I have a personal update for you today! It’s about how our protracted time to graduation has affected our plans, careers, and finances. I though we had some timelines and plans down, and then they were shot to heck, and now the picture is re-coming into focus.
I’ve mentioned in my weekly wrap-ups here that for the past several weeks Kyle has been working around the clock on writing his dissertation. We were hoping that he might defend this fall, but because of how the available dates are limited by the holidays and winter break, he won’t be able to defend until the start of next semester. On the one hand this is a bummer because we want him to be finished and on the other hand it gives him a bit more time to make his dissertation a really great document. This means that Kyle will continue to be (paid as) a grad student through the end of the spring semester.
If you noticed in our “About Us” page, I’ve had estimated graduation dates on there for quite some time. A close reader could have watched Kyle’s estimated graduation date move from May 2013 to August 2013 to December 2013 to May 2014 now. My estimated graduation date on that page has also been pushed from December 2013 to May 2014, and I expect it will be pushed back even further.
Our inability to predict our graduation dates has been a source of huge stress for me – well, Kyle’s date in particular. It’s felt to me like he’s been close to graduating since summer 2012 and I’ve basically been on pins and needles since then. Somehow, I’m not stressing out about my own graduation date as much! I may have a similarly drawn out period or it might be more abrupt as I don’t really anticipate graduating in the near future. My advisor does seem a bit more motivated than Kyle’s to get me out of the lab.
Anyway, even though it would have been nice for him to graduate this semester, I’m so glad to have an month-ish (January or February 2014) in mind for his defense and know that he’s making super strides to get to that stage.
With Kyle’s defense/graduation being pushed to next semester and no job on the horizon, it seems he’ll be sticking around Durham for a few more months. My graduation might actually follow rather close on the heels of his, so that could mean that we’ll be living apart for less time than we thought. We had originally thought it would be about a year, and it still might be as long as that, but it also might be quite a bit less or even no time at all! That is really wonderful news as we obviously don’t want to live apart and only resigned ourselves to doing it because we’ve seen so many other dual-PhD couples with staggered graduation dates go through it (Kyle started his PhD a year before I did).
Kyle will be turning his focus from writing his dissertation to applying for postdocs basically as soon as he gets a full draft to his advisor. We were told that you should start applying 6-9 months in advance of when you want to start, but I hope it won’t take him quite that long to nail down a position when his defense will be so close at hand. The sucky part of this equation is that I thought I would have around a year between finding out what city Kyle will be living in and when I would need to start my job in that city. A year of potential networking and job-hunting will now be reduced to a small number of months, perhaps. Maybe that doesn’t matter so much if I take a few months off after defending, anyway, though months of half-time job-searching and half-time writing doesn’t sound all that appealing.
Now we get to the money consequences of these plans being in flux. When we originally benched my car in February 2012, we thought it would need to get it back in working order in no less than one year, and that’s what we planned on with our savings. We needed $1200 in repairs over 12 months – save $100/month, easy-peasy. We also planned our savings to add that car back onto our insurance in spring 2013, so that was some additional money.
With every semester of pushing back Kyle’s graduation date, we’ve pushed back the date we plan to repair my car – now it turns out we would have only needed to save $50/month for the repairs! But we’ve been saving quite aggressively into our Cars targeted savings account for far longer than we’ve needed to and amassed a rather ridiculously high balance. It took until our most recent budget iteration when we moved two months ago to finally reduce our savings rate to our Cars account. This is a big contributor to why we have too much cash on hand. We didn’t reduce our savings rate earlier because it could always turn out that the repairs on my car will cost more than our original estimate and we wanted to play it safe.
A similar trend is happening in other areas of our savings as it is in our Cars account. We’ve been putting off taking a proper vacation until after Kyle’s defense (I honestly don’t know how I’ve gone so long without one!) so money is piling up in our Travel account. We’ve been working too hard to have any fun or shop (I haven’t even found the time to buy meat), so money is piling up in our Entertainment and Appearance accounts (though not Electronics – Kyle can spend that money easily!). And the longer my student loan money stays in the stock market, the more money it makes (so far)!
In fact, I looked at how much our net worth increased from October 2012 to October 2013 to compare it with Bridget’s challenge to increase your net worth by $25k/year even while making $50k/year. In the last year our net worth has increased by nearly $28,000, which is about half of our gross yearly income. How the heck we did that I don’t know but Mint doesn’t lie!
I don’t really mind our savings growing so much because we’re facing a lot of uncertainty among possibly setting up two households, that each of us may be unemployed for a while, travel expenses for jobs and visiting one another, and that I want to take a really fantastic vacation. But piling up this cash is not fun.
This savings is an upside to the next phase in our life being pushed back and back. Don’t feel jealous though, because the corresponding downside is that finally earning an adult-sized salary is also being pushed back while our lives are not getting any longer! Also, none of this money matters to me since I’m not enjoying myself spending it.
That’s all for the updates! As an ISTJ, I love being able to plan for the future and I was incredibly stressed out last spring not knowing how our ideas about the future had to shift up. I’m really glad to be able to think about making plans again, particularly once Kyle knows where his postdoc will be.
In what ways is your future uncertain and does it bother you as much as it does me? Do you like seeing your savings increase or is that an indicator that your life is no fun? What changes do you anticipate going through in the next year or so?
photo from Free Digital Photos