27 and a PhD

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Bailouts by my parents … surviving in grad school

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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When I started grad school back in 2003 I remember telling my parents that they could now start using their funds to help my younger sister out now that she was in college and I had a stipend that would pay for my living expenses. But boy was I wrong-o!

First, I didn’t have a car in the new city and this city is apparently anti-walking. I was paying a ginormous amount of $ for rent (929$ and I lived right across the street from school, so my parents felt safe). Since this was a new place, and it was the first time I’d live away from my parents house, they offered to cover 1/3 of the rent or each would give me 150$ for food and other expenses. I would live in that apartment for 6 months then check any other apartment complexes in the area once I knew my away around. This was in July. By November I knew a bit of my way around the city. One Sunday a friend took me for a ride and I was hooked on gas from that day on, therefore I found myself car hunting. She’d gotten a great deal on a new car and if I remained in grad school for at least 5 years I would pay it off them. It never occurred to me to pay it off before the fall of 2008 (when the car would be paid off), it seemed so far away. I bought the car, and with a new car I moved to a different apartment complex at the end of the first 6 months. I was excited not to be paying >900$. I would be paying ~690$ for a year, while paying myself for the car, insurance, groceries, etc. About 5 or 6 months after I moved there I had a talk with my parents so they would stop helping me and they could focus on paying their own debts and saving some money. The would send money on occasion and I’d be more than thrilled.

I was in an accident later that year and received a compensation for the damages and the whole ordeal. Nothing fantastic, but I thought “man, this is great, I don’t have to live like a grad student anymore, I can buy some True Religion jeans, lots of expensive shoes.” I’d gone through some hardships in both school and life, therefore I sought the “comfort” of that compensation as my away out of poor/working class and a welcome to a life of luxuries. I “deserved” it, right? I started spending money like CRAZY and eventually started getting into debt because the money ran out.

Fast-forward a few years and now I’m living off credit cards at the end of the month since I’m sending my minimum payments to the 3 cards I have, one of them I took out to try to clear off the debt of the highest interest one. I’m trying to make some progress on my payments, but I still owe 20k. And my parents don’t know about it. I’m too scared to tell them because I’ve always been “labeled” as the responsible one (I have a sister), the money-smart one. And my daddy sends me some money on occasion (50$ here, 20 there). I do some babysitting which helps me to get my groceries and gas covered. I’ve never been late in any payments (Thank God!!), but I would love to get rid of this debt for good in an instant.

Sometimes I think of crashing my car or something so I can get some extra money (but to think of the body pain and possible life long consequences it’s enough to say no). I got myself into this hole. I “financed” my way into the “american dream” and now I must pay for it. I thought I’d be coming into and leaving grad school debt free as I receive a monthly stipend and because I was so young (barely 22) I never thought of the consequences, of the future. It should have clicked in my head sooner than it did. My mom has 1 credit card, she barely uses it and pays it off completely every month. My dad has lived on loans for years. He’s never been late on a payment in more than 30 years of credit history, but again, he’s living off of loans to make home improvements and pay some debts. In my mind he still lives in and thinks like he’s 20, he doesn’t think of what’s coming tomorrow and though he’s up to date on all his debts and has life insurance, if he or my mom were to get sick and lose their income my sis and I would care for them and it would be up to us to cover and “bail them out” so they can live in their house, have food on their table … you get the idea.

It’s a shitty situation. I’m getting into a new job (as a postdoc) pretty soon and I’m hoping that I can funnel at least 1/3 to 1/2 of my income into paying that debt. I don’t want to tell my boyfriend how deep in debt I am, since I’m so ashamed. Since we don’t have plans to marry in the immediate future I don’t see why can’t I try to kick those 20k in debt out of my life and start saving for the wedding of my dreams, all while keeping it under the covers. It’s complicated, but what I want to say or stress is … learn to live like a poor college kid while in grad school, go to places where free lunch is served, learn to cook and brown bag as much as possible, STAY AWAY FROM CREDIT. You would think that I’m excited for my new job, but I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that I may not have a steady income for at least 1 month if not more. My bf can cover rent expenses, but how am I going to pay a minimum of ~500$ I’m funneling for my debt if I don’t have an income? It sucks. I should be concentrating on decorating, packing boxes and heading off into an amazing and bright future and all I can think off is, “sh*t, I don’t have enough money to move AND live for ~ a month, maybe more, while settling into my new and “exciting” life”.

And I don’t want to ask my parents for help, since that would be admitting that all my compensation money is finito and that I have not planned (which is true) for this moment, for this rainy day. And trust me friend, IT SUCKS!!!

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9 Comments

  1. […] Postdoc salary and how to live on/with it – Part 1 So, this Friday I get my first official postdoc check …. YES!!! Well, I shouldn’t celebrate, being that I will need to spend most of it to a) buy health coverage, b) get furniture to replace the pieces I left/sold prior to relocating, and c) pay some of the more than 20k I ran in debt while being in grad school. […]

  2. […] undergrads, writing In previous posts I had mentioned that the BF didn’t know about my debts, how I got into debt, how I want to get out, how much, etc. Today the BF seemed a bit cold …. honestly, he felt a […]

  3. […] Credit cards. ~600-700$ between the 3 of them … and they’re not paid off due to my laziness and irresponsibility. […]

  4. […] saving enough  money while I could. I’ve written about making stupid money mistakes here. Needless to say, once you leave grad school you shouldn’t carry humongous amounts of debt […]

  5. […] Laureates and attended some beautiful talks and workshops. Quality of life was good overall, and had I known how to better manage my moolah, I could have done better money and time wise. I was close to other states with interesting places […]

  6. […] not so good that had transpired through the years). I also did a prayer which was given to me the day before I almost lost my life. I was given a prayer that I’ve carried with me ever since, and it talks about not dying in […]

  7. […] did NOT managed my money wisely while I was in grad school. To try to avoid my mistakes please read here and here. Know that you’ll more than likely be paying for rent, so factor that into the […]

  8. […] we’ve been among the best sheep in the family). The money I was hoping to dump on the debts I made for myself is now being carefully divided to make sure everything gets paid, even if it’s only the […]

  9. tatiana says:

    I really don’t understand how a smart person can get themselves into debt! It seems so easy to me…don’t spend more than you make. Why do some people have trouble with this?
    I remember when I was in college and was not yet working even part time (I just took random weekend promotional jobs now and then) I once got paid 500 bucks to act in a short film for a competition. that 500 bucks lasted me I think, about 4-5 months. I thought I was rich.

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