27 and a PhD

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Poor for yet another year

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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My postdoc experience, even if indirectly, keeps screwing me up. Today I finally got my taxes sorted out. While Canada has tax experts for the USians that live there, I can’t say the same for having Canada Revenue experts over on this side of the great lakes. It took me forever to find someone, and I ended up going with one of the giant tax companies, but whatever, they’re done. And surprise, surprise, I need to pay. A shit ton of of money if I may add.

Since my stipend (and those of many postdocs in Canada, as far as I can tell) are considered training grants, taxes aren’t taken out, and we must set aside a certain amount of money, because otherwise during tax season we’ll get an ugly surprise. The first year I was in Canada, I owed a bit over 1K in taxes, after working there since the end of the summer. Last year was a bit more, ie. almost 6K. I’d saved ~5200$, so it only took me one more month to reach the 6K, and while the IRS requires you to report worldwide income, since I’d paid that much in taxes in Canada, I wasn’t taxed twice. I had access to health care no matter where I was in the province, the same as every citizen. My postdoc stipend was ~37K, and I worked the whole year (hence I could get the full standard deduction of 8 (or it is 10, I think it’s 10) thousand CADs).

But last year was special. See, I was working in Canada until the end of my contract, then was on a visitor’s visa for ~1 month, while sorting out the move to NY. I’d never lived in a state with city AND state taxes, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I filled my W4 I was all confused (I had also never worked in my adult life, other than as a grad student, so the department took care of all those forms and such) but I put whatever # in the box that tells HR to take as much as they can for my fed taxes, and hope they’d do the right stuff for state and city, as I was totes clueless.

Well that, and the fact that I only worked in Canada part of the year came down to bite me really hard. My ass hurts, and my pockets even more. Turns out that I couldn’t claim the full standard deduction in Canada, so now, I have to pay 2K … which I don’t have. Also, someone in HR messed up, and nothing was taken out of my paycheck for the city taxes. This means I need to pay for that too.

The only good thing (well, 2) is that I do get a refund, which will go, every single last cent, to Canada Revenue. I should have asked my accountant last year in Canada how this worked, so that I could have started working in the US sooner, and saved up for that. And since I’ve been penniless for a while, thanks to my father’s stupid money decisions that have half of my family’s credit in the can (including mine), I’m funneling my money to make sure that some debts are paid on time.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get to eat yummy food, and purchase undies, and the basics when I need them. And I’m glad that I’m contributing to the services provided in ON for very deserving citizens. But this much money is going to make a hole and it’s going to take time for me to recover. That, and I won’t get to enjoy (of funnel money into critical debt) while paying those taxes. I did get a “credit” when filling out the 1040, and that’s why I get a bit of money back … but it’s truly depressing to see that no matter what you do, you’re still in the hole, and it seems every time you try to climb up, and think you’re making strides, you’re punched back by something and thrown deeper into said hole.

I just can’t catch a fucking break.

PS. Did I mention that I had saved a bit of money (a crappy attempt of an emergency fund, which would fund my trip to hon’s defense and contribute to a graduation gift). That? Totally depleted now. Also, what the hell am I going to tell my sister when I need to explain why I’m missing yet another one of my nephew’s birthdays? Yup, I’m doomed to be poor.

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2 Comments

  1. anthea says:

    Oh god, I’m so sorry to hear your financial woes. I hate it too since it doesn’t make much sense doesn’t have spent so much our our lives educating oneself so that we weren’t poor. It drives me nuts to be honest since it’s just not logical at all.

    • Dr. 27 says:

      Yup, exactly! It’s just not easy. Every time I try to get out of the hole, it seems I go in deeper and deeper. That said, I did have a bit of an emergency fund (not much, really), but having that little cushion helped to pay for the tax prep and the city taxes. But yeah, it’s sad that I *finally* get a refund, only to see it vanish to yet another thing related to my bad postdoc. Hopefully this is the end of it. Thanks for stopping by.

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