In this episode, Emily interviews Dr. Inga Timmerman, an associate professor of finance and financial planning at Cal State Northridge and financial planner specializing in academics. Emily and Inga discuss in depth the financial transition from graduate school/postdoc to faculty member (or into anther type of post-PhD job), from maximizing benefits to optimizing taxes to budgeting for a new city. Inga shares excellent tactical advice and mindset shifts for someone experiencing a large income increase. She advises everyone to work with a financial planner and ballparks how much it will cost to get the right type and amount of advice for that stage.
Links Mentioned in this Episode
- Emily’s E-mail
- PF for PhDs Twitter (@PFforPhDs)
- PF for PhDs S12E3 Show Notes
- PF for PhDs S11E10: This Prof Is Taking Deliberate Steps Toward Self-Employment (Money Story with Dr. Leslie Wang)
- You Need a Budget (YNAB) Budgeting Software
- First-Time Home Buyer: The Complete [Playbook] to Avoiding Rookie Mistakes (Book by Scott Trench)
- PF for PhD Speaking Engagements
- PF for PhDs S1E11: This Prof Used Geographic Arbitrage to Design Her Ideal Career and Personal Life (Money Story with Dr. Amanda)
- XY Planning Network (XYPN)
- Attainable Wealth (Inga’s Website)
- Attainable Wealth (Facebook Page)
- Inga’s LinkedIn Page
- PF for PhDs Register for Mailing List (Advice Document)
- PF for PhDs Podcast Hub (Show Notes/Transcripts)
00:00 Inga: The best time to address those is before you get your first paycheck. Because somehow once you start getting money, that money disappears. And we used to live on so little money in the PhD, and somehow we survived. And now we make 3, 4, 5 times as much, and we still don’t have enough. So, you do have to make a few decisions.
00:23 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 12, Episode 3, and today my guest is Dr. Inga Timmerman, an associate professor of finance and financial planning at Cal State Northridge and financial planner specializing in academics. Inga and I discuss in depth the financial transition from graduate school/postdoc to faculty member (or into another type of post-PhD job), from maximizing benefits to optimizing taxes to budgeting for a new city. Inga shares excellent tactical advice and mindset shifts for someone experiencing a large income increase. She advises everyone to work with a financial planner and ballparks for us how much it will cost to get the right type and amount of advice for that stage.
01:42 Emily: As a listener to this podcast, I’m guessing that you listen to other podcasts as well, perhaps even other podcasts targeted to graduate students and PhDs. I’m a big podcast listener as well, and I’d love to hear your recommendations in that category. You can reach me over email, emily@PFforPhDs.com, or on Twitter, @PFforPhDs. In fact, if you would like to hear me interviewed on another podcast or another podcaster interviewed on my podcast, please set up an email or Twitter introduction for us! Thank you! You can find the show notes for this episode at PFforPhDs.com/s12e3/. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Dr. Inga Timmerman.
Would You Please Introduce Yourself Further?
02:37 Emily: I am so excited to share today’s interview with you. We have on the podcast today, Dr. Inga Timmerman. She is an associate professor of finance and financial planning at Cal State Northridge, and she is also a financial planner. And she has a PhD herself, so she’s like triply qualified to be on the podcast. So, Inga, it’s such a delight to have you! Would you please give the audience a little bit more background about yourself, your education, your career?
03:01 Inga: Very happy to be here, Emily. Thanks for having me here! So, I had a real job out of college at 22. I used to work 80, 90 hour weeks and discovered pretty fast that a career in corporate finance and investment banking is not really what I want to do in life long-term. I did for about five years. And then the school where I did my undergrad called me and said, “Hey, would you like to teach for us? Do you have an MBA?” Like, yeah, I do. “Okay. Come and teach a few classes.” And I really, really liked it, but I realized that to really make a living out of being a professor, I needed to get a PhD. So, when I was 27, I quit my job. I looked at all the PhD programs I got into, and it was 2008 financial crisis, 2009, everybody under the sun was going to get a PhD.
03:46 Inga: So, there’s a lot of competition. And I decided to go to the school that would get me out the fastest, because I was like, every year I’m not working, I’m losing like a whole bunch of money, so we’ve got to get out of here. So, I went to Florida Atlantic University in South Florida in Boca Raton, and I did my PhD there. And afterwards, my first placement was as an assistant professor at Oregon State University. My husband was working in Los Angeles at the time. The commute was too much. So, two years later, I moved as an assistant professor to Cal State Northridge, which is in the Los Angeles county. And I’ve been there since. So, it’s been about seven, eight years.
04:22 Emily: Wow. We’ve already learned a lot just from that background story. So many good financial insights that you just shared. Incredible! And tell me a little bit more about the being a financial planner side of things, not just being a professor.
04:34 Inga: So, about when I moved to Cal State Northridge, I was hired to do financial planning. It’s a very long story on the side about how finance and financial planning fight and what’s going on there. Not worth it now, but I ended up teaching in the finance department, financial planning. And one of the things I always wanted to do is practice financial planning. So, I decided to open my own firm back in 2016, and I’ve been running it for the last five, six years, and I specialize in financial planning for academics. So, a lot of my clients are current academic academics.
Financial Profile of Academic Clients
05:05 Emily: So perfect. And the reason that we met was that another podcast interviewee, Dr. Leslie Wang, you’re her financial planner, and she recommended that you also come on the podcast. So, I don’t know if that episode’s going to air before or after this one, but check that one out as well. So, that is how Inga and I were referred to one another. So, this is really, really exciting. I’m so pleased to learn that you, you know, specialize in academics. I say PhDs here a lot on the podcast, that that’s kind of my specialty area. So, when you’re working with academics, is there like a rough, like financial profile that you have discerned from the people who come to you, maybe versus like the average person who would seek out financial planning? Like how are academics and PhDs financially different?
05:48 Inga: Well, there are two different types of academics who will come to me. The ones who are about to graduate and are getting their first job. For some of them, they’re going from like $20,000 to $150,000. It’s a huge jump in income. And they’re like, what am I going to do with all this money? What do I do? So, that’s really a good point to come. The other ones are people who’ve been around for a while and they accumulate enough assets. So, they have a lot of complicated situations to solve and they’re just coming, “Okay, tell me, am I okay to retire? Am I okay here? What am I doing? So, those are the two big buckets, and you do want to go to somebody who actually understands your lifestyle and what’s going on. Because when you go from assistant to associate, there’ll be a bunch of money coming in.
06:26 Inga: There’ll be some decisions to be made. When you first get your job, a lot of the systems are still on the dual pension versus 403(b) type, and you have to make the decision. And once you miss it, there’s no going back in most cases. So, there are a few very specific things associated with academics. I think it’s important to find somebody who actually knows those. The second part of it is that I’m always willing to provide you all kinds of advice you didn’t ask me about outside finances. Like you should move to a different place because your life would be better and cheaper if you do that. So, I think it just, it’s easier for me to work with people just like me, which happens to be somebody who is in their forties, has a few kids, and just trying to go through the financial academic life path.
07:11 Emily: I love that you mentioned, in particular, those two sort of time points when it really makes sense to seek out financial planning. That like, I’m about to start my high-earning career and want to make sure I’m set up to go forward in the right way. But also you get to see people and the decisions they’ve made, right? And the accumulation of those decisions by that point. So, I’m sure that your younger clients are benefiting from you working with your older clients as well to sort of steer them in the right way.
Money Mindset During Academic Career Transition
07:37 Emily: So, you mentioned you yourself have been through like this massive income decrease to go to graduate school and then a massive, I hope, income increase coming out of graduate school, and that that’s something you advise, you know, PhDs and people entering academia as, you know, with a full-time job on. So like, when you’re looking at people in that transition from graduate student or postdoc into like a professorship, have you seen any like money mindset issues, commonly, in those people that you’d like to tell our audience more about like what they are and maybe how to address them?
08:08 Inga: There are a few things that come to mind immediately, and the best time to address those are before you get your first paycheck. Because somehow once you start getting money, that money disappears. And we used to live on so little money in the PhD, and somehow we survived and now we make 3, 4, 5 times as much, and we still don’t have enough. So, you do have to make a few decisions. And I think the one most important decision you can make is sit down and do a budget before you show up to work. You know how much you’re going to be making, you know, approximately, what’s going to happen. So, figure out how much money is left after all the bills are going to be paid and where that money is going to go. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the YNAB budgeting software, because they always tell you that every dollar has a job.
08:51 Inga: Like there should be no floating money there. Everything should be allocated before you start. If you do a really good budget and you stick to it, you should have a very comfortable lifestyle. All the decisions will be just fine. And if you do this for 25 years, you will be okay. That’s really the one big thing that I tell people. The other one that is really worth mentioning is the housing situation. We go into these jobs, not knowing are we going to get tenure? Are we not going to get tenure? What’s going to happen? Am I going to like it? And it really should be more about, is this a good cash flow house to buy or not, regardless what happens to me? If I go, like, when I went to Oregon, I didn’t know if I was going to be there for a long time.
09:30 Inga: I realized really fast I won’t, but I still bought a house because I knew that the duplex can rent for an extra thousand dollars over my mortgage. So even if I leave, it’s a good financial decision. When you show up in Los Angeles and the condo is a million dollars, not so much. So you really have to think about, is this a decision good for my long-term financial implications? Or am I just buying a house because now I have to buy a house, I moved somewhere else? Those are two big things that I would definitely consider before starting the job.
Personal Factors in Real Estate Decision-Making
09:58 Emily: I’d like to stay on this like real estate question a little bit more, because I’ve become much more interested in real estate since I bought my first house at the age of like, how old am I, at the age of 35, last year in the hype of the market craziness. We bought in a high cost of living area. So like, I’ve kind of been through this recently and it makes me very interested in this. So like, what I really like about what you said is that I read this book in the last year called First-Time Home Buyer: The Complete [Playbook] to Avoiding Rookie Mistakes. And in there they have this really interesting sort of way of approaching the decision about real estate, which is what you just mentioned is what are my exit strategies of this house or whatever kind of property?
10:35 Emily: And do they make financial sense? So like, yes, I’m going to live in this house. It’s going to be my primary residence. Or maybe we can even talk about house hacking, you know, but it’s probably going to be your primary residence. But when you are exiting this house, whether that’s you sell it or you keep it as a rental or that’s <laugh>, I guess that’s it, you know, you go to another area of the country or whatever, like, is it going to be an okay financial decision too, at that point? Does it still make sense? So, that’s a little bit like what you were saying, right? And I think that added element to what you were just saying is that, when you’re looking at your first like appointment and you’re going to be there for you don’t know how long. It could be a few years, it could be a lot of years. At what point, I guess if you decide that you do want to stay, like not for you, you left that first position relatively rapidly, but if you do want to stay like, “Oh yeah, I can see myself having my full career here.” Does it make sense to buy then? Even if like the cash flow is not going to be good?
11:29 Inga: Ooh. So, this goes outside of money and now into our personal things we have going on in our heads. Some people are totally fine being renters. And in some markets like a San Francisco, Los Angeles market, it is perfectly fine to be a tenant for the whole life. You can always go and buy another vacation home, an investment property somewhere else. You don’t have to just have one place. But other people cannot sleep at night when they know that I’m throwing money away into the wind and it’s rent. So for those people, it’s not really about the cash flow, but about, can I sleep at night? And it is okay, totally okay, to make decisions that are not based on dollars, as long as you are aware what you’re getting into. I personally tried to avoid that because like I was like, “Oh, I just wasted some money. I can just take that cash and I can put it, invest it and don’t do anything and make 9% somewhere else.” But if you’re going to buy a house and you really want this house, because that’s your dream, it is totally okay to buy it. Even if it doesn’t make sense.
12:28 Emily: Yeah. I definitely think you’re describing me with the house purchase that I just mentioned. I’m always saying like, this is more of a lifestyle decision than like a financial decision. Like yeah, it’s okay financially, but really it’s because I want like stability in my life. Like I want to know I have this house, I’m going to be living here. I know what school my kids are going to go to, that whole thing. So yeah, it’s much more of like a peace of mind and stability thing for me.
12:48 Inga: I mean, to give you a perspective, I have three houses now in three different places. The latest one I bought last week. So, you know, at the height of the height, because it made sense.
Spend Time on Your Benefits
12:59 Emily: Yeah. Congratulations on your new acquisition! Okay. Any other like mindset stuff you want to talk about in this, you know, transition into the first post-PhD full-time job?
13:11 Inga: Spend some time on your benefits, because when you go to a university job, it usually comes with a really good package. And some people tell me, yeah, I’ve made my choice in 30 minutes. 30 minutes? I spent 70 hours on my benefits, like trying to understand them, to see how to optimize them, what you can get to pay less in taxes. And if you are not really sure how to do it, find somebody who will do it for you for 500 bucks. Pay somebody two hours of work and do it because you’re going to make so much more money if you take advantage of what’s offered to you.
13:39 Emily: Can you give us a couple examples of some of those benefits that people might not be aware of?
13:43 Inga: Like even the choice of having a dependent care spending account, healthcare spending account. So, if you have kids and they go to daycare, you have some expenses for them. Like it should be a no-brainer. We are going to max out the $5,000 because we are going to probably save a third of that in taxes. But people are like, well, I don’t really have the cash to pay for it. You’re still paying for daycare. You just have to pay less if you do it through the dependent care spending account.
14:07 Emily: Yeah. Good example. And that applies for everybody, even outside of academia, if they have that kind of benefit through their work.
Financial Goals: Kids’ Education and Retirement
14:13 Emily: Okay. So, again, talking about this like point you’re like launching your career post-PhD. What are some financial goals that people at that stage might want to be considering? We already talked about real estate. We don’t have to go over that. What are some other financial goals?
14:26 Inga: Kids and kids’ education, if you have kids. And a lot of it comes with where they go to college, where they go to school, that’s also a decision that needs to be made. I would say that’s less important than your retirement. Retirement should go on top of that. And retirement is really a big decision because if you do it right and you do it from the very beginning, you’ll just have to work so much less when you’re 65 years old. What you can save at 35 to 45 is like saving 30 years later down the line. So, please make sure you’re not just saving a little bit, but trying to figure out how to max out that 403(b) or how to take advantage of your pension, how to make the optimal decision for that. That’s another one. And then the third one actually comes before you even get a job as you’re deciding. In some cases, obviously, you have one offer and a job is better than no job. But if you have a few different offers to decide, or if later in life you’re going to move to a different place, it’s not just about the base pay. There is so much more to think about in terms of where you live, the state income taxes, what else you can negotiate. That makes a huge difference in the financial package.
Maxing Out the 403(b)
15:32 Emily: I want to stay on the retirement goal for a second. Do you often end up saying to your clients, try to max out that 403(b)? Like, is that something that comes out of your mouth?
15:43 Inga: Yep. That is like the number one thing. There are a few exceptions. In some cases, obviously the emergency fund in general will come before, but with a few exceptions where people are not, they have other things going on where the 403(b) is irrelevant, I cannot think of a better thing both for taxes and retirement than maxing it out.
16:01 Emily: I was also thinking about like that goal of maxing out. So like for a personal example, when my husband and I first finished our PhDs and like our incomes are starting to increase, but they’re not like I don’t know as high as they are now, for example, multiple years later. We at first were not, even though we were like really good retirement savers, we were not trying to max out because we had like this real estate purchase goal and we had, you know, other things going on. And so we sort of set like a percentage of our income. It was 20% that we wanted to save. And then after we ended up buying our house, which I’ve already mentioned so many times, then we were like, okay, this is our year. We can finally max out. We can finally like all, you know, pull out all the stops, like try to max out as much as we can. So for us, we were trying to balance a few different goals, but yeah, so maxing out didn’t happen immediately. It was a few years down the line for us.
16:46 Inga: And you know, that’s very typical because once you want the house and you have kids, there’s a lot of competing priorities. So, not in every case, you’re going to max out. But even if you started at 5% this year and every year you go up by 1%, eventually max it out. Worst case when you become an associate professor, well, now you have this huge chunk of money coming in you don’t really need most likely, that can go to the maximization. And if you’re a professor, you actually potentially could have a double maximization between the 403(b) and the 457. So you could just go wild in there, if you had nothing better to do with the money and put in $40,000 aside.
17:21 Emily: Yeah. The amount that you can stash away when you have both a 403(b) and a 457 is like really a startling amount of money. It’s very impressive you can manage to do all of that.
17:32 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude. Would you like to learn directly from me on a personal finance topic, such as goal-setting, investing, frugality, increasing income, or student loans, each tailored specifically for graduate students and postdocs? I offer seminars and workshops on these topics and more in a variety of formats, and I’m now booking for the 2022-2023 academic year. If you would like to bring my content to your institution, would you please recommend me as a speaker to your university, graduate school, graduate student association, or postdoc office? My seminars are usually slated as professional development or personal wellness. Ask the potential host to go to PFforPhDs.com/speaking/ or simply email me at emily@PFforPhDs.com to start the process. I really appreciate these recommendations, which are the best way for me to start a conversation with a potential host. The paid work I do with universities and institutions enables me to keep producing this podcast and all my other free resources. Thank you in advance if you decide to issue a recommendation! Now back to our interview.
Choosing Where to Live
18:55 Emily: So, the third kind of decision that you mentioned is if you had, you know, competing offers, ideal scenario and you get to choose where to live. I end up talking about this a lot at like the grad student level with like, okay, you need to make sure that your stipend is going to actually like pay for your life in X, Y, Z city that you’ve never lived in before. Like how do you kind of assess that? So, are there any, like, what are the considerations for someone at that stage in deciding where to live? And I want to also like throw in something you told me before the interview, which is that you do not live in California, you have moved elsewhere and are working remotely. So like, what are the things that go into that decision when we’re talking about geographic arbitrage?
19:30 Inga: The two big things are cost of living, buying, or renting a place and the state income tax. So, it really comes down to that. So for example, when COVID hit and everything went online, I move from Los Angeles to Florida, and I’m still here commuting to LA once a week to teach my class because the price of the tickets and what I need to do is still so much lower than the cost of living I’m giving up. And some of the income being shielded from the California state income tax, which is very expensive. So as you’re making these two decisions, think about $1 in Los Angeles is like having $2 in Florida, and nobody’s going to double your salary to go to Los Angeles. So you really have to think about that and decide, “Okay. If I really don’t care that much about a specific location and I have a Boise, Idaho, and some North Carolina, like which one makes more financial sense when it comes to buying a house or renting plus the state income tax?”
20:22 Emily: Yeah, that’s really, really good to think about. We touched on this a little bit in a previous interview with Dr. Amanda back in, I don’t know, season one or season two. Listeners can look that up if they’re interested, but she said kind of the same thing. Like she was looking at multiple different academic offers and saying, “Wow, you know, they’re not adjusted that much based on the cost of living.” It made a lot more sense. She wanted to live in the Midwest anyway. So that made a lot of sense for her to like, accept that kind of offer, both lifestyle and financial decision in that case. So yeah, that’s really interesting to hear that your offers might not be too different. And it’s the same thing actually with grad students’ stipends. Like, yes, they generally will hopefully pay more in high cost of living areas, but it’s not as much as it would be to make up the real difference between those low cost of living and high cost of living areas.
Financial Tactics Beyond Budgeting
21:03 Emily: Let’s get down to a little bit more tactical stuff. What are some financial like tactics that you end up recommending to your clients? We already talked about budgeting a little bit. Is there anything that goes beyond that?
21:15 Inga: Tax planning is normally a big deal, but it comes later in life when you’re making more money. When you’re making 60, $70,000, let’s just say like immediately as a postdoc, tax planning is really not going to save you that much money. Once you’re making $200,000, you have two people making the same. It is a big deal. So you do want to figure out what is the least amount of tax I want to pay, whether it be from retirement, from where you live, from how you shield some of the benefits, it’s worth the consideration. And really making the decision, if you decide to go the 403(b), or one of those investment type accounts, 457, 401(k), you really have to make sure the investments you have make sense. Because sometimes you have multiple choices. Let’s say you have a 403(b), and now you have options between Fidelity and lawyer and somebody else, make the best decision based on the investment choices, and then make sure your portfolio building actually makes sense.
22:09 Inga: And it’s so crazy how nobody gives you this training. The only people you end up talking to are the reps from these companies, and their sole purpose is to get you into their hands. So, they’re not going to tell you, “Oh yeah, Fidelity is better than Vanguard,” or whatever it happens to be. You have to make the decision because I think at one point the calculation is like a $600,000 calculation if you max out your 403(b) for the next 40 years. It’s a huge difference what funds you choose, how you invest. And that is also a good place to probably look for some help if you don’t have the skills and knowledge.
22:43 Emily: I think some of my listeners, you know, they’ve probably heard me talking about like a Roth IRA ad nauseum, because a Roth IRA is like, kind of, well, the IRA is like the only game of town, pretty much for graduate students. And the Roth makes so much sense when they’re that young. But as you mentioned, you know, tax optimization and tax planning, as your income starts to increase, I’m learning that it makes a lot more sense of course, to use like traditional versions of these accounts in many cases. What I’m literally working with right now with my financial planner is on asset location. So, like what’s going to be in the traditional accounts, what’s going to be in the Roth accounts, what’s going to be in the taxable brokerage. She’s figuring all that stuff out for us because it can get pretty complicated at that point.
23:21 Inga: And in the end, you have to have all three. You have to have some rough money, you have to have some traditional, and some of the brokerage, if you want to, when you are old, try to take money out to make the most sense of it. So, I’m a big fan of the Roth IRA. If you can do it and you’re not maxed out and you have, yeah. Do it. But putting $6,000 in a Roth is not going to be enough for retirement. You’ll have to do more than that. And even at work, you have an option between a Roth versus traditional 403(b) for example, how do you make the choice? It needs to be thought through because that’s a huge implication down the line.
General Rules of Thumb
23:52 Emily: So, let’s assume that somebody listening is not going to work with you or another type of financial planner at this crucial point that we’re talking about when they’re deciding on their benefits. Can you give them any other like, pointers about how to make these decisions that are general rules of thumb or that most people would be able to apply?
24:08 Inga: Okay. So the first decision, if you have a pension versus a 403(b) type account, because a lot of the systems do, if you see yourself staying in the system and investing and being there for the long-term, take the pension. It’s normally a better deal. If you think this is a two-to-five year deal, take the 403(b), it comes down to that. And if you’re not sure, take the pension because you can always convert the money later on and take it with you. For the 403(b) type accounts, investment accounts, a Roth versus traditional. I mean, I have rules of thumb. Again, disclosure, they don’t always work, but if you are making less than $80,000, the Roth is the way to go. You are not getting killed by taxes. Most likely you’re going to end up with more taxes down the road. So, take the Roth.
24:50 Inga: Over $120K, and that’s for single, so double it for married, maybe traditional makes more sense depending how much you itemize, how much deductions you have. And between $80K and $120K is a very gray area. Once you are at the point where you make $250K plus, and you have plenty of money and you’re thinking, “Well, now I need to have a 403(b) and a 457. Then you can do a little bit of both. But in the beginning, if you’re making the typical 150 salary for a lot of the majors, the traditional 403(b) usually makes more sense.
25:23 Emily: Yes. Thank you so much for that general landscape of, you know, how one’s financial life may play out in this respect. Are there any financial challenges or financial opportunities that academics have that are not commonly discussed in personal finance circles? Like the wider personal finance community or financial planning community?
Financial Benefits of Job Changes
25:46 Inga: I think the job change is a little stickier or harder to change. Like a lot of the clients I work with who are not academics to them like, “Oh yeah, somebody offered me $15 more. I’m taking a new job. I’m jumping ship” because there’s always that kind of mentality. Academics don’t really think about money as much as they should. And I understand that some of them really never been exposed, who had never thought about this. And they may have a PhD that has nothing to do with money. But at the end of the day, I feel like it’s extremely important to think about this, because no matter what you do in life, you still have got to do all these things. You still have to buy a house. You still have to optimize your money. So, think about potentially changing your job, even though you might have tenure, even though life seems okay, can you make your situation better if you are to go somewhere else? Or if you got to go on the job market again? You’ll never get as much money as you do when you go in the job market again and again. Like your current job may offer you a match once or twice, may give you some more money, but the only real way to jump in pay once you’re full professor is to go somewhere else. So think about leaving or getting a new job, even though you’ve been here for maybe 15, 20 years.
26:57 Emily: Wow. I didn’t realize that academia was so I guess, similar to the private sector in that respect, in that you need to change employers to really make massive salary jumps. I have heard of the tactic of like getting another offer and then negotiating your current one with your hopeful intention is to stay. But it sounds like what you just said is that that, mm, it might work a little bit, but not as much.
27:19 Inga: Yeah. And I have clients who do that very successfully. Like somebody brought two different offers in the last five years and they matched the offer, but now they told her we’re done here. A third offer is not going to get matched and she can get so much more in the open market. So, depending where you are and how happy. And then again, if you are super happy and your life is awesome, who cares about the money? If you want to stay where you stay, you do not have to do it. But if you are okay with moving and thinking about money a little bit more, then there is nothing wrong giving up your tenure and starting somewhere else.
Finding a Financial Planner
27:50 Emily: Since we’ve been mentioning so much in this interview talking about like financial planners, sometimes people come to me with like, what is the type of financial planner or financial advisor I should seek out? And we’ve also talked about like the timing of seeking out that kind of advice. Can you give maybe people who are like finishing up grad school soon or finishing up their postdoc soon, some sort of reference point on like, how much is it going to cost them to work with someone like you like to make a comprehensive plan? Or how does the pricing work? Because I’m sure when they haven’t started that, you know, they haven’t gotten that first paycheck from the new job, they’re still counting their pennies. And this may be a concern and a barrier for them to working with someone at a crucial point in their career.
28:29 Inga: And so, this should not be a barrier. Find somebody who wants to help you, and then you can pay them a little bit later. There’s always arrangements to be made. So I would not stop myself for looking for one. There are different types of plans. Some planners charge even hourly, some do this quick start or focused plans. Like I do those, we focus on two, three big areas and I charge $1,500 for them. So, it’s a limited engagement for two, three months to get you through the most important things. A full financial plan will probably cost you between two and $5,000. I charge $300 a month for 12 months. So it’s a one year engagement. So we get through everything, but I’ve seen prices it’s typical between two and $5,000. I don’t know if it’s worth it for you to have a full financial plan to start with.
29:13 Inga: If you’ve been a PhD student and now you just have a few questions about the work benefits, a focused plan is probably the way to go. And those will range between $500 and $2,000, depending on who you go to. When you’re looking for a planner, XYPN is my favorite place to go because everybody there is a CFP, and everybody’s fee-only. And there’s a lot of debate about fiduciaries. No, not everybody’s a fiduciary who tells who they are. So fee-only is my requirement, which means that only the clients can pay you. Nobody else can pay you. And the CFP with probably five years of experience. Otherwise, these problems are pretty typical unless you have something very specialized that needs to be discussed, almost everybody there can help you.
29:57 Emily: I’m really glad you mentioned that. So, I just independently, you know, Inga and I did not plan this, but I also went through XY Planning Network to find my planner.
30:04 Inga: Oh, really?
30:05 Emily: Yes, absolutely. Because I know that everybody in the Network is a CFP. My planner, I made sure that she’s not being compensated by anybody else. You know, we have the, you know, fee model where like we paid upfront a little bit for like an accelerated plan. And then we also have like a monthly subscription. So it’s sort of a combo of those two to work together for one year. So like, yes. So I totally like cosign what Inga just said. And this is a great place to find someone who is willing to work with you and is going to be competent to do so. What I like about the XY planning network is that you can search for all kinds of different, like special scenarios that you might be encountering.
30:36 Emily: So, I really wanted someone who was going to help me specifically on tax planning and tax advising as like our main like focus. So that’s what I kind of look for. And also people who are familiar with like self-employment and all that stuff, because that’s what I am. But if you had other things going on in your life, you know, you’re an academic or you’re in the military or you’re receiving an inheritance or whatever, there’s a lot of different, you know, types of people who specialize in different things. You can easily find them through the search tools in that network, which I really like.
31:00 Inga: And they have over a thousand advisors now. So I mean, you can find advisors who like the color purple. I mean there are so many possibilities, and they’re all virtual. So you don’t need to have somebody local. It is really the best place to find somebody who’s unbiased and a CFP.
How to Connect with Inga
31:14 Emily: Love it. Inga, if listeners want to follow up you, learn more about you and your work, where’s the best place for them to go?
31:21 Inga: Probably on my website, attainablewealthfp.com. And I’m not taking any new clients for the next six months at least. But if you have questions, like you went to XYPN and narrowed it down to two people and you don’t know who to choose, I’ll be very happy to provide someone unsolicited advice from what I know. So, feel free to reach out. If you have questions, maybe I can just send you like a copy of a book. I teach personal finance, so I have a very short book I wrote for the students. I can just send you a copy and try to help in any way possible.
Best Financial Advice for Current Graduate Students
31:49 Emily: Oh, that’s a wonderful offer. Thank you, Inga. That’s very generous. Okay. We’re going to end with the question that I ask all of my interviewees, which is what is your best financial advice for current graduate students? So we’re thinking a little bit earlier than the population we’ve been talking about up to this point. It could be something that we’ve mentioned already in the interview, or it could be something completely new.
32:09 Inga: I want to say get a financial plan at this point, but that’s a given. So, the other thing is get a budget. If you do not have a tight rein on your budget when you’re making 20,000, it’s only going to get worse once you make $120K. So, sit down and figure out how you can get a budget and have a percent go into savings, no matter how little you make right now.
32:31 Emily: I love that advice. I say this a lot about kind of graduate students in that phase of life, like you’re sort of building up your muscles in terms of like your financial practices, the money management, the, you know, the knowledge that you have and you’re really going to apply them. And it’s going to make a big difference once you have that big paycheck coming in. But right now is the time to like practice so that as you said, you don’t get to the big paycheck and say, “Whoa, all the money disappeared. <Laugh>. What do I do about that?” So, I love that advice. Well, Inga, it’s been wonderful to talk with you. Thank you so much for volunteering to come onto the podcast. And I’m really glad to have met you.
33:04 Inga: Same here.
33:11 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? I have 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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