27 and a PhD

Home » Grad school » I got my paycheck …. spending money Part II

I got my paycheck …. spending money Part II

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.


September 2009
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On my previous entry I went on and on about getting paid, and how my postdoctoral stipend would be split between debts and must-pays now that I’ve moved.

I think I mentioned that I finally opened a bank account in Canada. It ONLY took me like 3-4 weeks. It’s the very first thing it says you should do in the new postdoc arrival manual/document you get but I kept postponing it, always saying I had no time. Anyways, so that was done, and like I said before, I would need to split the money into 3 big areas 1) old debts I dragged on while in grad school (an unnecesary thing, since I was being paid relatively well, but I went over some of the isues that helped my overspending), 2) new debts and responsibilities (like rent and car insurance, to mention just a few), and 3) save some of the stipend to cover next years’ tax filing season, since a good portion is NOT taken out of my monthly stipend, I *must* try and save some money so I won’t be caught by surprise by the thousands of $ I need to pay Canada Revenue (I know this because a) my BF has to go through this and he’s been here for a while, and b) another postdoc in my lab asks me questions about how/if I’ve set things up .. I kind of think of him as a big brother).

I decided that since I have to figure a way to pay my debts and get used to the system up here in Canada, I would only take a small portion of August’s pay and move it to savings, while leaving a good portion to cover the remaining debts and unfinished business after the move. Next month I should start adding the ~25% of my paycheck that will more than likely go into the taxes for next year. I have some experience on this, since when I was in the States I was funded by a training grant and nothing was taken out of my paycheck. After learning how to file the 1040, I estimated that ~1800 bucks should have been taken out through the whole period I was covered. Since I though I was super rich (due to a small settlement) and I was invincible (due to my own stupidity) I had to dip into my settlement money to cover those ~2K during tax season. IT HURT PEOPLE.

I have a super dutiful and responsible BF (at least with money … hell, with pretty much everything), I’m going to let him check out my chequing and savings accounts to monitor the progress while saving money for next year’s tax season. I won’t grant him direct access (by means of username and password) to my account, but I will ask him to ask me to show him my account every week so he can keep an eye on how’s my spending and saving going. I hope that next year, in April I’ll be pleasantly surprised when I don’t have to use a credit card to cover my tax payment. And from what I’ve heard, I may even see some of it back!! But I’d rather be conservative on this issue and just not expect anything from the government.

I got my paycheck yesterday, and in just a few hours, 1000$ …. yes people, one thousand dollars, had disappeared. You might ask how. Well, I asked to money orders to cover the minimum payment of 2 CC’s. I’ll cover the other one by using the little money that’s left on my US bank account. The money orders were ~7$ each … a bit on the expensive side (but then again, Canada seems super expensive to a newly minted PhD who used to shop at Walmart for groceries and just about everything). The exchange rate was a bit brutal (not too bad), but for a money order in USD of ~150$, I ended up paying ~180 CADs … yes people, that is 30 extra bucks for being irresponsible while using credit cards. I tell you, when I get out of these debts, I will have a plastectomy and for sure that will be the very best day of my life (a decent close enough time is my thesis defense). The rest of the money went to savings, paying the BF for covering the remainder of the rent at the new place (~200$).

All this brings me to a buzz article I just read on Yahoo! http://buzz.yahoo.com/buzzlog/92967?fp=1. It’s about this British young woman who squandered the money coming from winning the lottery. She says she now has only 32K out of more than 1 million dollars. She spent the money on frivolous things like a boob-job and drugs, parties and designer clothes. It all brings back some really painful memories of the times I spent at the mall, avoiding getting ready for the qualifying exam while getting new (and rather uncomfortable) Nine West boots. I think back of the great chance I had of getting rid of debt and I didn’t do it. I should be left with >1500$ a month after taxes and rent and the usual spending, I should be saving to have the wedding of my dreams (if that ever happens), but more importantly, I should be saving to enjoy the fruits of my labour, to save for retirement now that I’m still young, to make sure than 30-40 years for now I have access to a decent quality of life, and I don’t end up like some of the old people who used to greet me at my local Walmart while in the States … they had to work to basically eat and get some sort of health coverage. I should also be able to buy what I want, cash, without incurring in debt. I should be able to plan for a good vacay that lets me focus on relaxing and learning, and taking pics, not worrying about what happens if I don’t get a good review next year and my contract is not renewed.

Please people, learn and apply that knowledge while you’re still young. I just turned 28 two months ago, yet I feel like I’m drowning in debt … all because of my irresponsibility.

On a final note, I’ve started doing experiments. I work in a lab that does research associated with a very serious neurological disorder (a topic I avoided like a plague while in grad school) …. thankfully I don’t need to work directly with neurons or rats, mice or anything that nasty, and I’ll be doing a lot of biochemistry (the main reason I took the job) and a different kind of structural biology (the second reason I chose the lab/job). I’ll update later on how my biochemical and microbiological skills are coming along, but for now, I’m pretty happy and satisfied with what I’m doing.

I must go now to get some shut eye for tomorrow’s experiments. I’ll update more later this month on how the spending is going and whether all my money orders made it safely and timely to the other side of the border.



1 Comment

  1. […] – got my first paycheck as a postoc …. a-w-e-s-o-m-e. Oh, the boyfriend goes on a school trip and while I plan to […]

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