’ve learned through this process?
28:15 Shelly: Yeah, so I just had two undergrads I mentor apply to PhD programs. And one thing I kept telling them was, know your worth and ask for more, and actively discuss pay. Ask students in your potential lab and department how much they get paid now and what opportunities exist at their institution after you’re enrolled. Just because we know that these, you know, top-ups to get you there exist in those only last four years when our programs could last much longer. So, having those conversations as you interview at institutions is really important. I just think that we really have to open the door to conversations about pay and financial wellbeing during that recruitment process, make it not taboo, really just open that dialogue. So yeah, if your prospective, I definitely say talk about it.
29:07 Emily: That component of your answer was about gathering data, right? As a prospective graduate student, what are you being paid? And I would add onto that, of course, the qualitative, how does that feel, <laugh>, are you able to live well enough? Right? But you mentioned when you first started answering, ask for more. So what do you think about that process?
29:24 Shelly: So, I’ve never done it myself, but when I was applying to grad school, a current PhD student in my lab told me, you know, apply to multiple places and then tell them how much the other institution’s gonna pay you. He said he did it successfully, and that is the only time I’ve ever heard of that working. But, you know, if an institution really wants you, they’ll find more funds if you need, like, if they really truly do or at least I think they will.
29:51 Emily: Yeah, I fortunately in my line of work have come across many examples of people using that kind of strategy and also the strategy of, I won this external fellowship. If I bring it to your institution, you know, what are you going to do for me? Et cetera, et cetera. Those kinds of strategies, I mean, they’re not universally successful, but some people do have success with it. Your comment of if they really want you, then they’re going to find more money. I don’t know, I don’t know if that’s true, but I think they should at least respond to you very respectfully and understand why you’re asking for this and explain to you at the kind of the things that you’ve learned. Well, you know, our hands are tied in this way and we have to standardize this and this and this, but we do really want you. And you know, they, they may be able to find another way to make up for it that’s not financial, at least with verbal affirmation, we hope, alone. So yes, these strategies can be successful sometimes. Any other advice for prospective graduate students?
30:42 Shelly: I think on that same line read the fine line print, like if a fellowship is only gonna be four years, ask for the other for what’s left over to be covered. If you’re on a research assistantship that pays more than your teaching assistantship in the department and that research assistantship only asked x number of years, ask to see if there are funds available to make it equivalent. In some cases there won’t be, you’re completely correct, but if there is, it’s good to know about them going in and if there isn’t, it’s good to know about them going in.
31:16 Emily: And I just think this process of asking, even if you don’t get anything from it, which I certainly hope that people will, and I think they do sometimes. I think just the process of asking signals to the DGS or whoever is you’re asking that they can go up the chain as you were saying earlier, this is an issue that is important to the graduate students that we are recruiting. And even if they can’t do anything right then for that student who’s in front of them, it goes into, you know, the anecdotes and the data that they’re collecting to make those arguments for more fellowships or higher stipends or whatever the case it is going forward. So, even if you don’t see an immediate yes result, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to have a positive effect downstream. And really that’s kind of the lesson that we’ve seen from your work overall, right? Like there have been some, you know, gains here, gains there, marginal gains here, and it’s certainly helped a lot of other people quite a bit. So, like you never really know what the end result is going to be from that ask or from that data that you collect.
32:13 Shelly: Yeah, I definitely agree. Even having the conversations about if someone brings a fellowship, we should top them up is important and something that GRFPers who received that award while they’ve been here, have been having with the department here. So, I do think just asking can have a lot of impacts.
32:35 Emily: Yeah, I literally gave that advice to someone I was speaking to last night. A current first-year graduate student won the NSF GRFP, her stipend’s going to go up by $10K for those three years. And I said, just ask, just ask for that fifth year, sixth year, whatever it’s going to be at that 10K bonus or closer at least, and it really does no harm. Just ask.
Best Financial Advice for Another Early-Career PhD
32:56 Emily: Well, Shelly, I so appreciate you coming on the podcast and sharing this information with us, and I really hope that the listeners will take some of these strategies and lessons that you’ve learned and certainly the database itself if they’re in your field, and use those for a positive effect on stipends at their own universities. And then to wrap up here, I want to ask you the question that I ask of all my guests, which is, what is your best financial advice for another early-career PhD? And that could be something that we’ve touched on already in this interview, or it could be something completely new.
33:26 Shelly: Yeah, so I went back and forth with my family about what makes sense, and one thing that I live by, save when you can and try to live within your means. And I know that’s a really hard thing to do when we’re talking about stipends not meeting the living wage. But as you move through your career, I think it’s important to keep that in mind.
33:49 Emily: I had an experience in my own life where, you know, sometimes the opportunity to earn money can be there and sometimes it cannot. And I just told myself, make hay while the sun shines <laugh>. when you have the chance, earn the money that you can, put away the money that you can because at some point that sun will stop shining. Whether that’s because of something, you know, decided for you by your university or other personal circumstances and it’s just such a peace of mind that you could have something to fall back on in those cases.
34:17 Shelly: Yeah, I definitely believe in a rainy day fund and having funds saved up.
34:23 Emily: Well, Shelly, thank you so much again for coming on the podcast and giving this interview. And for anybody wondering, you know, where to find all the great work that you’ve been doing and there’s been articles about your database and so forth, we’ll link all of that stuff from the show notes. So, thank you so much again for coming on and sharing your insights!
34:39 Shelly: No problem.
34:45 Emily: Listeners, thank you for joining me for this episode! I have a gift for you! You know that final question I ask of all my guests regarding their best financial advice? My team has collected short summaries of all the answers ever given on the podcast into a document that is updated with each new episode release. You can gain access to it by registering for my mailing list at PFforPhDs.com/advice/. Would you like to access transcripts or videos of each episode? I link the show notes for each episode from PFforPhDs.com/podcast/. 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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