I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Between trying a few new things in the lab, the acquisition of a Wii, and a few other things I sometimes forget that I have a blog I *LOVE* and that I should keep it up. So, without further ado, here are the search terms I’ve gathered recently:
- Things to know before a PhD – I did a little series about this. You can start reading here. But mainly, as an awesome visitor of this blog (Polz) put it: if you’re coming directly from undergrad, realize that the environment in grad school can be super isolating, physically, mentally, emotionally and intellectually that other than give you the basic knowledge, undegrad does NOT prepare you for the challenges of grad school. I had a little study group. We’d answer take home exams by consensus, by each person reviewing the literature and then sharing what we’d learned (but careful, we each elaborated our answers alone). Also, the kind of work, the hours, and the pay may come as a disappointment. Having a PhD is NOT a guaranteed move to secure a job. Feel free to talk to a career counselor, or a prof who has gone through this (especially recently).
- Lab is out of money – how do you get your degree ? – You can still get your degree, but if your PI cannot cover the costs, the department may intervene to put you in a different lab. Mind you, you may need to start fresh from 0, so talk to your PI about your options. If there’s a grad counselor or a person who checks on your progress and protects the interests of the students in the department (which should be) talk to him/her. Harass if necessary. Someone like a director of education or a similar person should be a good source of info on what to do if your PI runs out of funds. One thing you can do before, or while this is happening is applying for funding sources for you. Usually these fellowships or training grants are independent of your PI, and extra money for research purchases and travel may come attached to it. But don’t despair, talk to the people in charge because they should have the proper info to ensure you’re taken care and provided for.
- As a PhD, why have you not published ? – This is a great question, and I think it somewhat depends on your discipline. You can/will get peer-reviewed publications if you’re in other disciplines besides biomedical research and science related areas, but usually the PI’s in the science areas tend to be more involved in the students’ lab life and get you to publish, sooner or later. I say this, since my BF is in a non-life science area. Sometimes PI’s wait until you’re finished, in order to submit papers. If say, you need to do an extra experiment or two before you’re completely done with school, that may be a reason why you still don’t have papers. It depends on the labs’ policies about when papers are submitted. In my case, I still have a paper that need to be published, but I had 1st and 2nd author papers published by the time I left. I do remember that before my grad school PI had her current job, her previous students could graduate if their manuscripts were ready for submission. What they presented to their theses committees were their papers in final form, before submission. That, I thought, was weird. But apparently that’s the way things were at her previous school/department.
- How old are you when you did your PhD? – I got my PhD a week after my 28th birthday. My boyfriend will be almost 30 by the time he finishes his (but he did a master’s before, which took 2.5 years). We both are the same age. I’ve met people who at 25-26 were done, mainly because they had been in their labs day and night (something I couldn’t bring myself to do). Some people in my class were about my age by the time they were done. Other were a bit older and had gone back to school after having been in the workforce for a few years.
***** Disclaimer – this is by NO means a comprehensive, absolute guide of how to do your taxes. I decided to get professional help with them, since it doesn’t matter whether or not you live in the US, you still need to report your worldwide income (and I wanted to avoid being excessively taxed). Since this is also my first year in ON I had to file provincial and federal taxes in addition to the US. Consult with a certified public accountant for your particular case. This is just for illustration/information purposes.
So … finally last weekend I filed my taxes. A Canadian postdoc from my lab had advised me that taxes here are a bitch, and that I should be saving about 1/4th of my take home income so I wouldn’t be surprised when it was time to pay for the taxes. I am SO very thankful for his advice, because it helped to a) not use my credit card to pay, and b) there was definitely money left over to enjoy. Here’s how things went.
I went to a professional firm and met with a CPA. She was super nice, and it took us about 1hr to go over the US and Canadian taxes. I brought in my W2 and my T4, for each country. We went over the details of the expenses and things I could deduct. I brought in all the receipts I could find regarding the move (I’m sure I missed a few). I couldn’t deduct the gas expense, but I did the lodging, storage, trailer and even the locks I had to purchase! I deducted these expenses from the US taxes only. Originally, my calculations resulted in me getting all excited about NOT having to pay anything to the IRS, but I didn’t factor in my Canadian income. I was told that next year I will need to file both again, but since I will only be making money in Canada, the US amount should more or less cancel out. I ended up paying ~250 USDs to the IRS, and a little over 2000 CADs to Canada Revenue. I had saved a little over 3K, so there was some money left. Now, the filing the taxes and paying for them was more expensive that I thought, and it amounted to ~300 CADs (bummer).
Still, there was money left over to get new jeans, a new watch, and a nice haircut. YAY!!!!!
So, this was not as detailed as I thought it would be (maybe because I didn’t make a list of the points above). But here are some things I learned from this process:
- Even though forking out the 300 bucks in expenses for filing the taxes was painful, I have the peace of mind that if something was to happen, in theory, I should be covered. So, my advice is to go professional and have the forms filed by experienced people.
- Do things in a timely manner. I filed my taxes in April, but for next year, as soon as I get my forms I’m calling the professional CPA to file them pronto!
- I’ll keep saving about the same amount as I had before. I saved about 20-25% of my take home pay, so it gives me peace of mind to have this taken care of during tax season.
- I’ll save receipts or make lists of all the things I buy, whether it’s a box of paper or a laptop, so I can deduct it next year. Since I had a bunch of my stuff with me, my PC, my desk, etc, I didn’t deduct those, but whatever office supplies I get from now on that might be deducted as research expenses will go in.
Although this is not a super comprehensive list of how to file your taxes I hope I give you bits and pieces of info on what to take into consideration when you’re a US citizen but move abroad and file taxes. All the best and please, if you have questions, ask. I’ll be more than happy to answer.