27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: March 2015


Almost 6 years ago I wrote this. I’d just gotten my first paycheck as a postdoc and ran down a list of where money was being spent. My then boyfriend, now husband, found the blog (I still don’t remember or know how), and confronted me. We talked about debt and how deep in it I was (still am) and about forms of payment, etc.

Two years after that, I got my shiny new job in NYC. NYC was expensive (rent-wise). But I moved from Canada. My province (Ontario) had a tax of like 14%, so I was used of paying more for everything. NYC wasn’t such a harsh surprise, cost-wise, except for rent. But I was very lucky in that sense too. And even though I truly never lived alone, I never paid more than $950 in rent for a room, and got to live in pretty convenient places with pretty nice people (I was very lucky and never got crazy roommates like Chandler).

At the end of my PhD, I was making ~23k. During my postdoc I made ~38k. In NYC I was making ~55k. And now I’m making ~60K. My salary has gone up slowly but steadily. And I hope that if I’m fortunate enough to leave my lab for something better, I’ll be in the 70k range.

You may also remember how, right after taking my shiny new job in NYC, I was surprised by the news that a family member had defaulted on his payments to a loan I’d co-signed. For $50k. Yeah, I almost threw up then and still feel queasy thinking about it.

Long story short, since late 2011 I’ve been dumping $ into these debts.

Today, I got my calculator and punched some numbers and concluded that, if I have a steady job for the next two years, right until December 2017, I should be debt-free. I’m also keeping my pen and ink pretty put and not signing on for new debt (or worse, signing any documents that make me liable for other people’s debt).

I’ve been very slow to erase debt. I could have been debt free much faster, like, this year I could have been debt free if I’d applied myself as far back as Canada. But I didn’t. And of course, I’m paying now in interest.

I hope this story shows some of the very real dangers of getting into debt, especially in academia. Take my advice, never sign up for anything that you sure don’t want to be help responsible for. Don’t let family or friends guilt-trip you. It’s not worth it.