Frugal Fincon Followup #1

Whew, that turned out to be an unexpectedly crazy weekend (in a good way — I was just verrrrrrrry busy with my social life.) But I’m looking forward to making a few posts over the next couple of weeks that answer the questions y’all asked!

First off, Femme Frugality wanted to know where I worked as a historian. Which, actually, I can’t say 🙂 Not that my cloak of anonymity is that dense or anything, but I want to stay a little less google-able than I would be if I mentioned my employer or exact field within history. Let’s just say that I currently work at a large and very recognizable midwestern university. Like a lot of other young academics, I’m currently caught up in the de-permanentization of university teaching jobs; my particular field has been especially hard hit by the financial crisis. (Of the six people I know in my subfield that have left their jobs in the last few years, none have been replaced. It looked like there was going to be an opening this year…and then the dean of that university decided they couldn’t justify a new hire after all because of X reasons and…. Well.) So, for the moment, I’m going on one-year contracts. Pretty soon I’ll either get a permanent job in my field (not that likely!) or give up and look for something related to do. What might that be? Well, I have some ideas, but I’m not totally sure. 🙂 It’s one reason why I want to focus on various kinds of savings right now — a retirement fund so that it can grow even if I can’t contribute for a while, and an emergency fund that I could draw on for some expenses if I need some transitional months.

Oooof, that was a depressing answer. I work…but maybe not for long. However, I’m trying to stay fairly cheerful about it, recognizing that I have strong skills and a decent network of contacts; I’ll never be rich, but I think I’ll probably manage all right no matter what.

Following up on that question, Brooke & Genevieve from PFTwins wanted to know why I wanted to get a PhD and whether I thought it was worth it. The first part of that is relatively easy to answer — I knew I was really good at scholarship, better than I was at anything else. And I thought I’d be good at teaching. I chose my particular field because of personal interest, but the general idea of going into academia came first. Whether it was worth it…no, probably not. Don’t get me wrong, I really like what I do, and I am indeed good at it. But 7-8 years for a combined master’s and PhD is just too much time to spend being miserably underpaid and with so much uncertainty at the end of it. That was hard for me to recognize in my early 20s when I decided to go; I was interested in serving humanity, you know? And I still am. But I also feel that 25-year-olds are ill-equipped to understand what it will really mean, to try to change fields in their mid-30s. When I was 25, I’d already had jobs in about four separate professional fields (this isn’t counting stuff like babysitting and retail.) Switching often seemed normal. It gets a lot harder to do that later on, and I really just don’t think someone in their early-mid 20s can understand that in their bones. So: I’m really proud of the dissertation I wrote (that hopefully will be a book in the next couple of years) and of the classes I’ve taught, the students I’ve helped, and I guess it was worth it in that sense, but in the sense of being a stepping stone to an actual career, nah. Should’ve opened a fancy coffeeshop and served homemade pastries instead 🙂

9 thoughts on “Frugal Fincon Followup #1

  1. debt debs says:

    Thanks for sharing, that honest update Cecilia. I know a few PhD bloggers who have been questioning their jobs and careers lately. I’ve always told my kids that as long as you can support yourself and any offspring that you bring into this world and that you are happy, it doesn’t matter what you do. Maybe I should have qualified that to say … and as long as it’s not in the sex trade. 😉 Hope things continue ticking along for you.

    1. Yeah, I always said the same thing too! But I’m not actually sure I can support myself in academia…but maybe. I’ll end up ok, anyway, I’m sure. I feel much better since I’m almost out of debt.

  2. DebtFreeJD says:

    I’m so sorry this is an ongoing-challenge. You are obviously putting a lot of careful thought into this, so you’ll end up in a great spot no matter what, but I know it must still be awfully tough. As MomDebtFreeJD likes to say, “Keep your chin up, kid!”

    1. Yeah, it’s just kind of an unfortunate time to be in certain fields (humanities higher ed being one of them.) I’ll land on my feet eventually, in or out of academia; it may just take a while. But it has been kind of tough. Thanks for the saying, I’ll add it to my collection of inspirational slogans 🙂

  3. To both answers, I hear ya! I’ve been looking into going back into teaching because I loved it, but they’ve replaced most of the lecturer positions with term positions at half the pay of a full-time employee. I don’t want to start the adjunct debate (though I’m sure you’re totally feeling it with your current situation), but I don’t understand how they can essentially gauge an entire subset of the academic population by switching more and more to term positions (literally, a term, not “X years”). So, I won’t make the jump unless there is a good position out there, but I’m moving more and more away from my teaching days while I’m waiting for a job to come up, that when it does I likely won’t be a top candidate. Ugh.

    1. Oh and I’m down for being your business partner in the coffee shop.

    2. Yeah, I am very determined to not adjunct. It’s a dead-end trap. So far I’ve had what are, by the standards of one-year jobs, very very good one-year jobs — well paid, prestigious — and I feel ok about that, except that there’s a limit to the number of times I want to move across country. It’s so disruptive; both times I’ve done it I’ve lost about two months of work, and you can’t make a career if you’re only really working 10 months a year! Not to mention the personal toll it takes on relationships. Also, I totally feel you on how time gets away and suddenly you stop looking like a candidate who can do X…. The whole decimation of the university system just sucks. Oh well. It’ll be a good coffee shop! You want to handle the money while I make the pastries? 🙂

  4. I don’t blame you in thinking your Ph.D. was somewhat of a waste. I was lucky to become a tenured professor. But your blog has inspired me to create my own personal finance blog ( so many academics don’t talk about personal finances. We are supposed to just love our job because it is a calling. This is one calling where I want to make a living and be able to live my life beyond academia. If you do leave academia you will be a great asset to the private sector because of your research abilities. Who knows maybe you even become a financial planner.

    1. I’m reluctant to say it was a total waste. It’s been a great set of years in a lot of ways; I love the people I know because I’ve done this, and the work I’ve been able to do. If I were doing it all over again, though, I’d try to take a different path to some of the same ends.

      So cool that I inspired a new blog! That’s awesome 🙂 I look forward to reading what you have to say. I agree that it’s really problematic what academics are supposed to put up with, financially, because it’s supposedly a calling.

      I actually would enjoy being a financial planner, I think — at least if I could do it in a moral way and not just steer people to overpriced investments to make money. I’d like helping people sort out their budgets though.

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