In this episode, Emily interviews Dr. Lubos Brieda, a PhD in aerospace engineering who is now a full-time consultant in the aerospace industry. Lubos’s solopreneur journey during grad school started with blogging about scientific computing and a part-time job at NASA on top of his assistantship. Lubos gives great advice on how to start consulting as a graduate student and how to transition it into your full-time job after your PhD, emphasizing making connections and choosing the right structure for your business. This episode is perfect for any graduate student or PhD who is interested in being their own boss and providing services within their area of expertise for multiple clients instead of pursuing the traditional employee route.
Links Mentioned in this Episode
- Plasma Simulations by Example (Lubos’ Book)
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
- PF for PhDs Community
- Simplified Employee Pension (SEP)
- PF for PhDs Best Financial Practices for Your Self-Employment Side Hustle
- PF for PhDs S10E5: Entering a PhD Program with Significant Debt and Investments (Money Story with Alexandra Savinkina)
- PF for PhDs Podcast Hub
- PF for PhDs Subscribe to Mailing List
- Lubos’ Website
- Lubos’ Twitter (@iamlubos)
00:00 Lubos: Whatever niche topic you might be into, and you might think like, oh, nobody else cares about this. You will find the audience for this. Just by simply the mathematics of how many people are in the world, you’ll find somebody interested in this audience. And so, you know, for all the kind of PhD students these days, you know, whatever interests you, do not hesitate to kind of put it out into the world. I mean like, there will be somebody interested in what you’re doing.
00:28 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 15, and today my guest is Dr. Lubos Brieda, a PhD in aerospace engineering who is now a full-time consultant in the aerospace industry. Lubos’s solopreneur journey during grad school started with blogging about scientific computing and a part-time job at NASA on top of his assistantship. Lubos gives great advice on how to start consulting as a graduate student and how to transition it into your full-time job after your PhD, emphasizing making connections and choosing the right structure for your business. This episode is perfect for any graduate student or PhD who is interested in becoming their own boss and providing services within their area of expertise for multiple clients instead of pursuing the traditional employee route. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Dr. Lubos Brieda.
Will You Please Introduce Yourself Further?
01:32 Emily: I am delighted to have joining me on the podcast today, Dr. Lubos Brieda. He has a PhD in aerospace engineering from George Washington, and he is now self-employed analyzing spacecraft plasma, propulsion, and contamination controls. He’s going to tell us a lot more about that. That is the subject of our interview today, how Lubos became self-employed during graduate school, and how that became his full-time thing after graduate school. So those of you who have aspirations to become your own boss or become entrepreneurs, this will be a really interesting conversation for you. So Lubos, will you please introduce yourself to the audience a little bit further?
02:07 Lubos: Well, thank you, Emily. Thank you for having me. So again, my name is Lubos Brieda, and I have a bachelor’s from Virginia Tech and also a master’s from Virginia Tech in aerospace engineering. And after I finished my grad school, my master’s, I worked for three years at the Air Force Research Lab at Edwards, California. And then after working there for some years, I basically realized that I would like to go back to school and do something more, you know, have the opportunity to actually be my own researcher, and my own investigator. And this is something that a PhD would kind of allow me to have this role. And an opportunity came up to go back to the east coast into Washington DC. And I joined a program at the George Washington University. And during that time, I basically started doing a little bit of a consulting on the side. And after I graduated, this actually morphed into my full-time job. And so, essentially, I’ve never had a real job besides except for the three years stint between my master’s and my PhD. Because from the time I graduated with my PhD, I was essentially working for myself as my own boss with its own, you know, pros and cons.
Blogging in Grad School
03:17 Emily: Yeah. It sounds like a smooth transition. We’ll find out more about that right now. So I understand that this whole self-employment thing started with blogging. So can you tell us more about like, why you started blogging during graduate school?
03:30 Lubos: Yeah. So, actually what happened was, the reason I ended up working at AFRL is because the Air Force Research Lab was funding my graduate work at Virginia Tech. And so when I came in, I essentially developed some code and some simulation programs for the Air Force. And so when I moved over to AFRL, I, you know, worked on the code a little bit more and helped develop additional features. And so when I left for a PhD, there was still a need for me to essentially kind of provide like, you know, consulting services to AFRL because I was the primary author. So when some questions came up, I would help out with that. So, really my first experience with consulting was actually doing the sort of hourly work for AFRL.
04:16 Lubos: But at the same time, I also kind of realized that, you know, there’s this huge gap in the scientific computing field between what’s really available in, let’s say textbooks, that will introduce only like the basic equations for like, you know, how some solder should be written. And then in the journal papers, they only discuss kind of the outcome of it. Like, you know, basically saying like we used this technique and we got these nice graphs, but there was really this missing gap in the middle that actually shows you how to go from the equation to the results, how to actually physically implement it on a computer. And so I started kind of working on this, you know, related to my own field of plasma propulsion. I started writing these in a blog article that actually tried to illustrate how you would actually implement these solders.
05:02 Lubos: And this blog actually became quite popular. And you know, it led actually to quite a lot of additional business opportunities. I started teaching online classes, I got a book published. I’m just going to do a promo. So basically this book is a summary of the course of that came out of my blog. And it’s just been a really good opportunity to actually kind of how, by having a website, I was able to attract this audience because there was this big need for this kind of a niche topic. And people just found it and just, you know, started reaching out to me.
05:34 Emily: Is it fair to say that what you were blogging about was what you were learning in graduate school, or maybe what other graduate students were learning, like to take what you were saying earlier? Like what you read in a textbook, maybe that’s at the undergraduate level versus what you see published in a journal that’s quite advanced and to bridge those two, is that fair?
05:54 Lubos: That’s absolutely correct. That’s right.
You Will Find an Audience
05:56 Emily: Yeah. And so, I’m just trying to think about how we can, you know, how the listener can think about, be inspired by your story. And like, I do think that blogging or practicing some kind of communication around what you’re learning in graduate school, like a learn with me kind of model, can be really powerful, especially as you discovered, you know, no one was yet doing that in your niche, and you were able to step in and do that. So like wow. What a good technique, like, that’s a great idea.
06:22 Lubos: You know, I think that people need to realize that, you know, the internet or the world is huge. So I think really what the internet allows us to do is that whatever niche topic you might be into, and you might think like, oh, nobody else cares about this. You will find the audience for this. By simply the mathematics of how many people are in the world, you will find somebody interested in this audience. And so, you know, for all the kind of PhD students these days, you know, whatever interests you like do not hesitate to kind of put it out into the world. I mean, like there’ll be somebody interested in what you think.
Primary Income Source: Government Contracts
06:53 Emily: You just told us a few different ways that you ultimately monetized this, you know, the subject that you’re blogging about and so forth. I was just wondering which of those you actually did during graduate school? The teaching or the courses or the whatever, you know, what you just listed.
07:07 Lubos: Right. So there was actually another kind of side of it. So, I mean, I do blogging, but really the blogging is really more, just a way to actually get real customers. So my real income is not from blogging. It’s not from courses. I mean, I’ve made, you know, like up to now I’ve probably generated something like $80,000 from the courses alone, but that’s, you know, over like, you know, many years. But my main income is actually from government contracts. I’m actually doing like real analysis for customers. And what really the blog allows me to do is that, you know, people find me and people say, Hey, this person has a set of skills that I might be interested in. Let me hire this person to do some contract work. So, I mean, that really is my primary source of income, even up to this day. I support quite a large number of clients. You know, I have clients from NASA, Air Force, all the primary aerospace companies. And, you know, they come to me and, you know, we get some little contract, you know, some statement of work written down, and then I do some analysis for them as needed.
08:03 Emily: I think that’s really, really good information for the listener, especially like, I don’t know. I think I became maybe a little bit too enamored with like the online entrepreneur space where people are all about like selling courses and selling eBooks and selling these like passive products. But really, the fastest way to get a business off the ground is selling services. And you’ve done both of this, but you’re being transparent now that yeah, the bulk of your income comes from the services side rather than the passive income side of things, which I think is very, totally typical. So how is it that you like got this? Well, I mean, it sounds like you had a consulting client from, you know, your employer prior to starting your PhD. How did you land your first consulting client aside from that company?
Landing Consulting Clients
08:45 Lubos: Yeah, so there’ve been actually a few, but really the main contract, so also when I was working, when I was doing my PhD, I took a side job and I started working at NASA Goddard in Maryland. And I was working there as a part-time employee, you know, kind of was still in school. And while I was at NASA, I managed to get quite, you know, I made a lot of connections, you know, with a lot of people. So basically the reason I was brought in is because a friend of mine that actually used to work at AFRL with me, he got a job at NASA and he identified a sort of need for a certain skill set, something that I was really good at. So it was something that, you know, he really didn’t have the time to work on.
09:29 Lubos: And so he identified me as somebody who would come in and actually help NASA Goddard, you know, with this particular need that was there. And so I came in and I, you know, worked on this project. And doing this kind of led to meeting a lot of people at NASA. And so, at this time I was working as a government contractor through one of the contracting firms. So maybe your listeners, maybe in the aerospace field, are more familiar with this, but a lot of work in, you know, centers like NASA with so many of these research labs is actually done by contractors. So there’s only a small subset of government civilians who are essentially kind of the top-level people controlling the purse, the budget, but most of the technical work is actually done by contractors.
10:11 Lubos: And so, I came as a contractor with the understanding that when I graduate, my salary will essentially increase to a more competitive range, because I came in just kind of like a, you know, better than McDonald’s money, but I was really not making like what you would expect to make as a PhD engineer. Which is fine when I was in school, it was just a little bit of extra spending money for me. But unfortunately when I graduated, I went to my contracting company boss and said, “Hey, I graduated now. So can we renegotiate my salary?” And basically they said, “Oh, we give you like a 2% raise.” And I was like, this is not going to fly.
10:48 Lubos: And so, in the meantime, since I made all these connections and already had my business, you know, kind of set up because of these other works, I already had like a legal entity. I was actually able to roll over all my contracts at NASA to my own firm. So that instead of paying, you know, some middleman to essentially hand me a paycheck, I just, you know, became my own middleman essentially. So I was able to actually also give a much better value to the government because my overhead was a lot less than what the other company before was paying. And so that kind of led to that. So one of my, really, I think my kind of big intro into this was that I you know, started actually supporting work at NASA Goddard kind of more not full-time, but close to full time. And also at the same time, my advisor and I, we wrote a grant that was based on my dissertation work. So then I’m getting funded. There’s this program called SBIR, Small Business Innovative Research, that a lot of these government agencies essentially fund. And so we were able to get SBIR funding to do some additional follow-on work on my PhD. So that was kind of another, like a big contract that also kind of materialized around the same time.
11:56 Emily: So, it sounds to me like you weren’t necessarily like a traditional PhD student in the sense that you only worked for your advisor doing your research and you were paid like an assistantship salary. It sounded like you had sort of a foot in the real working world, although part-time, and a foot while you’re finishing your PhD. And it was sort of a more gradual shift over to, okay, well now I’m done with the PhD and now I’m fully working for myself. And I love the idea of cutting out the middle person and, you know, you’re going to be a contractor anyway. So just work for yourself instead of for a third party. That makes a lot of sense.
Navigating PhD Research and Outside Work
12:26 Emily: So, given that you had this, what might sound a little bit unusual to some of my listeners different like approach to working, like how did you sort of manage finishing your PhD and having a great relationship with your advisor with doing this outside work, whether it was for, you know, as an official contractor for NASA Goddard or your own side stuff?
12:46 Lubos: Yeah. So I was working about 20 hours a week at NASA. It was, you know, a part-time job. But yeah, I mean, it definitely involved a lot of late nights, which I think a lot of PhDs are kind of familiar with anyway. But you know, I think the bottom line is we need to make money. You know, and I lived in DC. DC is expensive. And, you know, I was lucky to also have a stipend. I was receiving a stipend, but, you know, George Washington paid, you know, fairly good money. But still, you know, just going off my memory, it’s probably maybe around $2000 a month or whatnot. And just the rent, you know, can eat up like, you know, a huge chunk of that. So it’s really difficult to survive just on the stipend alone.
13:23 Lubos: So, you know, part of the reason I took these opportunities was to make more income, but also it actually ended up being a very symbiotic relationship too, because, you know, the work that I was working on at NASA is very related to what my advisor was researching, what basically I was researching for my own PhD. And so they were actually able to generate connections that would then actually help my own advisor actually get his own foot in the door at NASA and get additional, you know, contracts for him. So I think it actually worked out really well.
13:52 Emily: Yeah, I’m really impressed with this journey. And I’m also kind of, I’m a little bit surprised, honestly, that, I don’t know if it was your advisor or department and whoever, allowed this working relationship. Allowed a 20 hour per week outside position while you were still, you know, receiving a stipend, but was that just on the basis that yeah, you’re putting in the hours, like that 20 hour a week position did not affect your, you know, main progress on your dissertation.
14:15 Lubos: That’s right. And I’m also, you know, I’m a believer of you know, it’s better to ask for forgiveness later, than ask for permission first. So I mean, you know I was essentially paid for, you know, doing my 20 or whatever 40 hours a week of, you know, doing like RA work. And I was putting that in. So anything beyond that, you know, like as long as the advisor doesn’t have a concern with it, I mean, the department after all is really there just to essentially funnel the money, right? And make sure that everybody is getting paid, and the PI is getting the funding from external sources. But in the end, as long as my advisor, you know the PI who actually has the funding is, you know, happy with your output, then it just worked out really well.
14:55 Emily: Yeah. I mean, it sounds like, I don’t know if this was the initial pitch to your advisor, but this ended up helping your advisor as well, your outside working relationships. So it was a whole like symbiotic thing, like all around, which is really great to hear.
Outside Income as a Cushion Against Additional Grad School Debt
15:06 Emily: So you said that one of your main motivations for taking this job at NASA and then also doing the side hustling was to earn more money because, yeah, DC’s an inexpensive place to live. What did having these other, you know, outside sources of income do for your finances in graduate school?
15:22 Lubos: Well, I mean, it definitely helped. I think I was a little bit privileged in the sense that I, you know, when I finished all my schooling, I really didn’t have a lot of student loans. Essentially, most of my loans were actually stemming from my undergrad, really from my freshman and sophomore year. But still, I was kind of glad that I was able to, with the extra income, I was able to keep making payments if needed or at least maybe save some money, and not have to essentially tap into more debt. So I was able to go do my PhD without actually taking on any additional debt on top of what I had.
15:52 Emily: Yeah. That makes a ton of sense.
15:56 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, November 17th, 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.
Advice for Starting Your Own Self-Employment Journey
17:09 Emily: Did you have any advice for other current graduate students about balancing some side work or starting even your own self-employment venture during graduate school?
17:19 Lubos: Sure. Yeah. So I think it’s really important for everybody, and maybe this is actually more for like some of the undergrads, to really make connections with the faculty. Because, you know, the professors are always looking for more help with whatever project they’re working on. And often they might get some funding coming in, and they just simply do not have anybody available to do the funding. So if you already have a working relationship with a professor, they might say, Hey, you know, you, whatever, come work for me. I got this new grant coming in. I can fund your master’s work, maybe your PhD work. And it just really helps to actually have those connections existing there.
17:58 Emily: And it sounds like, you know, networking, in a sense, or the connections also are what got you some of these other jobs and contracts and so forth. I think you referenced earlier, “Oh, I had a friend who was working there and he knew that I was the expert in such and such.” And so having those connections obviously is amazing for getting these bits of work. Anything else? You know, you’ve mentioned a couple of times about like the official like business structure, like what kind of structure did you have during graduate school? Do you think it was a good fit at that time?
Forming a Company
18:23 Lubos: Yeah. So this actually is really, I would say maybe the most, it’s not really complicated, but if anybody wants to do kind of a consulting route, I mean, there are a lot of steps that need to be done, some technicalities. And so in order to actually be a business, there are kind of like two main routes you can choose. One is that you really just are sort of like a self-employed person, you actually do not have any kind of a business entity at all. So just really do the work as yourself. And there are some challenges with doing this because you’re kind of exposing maybe more of your own personal finances to any liability. So it’s always good to form a company, and it’s actually not difficult. It’s just some paperwork needs to be filled out.
19:02 Lubos: So I went down the LLC route. LLC is a Limited Liability Company. Another option is a S corporation LLCs are simpler to sell than S-corps. And every state has a different way of doing this. So this is kind of where things become a little bit challenging. Depending on what state you’re located in, you have to kind of research your own, you know, I guess the corporation board, I guess something along those lines. But essentially, you need to register with your own state. You also need to register with the federal government. So you need to get an employer identification number. So it’s kind of like a social security, but for a business. You also need to open a bank account. S, you know, it depends, you know, where you go, each bank will have different regulations. I bank with a credit union. So they actually made it kind of easier, I think, to open it.
Opening a Retirement Account
19:49 Lubos: And finally, then when it comes to the finances, you need to also open a retirement account. So, you know, I think some of your listeners might be familiar with a 401(k) or Roth IRA. The issue with a Roth IRA is there’s a ceiling to how much income you can make, you know, and then it basically cuts off. So you cannot put any more money into the Roth, like once you exceed a certain amount of annual income, you simply cannot put money into Roth IRAs. And with a regular IRA, you’re limited to only like $6,000 a year. So if you actually want to be saving, you know, more substantially for retirement, it’s better to have some other ways to save more. And the easiest way to do this is open a SEP IRA. So SEP is I guess self-employed or something on those lines.
20:35 Emily: Self-Employed Pension, I think.
20:37 Lubos: Yeah, Self-Employed Pension [Simplified Employee Pension] plan. And so with a SEP, you can contribute something like up to like maybe 20% of your income. I think you probably know the right numbers, but it becomes something comparable to 401(k). And the benefit is there is no expense, because the 401(k) plan has like an annual fee. So 401(k) is really the only viable route if you have a lot of employees, but if you’re kind of like an individual person, then a SEP is the way to go. And with a SEP, you just the money in, and it’s just like a regular IRA, you know, you get the deduction. And then, you know, so you can get it rolled right off on your taxes when you do your income. Also in the website, it’s also a very important thing to have some kind of website for people can find you. And besides, I mean, that’s essentially, I mean, things become more complicated once you start hiring employees, but as long as you’re just working for yourself, then it’s actually quite trivial. Like it’s not too many more steps besides what I just mentioned right now.
21:29 Emily: Yeah. You put that so well. I want anyone who’s interested in going out on their own, hanging their own shingle, like to go back and listen to what you said, because you covered everything important. You said it very succinctly and very, very clearly. And I totally agree with everything you said there, and it’s the journey that I’ve taken with my own business as well. I’m going to link in the show notes, I actually have a course available inside the personal finance for PhDs community called Best Financial Practices for Your Self-Employment Side Hustle, which goes into some of the elements that you just talked about, like setting up a separate bank account, like retirement plan options. So I actually don’t have a SEP IRA, but I have a solo 401(k), which I decided was the better fit for me. Which actually, because I set it up at the same place, Vanguard, where I have my IRA, it actually didn’t have any additional fees, which was cool.
22:19 Lubos: I also bank with Vanguard. So I didn’t actually realize Vanguard has options.
22:21 Emily: Yeah. Look into it. Because I liked with the solo 401(k), especially when I was making like less money, you can contribute up to that $19.5K cap, like a hundred percent of what you make basically, and not be limited to that 20% limit that the SEP IRA has. So anyway depending on your level of income, one or the other could make more sense. For me earlier on, definitely the solo 401(k) made more sense, so I liked using that at first. For me also, like I’m actually right now going through the process of registering my LLC in California, because I moved to California recently. And California wants their hands in everything you do if you live there. So I’m registering my LLC in California now. It used to be in Washington. And actually I’m doing an S election this year with my financial advisor. So she’s helping me with that. But yeah, it’s the same, I totally agree when you’re starting out, like do the LLC, it’s not really a big deal, set up the bank accounts. All of what you just said is perfect.
From Side Hustle to Full-Time Self-Employment
23:16 Emily: Let’s talk more about your transition. Like you mentioned, you know, coming out of grad school, maybe you expected to keep working for that contracting company, but then they weren’t going to raise your pay. So, no. Like how did you expand to like, make this be a full-time thing instead of just a side thing as it was during grad school?
23:34 Lubos: I don’t know. I guess maybe I was kind of maybe lucky. I kind of stumbled into this field that apparently there was a huge need for people to do analysis. And there really aren’t many who have the set of skills that I have. So it kind of almost got to a point of where, like, I almost have more work than I can handle, which on one hand is a good thing, but it also can be, you know, you need to be really careful with like, how are you balancing, you know, your life and your work commitments.
24:02 Emily: Yeah, I mean, that is really fortunate that the demand was there and you were stepping in like at the right time to provide these services. It definitely seems to me from the way you’re speaking about this that you could have a full-time job. You could have an employer if you wanted to, but you are, you know, committing to this contractor lifestyle. Why is that? Why do you prefer this?
Flexible Contractor Lifestyle
24:21 Lubos: I think I really enjoy the flexibility of it. You know, so I’ve been actually working from home like long before COVID came. And I do enjoy that I to work with many different customers. So I kind of get like an insight into what’s happening and, you know, I kind of get to see like, you know, I get to work on many different missions. As opposed to, let’s say I work at NASA Goddard, or another NASA center. I might be working only on one mission. So you get to see the one mission from build to launch, which is great, but sometimes it’s good to actually, you know, learn more about more things happening. So it just kind of gives you more insight into the world. But there is one big downside and that is that you know, working from home, like by yourself, you kind of start missing a little bit of that kind of face-to-face interaction.
25:09 Lubos: And so I actually took a job you know, a year and a half ago at the university. So I also teach at a university and I basically do the job so I could get a chance to interact with students and actually kind of try to teach them some of the stuff that I learned myself. And just kind of have more like the kind of face-to-face interactions with other faculty and you know, more people in academia. So I think it’s important that even if you do work kind of for yourself is, you know, try to find a balance a little bit and actually try to like interface with other colleagues kind of in your same field, just so you can have the kind of back and forth a little bit of discussion.
The PhD Opens Doors
25:45 Emily: Yeah. I’ve found the same thing, and thankfully I’ve made some good, like kind of online contacts through my business, who I can have, they’re not literally my colleagues, but kind of have a collegial relationship with them, which is really, really lovely. And definitely yeah, it’s a needed outlet when you’re self-employed. Is there any other advice that you want to add about you know, being full-time self-employed?
26:11 Lubos: I would basically, I guess say like, you know, do not hesitate to try this out. And also, like, I think that people should realize that, you know, a PhD is really just a way to open a set of doors that maybe wouldn’t be there before, and it may not be for everybody. Maybe not everybody wants to open the door, but having a PhD really gives you the credibility to kind of be your own independent researcher. So, you know, I’ve met a lot of people, brilliant people who only have a bachelor’s. So, in no way am I knocking down any other, you know, any other degrees. Just because someone has a PhD doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to be, you know, smarter than somebody who doesn’t. But at the same time, by having that, you know, a PhD after your title, it kind of makes people kind of trust you a bit more, so maybe like a new person or you want to kind of get into consulting.
26:58 Lubos: Just the fact you have the PhD will give a little bit more credibility. And so if there’s anything you’re interested in, you know, do not hesitate. And I feel like now, especially with the internet, you know, there’s really no need to have this survey standard career path. You know, you go for a PhD and then you do a post-doc, go to faculty. I mean, there are many, many opportunities to be an independent researcher. And a lot of, you know, now there’s a lot of private funding coming out. Let’s say my field in the space environment, the space industry, maybe, you know, five years ago, all the money was coming just from the government entities, you know, from NASA, maybe from the DOD. Now there’s a lot of private venture capital coming in. So there are all these companies being formed all over the place and everybody needs some kind of analysis to be done. And so if you have a set of skills, you know, don’t box yourself into this whole, like, you know, post-doc faculty route, because there are many, many other opportunities available.
27:52 Emily: I love that advice. That’s perfect. A perfect way to end this interview aside from our standard last question. And I loved hearing sort of the arc of your story here from you know, just starting a blog about something that interested you and what you were learning in graduate school and it blossomed into this whole like full career, which is amazing. And I’m so glad to hear that you, you know, you’re so gratified in that.
Best Financial Advice for Another Early-Career PhD
28:13 Emily: So the question that I ask all my guests at the end of our interviews is what is your best financial advice for another early-career PhD? Would you please share that with us? It can be something that we have touched on already in the interview, or it could be something completely different.
28:26 Lubos: Yeah. So, you know, obviously while doing a PhD, you know, your funds may be kind of limited. But you know, once you do get a job, or once you have a more steady income, you know, try to save money for retirement. Because it is not the percentage you’ll make, it’s a time that’s going to save you. I mean, it’s just the, you know, once you have the money there for a couple of years, just the compound interest, it just starts, you know, accumulating, accumulating, accumulating. So the earlier you can start with saving for retirement, the better. And, you know, for other people it’s like, oh, I’m going to put it off. I need to buy a car. I need to buy other things. But you know, please do that as quickly as you can. And the second one is, I was just listening to your you know, recent podcast with I guess Alexandra about, you know, purchasing a house.
29:09 Lubos: And so again, you know, buying a house these days is quite challenging as well because it’s a lot of money. But at the same time, you know, my wife and I, we bought a house, a townhouse maybe three years ago. And I was very, very hesitant to buy any property for like many, many years, because it’s just such a huge, huge expense. But it was a really great decision because what I kind of didn’t really realize before is that mortgage is really a forced saving, especially now with interest rates being so low. And we actually were able to get into a 15-year loan. My monthly non-principal payment is about $800. So even though my mortgage is about $3,500 I pay every month, out of that only $800 goes to the bank. The other one is the left hand pays the right hand. So I’m essentially just paying myself, you know. So it’s like the remaining $2,700 or whatever it is really just me taking money and just putting them into the equity of the house. And so it’s really a wonderful way to accumulate a lot of net worth you know, pretty fast.
30:12 Emily: Yeah, I totally agree. That was wonderful advice. Lubos, thank you so much for joining me for this podcast today. I had a fantastic time with this interview, and I hope it’s going to really help out some grad students who aspire to a career similar to yours.
30:25 Lubos: Thank you very much, and good luck to everybody!
30:32 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 a 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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