Saturday, September 14, 2013

Doing the math

Earning more doesn’t necessarily mean saving more, and I am learning this firsthand. As a graduate student, I thought that my financial miseries will be over once I start working. What I did not realize is that a student is also shielded from a lot of extra spending. As a postdoc, I earn 1.4 times of what I used to earn as a student. Not a whole lot more, I agree, but remember, I now live in a city where the cost of living is much less. Now let’s do some math.

            I now pay more taxes.

            I now pay some money for my health insurance, which I did not have to do as a student. It’s about $100/month, but still.

            Most students live in shared houses. The more the number of roommates, the less expenses per person. The rent gets shared, and so do the utilities, electricity bill, internet bill, water, sewer, garbage, anything you can think of. Now that I live on my own, I pay everything by myself.

            Most students also live close to campus, and either walk, bike, or take the bus. The bus ride is always free. In a bid to stay in a larger apartment community, I moved away from campus. So now I am paying for gas, as well as parking. Parking alone is close to $50 every month.

            School gym is free for students. Not for postdocs.

            I now have an iPhone, that comes with a data plan. Despite getting an 18% university discount, I am still paying more.

            I now fancy things I did not fancy before. Bose speakers, nice bedding set from BB&B, et cetera. Agreed, it is a one time buy, but still.

            I will no longer be able to avail all those student discounts. At conferences. For professional memberships at organizations. In Bengali associations, et cetera.

            I am not even accounting for the weekends when I do not have to work (which I used to as a graduate student), and hence feel like taking a flight and visiting some place. Remember, I live in a place which is really flat and uneventful. The nearest mountain is a good 8 hour drive away, the Pacific is close to 26 hours away, and the Atlantic is close to 20 hours away. To curb temptation, I just stay at home in the weekends, do household work, watch movies, and read.

            And at the end of the day, I cannot take up a second job for money. No tutoring, consulting, or offering professional services. I could, if I lived in India, but not here. Hence my argument. Unless you earn many times more, this earning more as a postdoc is just an illusion. What you actually do is spend more, and become poorer.


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