Although, it can be pretty close when you’re still in training.
Some people seem to think that scientist should not earn money if it the source isn’t from grants from non-profits. Yes, scientists must not allow financial conflicts of interest to bias their research results as this can have profound effects on the credibility of scientists to the public. But, it shouldn’t be wrong to want to earn enough to retire some day. Don’t you think that after working/studying as a PhD student for ~13hrs/day, 7 days/week throughout the entire year at $20k-$30k/year for 3-5 years, that you deserve to make a living? Think about it, if you’re working/studying for ~80-100hrs/week, you are essentially earning $4.50-$7.20/hr.

Don’t tell me the great benefits makes everything better. A vision and health plan aren’t very meaningful if you never have the time to see the optometrist or doctor. I understand that this is to be expected. I mean, at least in the sciences you can get a stipend for studying/researching 80-100hrs/week, unlike in other disciplines where you might have to pay to work those hours. But, I do hope that afterwards you will have expectations to make a decent living, and not begrudge your colleagues for doing so.

Until you do make a decent living (let’s not forget the post-doc training period that follows the PhD training period, during which you will make about as much as an industrial research associate without a PhD), it’s important to economize and to manage your finances well.

Why is it that we can tease apart mysterious molecular mechanisms behind modern medical marvels, yet can’t seem to manage our own finances?

The short answer is: Time. Grad students, if you think that you can afford to wait until after you’ve completed your degree to sort out your finances, think again! I know it’s hard to find time to get your finances in order when you’re working 80-100hrs/week, but you should try! No matter how little you’re paid, or how little time you have, you should always find some time to keep your finances in order. If you can’t manage your finances, you will have a hard time trying to save money. I’m not referring to saving x dollars on something because it was on sale. I mean actually having some emergency savings to fall back on–because you may really need it when you finish your degree.

In this series, I will focus on tips and tricks financially savvy graduate students taught me on saving more of your earnings. I will not delve into post-graduate career choices, salaries, etc, since there are already plenty of people and linkedin groups that offer great advice on that subject.

Most important point for saving your earnings while you are a poor and broke is to remember:
Cash Available/Saved = Cash In – Cash Out

So to increase Cash Available/Saved, you need to either increase Cash In or decrease Cash Out. Since it’s hard to increase Cash In while you are earning chump change for your hard work, the key is to decrease Cash Out.

Next time in this series: Assessing your situation


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