We’re having bad weeks

this was supposed to be a kitten post with adorable kitten pictures of #2’s adorable kittens… but…

work is hard and we’ve both been getting bad (work-related) news… so we’re gonna punt today

Friday we’ll post an ask the grumpies about college savings.

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I did not get another equity raise this year

Which means I’m still making at least 7K/year less than people who were just barely tenured last year (disclaimer:  this is still a lot of money, but I am relatively underpaid).   Not only that, but I didn’t get any other raise– departments were limited at the university level to only giving merit raises to a small percent of faculty (which is ridiculous on so many levels) and apparently I didn’t make the cut-off.  Everyone I talked to about my inequitable salary (head, dean, associate dean, random full professors) agreed it’s a problem, but when push came to shove, the dean came up with a bunch of excuses to not do anything about it.

I was recruited for a targeted position last year — tenured full professor with a raise, but I declined to apply because I didn’t want to move there.  Now I’m regretting having made that decision, and perhaps regretting more that I was convinced to tell my department chair (who then told the dean) about it.  So… I guess I’ll be looking at the JOE (Jobs for Economists) this year.  I don’t know if I’ll end up applying anywhere, but maybe I will.  It’s hard to say.

On the plus side financially, DH’s next paystub is supposed to be at full pay and they’ll be reinstituting the retirement match.  So yay money.

When I get some time, I’ll write a post or two about the soul-searching and mid-life identity crisis that this lack of raise has triggered.  But for now, this just sucks.

Wanting control

Right now I’m overwhelmed with my research.  My pipeline is messed up in that there’s too many new projects and not enough in the under review or even draft stage.  I feel pulled in all different directions.  And lots of things aren’t going smoothly.  This means I’ve been having a lot of anxiety dreams (last night’s was that we’d gone on vacation and couldn’t remember if we’d left food and water out for the cats!)

So this morning I was musing, maybe we should do a no sugar challenge.  The kids got awfully sugary cereal after we decided that cereal bars was too much like having cake for breakfast.  (Cereal bars had initially been planned as a rare once in a while when they need food-to-go breakfst but soon we were going through 14 bars a week.)  There’s so much added sugar in everything.  We should stop cold-turkey just to see what we come up with.  Of course, each time I’ve been trying to get pregnant or have been pregnant we’ve had no-added-sugar in the house, so it would really be more of a reminder challenge than a voyage of discovery challenge.

Then I wandered onto Mint.  What if DH stays unemployed long term, I thought.  How are we going to handle money?  Maybe we should do a no-spend challenge to see how low we could go.  I mean, there’s the $750/mo for daycare which will be going away except for more expensive day camps in the summer, but can we still stay under my take-home pay?  What do we spend all that money on anyway?  Do we even know?  Let’s say for the sake of easy mental math, that my take-home pay is $6K, but that’s only for 9 months, which means we’d need to spend under $4.5K/month over a 12 month period.   According to mint, we’ve spent under my (actual) prorated take-home pay in January and February, but not so much the rest of the year.  But how much of the difference is reimbursed business expenses?   Let’s see, Utilities average $300, Groceries average $800 (though we could certainly cut there), restaurants $300 (could also be cut), gas $100, entertainment $100, a nebulous “shopping” category (which includes some of DH’s reimbursable work expenses) is $700, and then there’s this huge nebulous “other” which includes a jumble of insurance, work expenses, taxes, car repair, dentist, kid’s activities, yard stuff, and so much more.  I don’t even know where to start separating that stuff out.  And when we’re not spending close to my take-home pay, it doesn’t really matter.  Is it worth sorting out right now?  Probably not.  What would make the most sense would be to keep an eye on how much we have to transfer from savings to checking each month and if we never end up spending down too much of our savings or hitting the emergency fund, we can continue to not pay attention.

Of course, all of these potential challenges take time and mental energy away from the real problem, which is that I need to get a handle on my work.  I need to finish papers and get them out so they’re no longer taking up mental space and keep my head above water on everything else.

So I don’t think I’ll be doing any of these challenges.  I shouldn’t even be typing this post now.  Except I’ve done it which means it’s off my mind and I have one fewer thing for my brain to try to distract me with when it should really be trying to make sense of the work I have before me.

RBOC

  • Don’t forget to call your senators about health care!  They’re likely to try to repeat what the House did and pass their horrible bill that drops healthcare coverage for the neediest, breaks insurance markets for people on the exchanges, removes coverage protections for those with employer sponsored health insurance, and gives enormous tax breaks to a few people, when they think nobody is paying attention.
  • “Knives” is an awesome name for a girl.  Like Knives Chau.
  • Wonder Woman is the hero we need, but not the hero we deserve.
  • I have had minor chest congestion and a small cough since May.  It doesn’t seem to be allergies.  I know at this point I should probably go into see a doctor but I seriously doubt it will make a difference.  Maybe I’ll get chest x-rays and they’ll find bronchitis, and then what?  Probably nothing, possibly antibiotics that won’t do anything. (Update:  trying a different antihistamine than my usual helps but only while it is working, so maybe allergies?)
  • I don’t think it’s a coincidence that bloggers who complain about debt and money also borrow money to buy luxuries we don’t generally feel we can afford.
  • DH is listening to the new Al Franken book and keeps getting verklempt.  DH says he has to pause it while driving in order to gather himself together.  Apparently it hits lots of emotions.
  • Why doesn’t spellcheck know verklempt?  Overslept is not even close!
  • John Green had a brief but intense love affair with Ryan Gosling on the set of LaLaLand. It was only 48 hours, and they don’t keep in touch, but he has never felt so loved.
  • There’s this thing that several current pop songs are doing with auto-tune these days that I don’t really like.  I don’t mind auto-tune when it’s used to say, correct Brittney Spears, and I kind of liked the electronic vocal effects that they played around with in the 1980s.  I think the difference here is that it hits the uncanny valley of vocal stuff.
  • I want to play planescape torment again
  • DC1 doesn’t greedily identify, or really identify at all, with the lone genius trope.  Zie hasn’t even reread Matilda (which we own).  I think this is a good thing and evidence that zie is having a much happier childhood than the rest of us did.
  • What do I need to do in order to find a job I don’t hate given that I hate to work?  (what/how/where/how???).
  • I’ve been reading about people who hate to work.  Unfortunately a lot of the advice is “start your own business!” which is the worst.  Or become financially independent, sure, but first I have to work to get money.  “Start a side hustle!” but I don’t even have the energy for ONE hustle.

Being breadwinner

can be stressful

Right now #2 and I are both breadwinners of our respective family units.  In case you were wondering about #2, after her FIL died, her DH got very depressed and is taking a break from paid employment.  There’s probably a bit more than that, but it’s not my story to tell.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been the sole income of the family– if you recall, DH quit his tenure-track job without anything lined up, so for a few months we weren’t sure what our income situation was going to be like until he got employed.

One of the first things I’ve noticed about being breadwinner is that I feel the need to increase my income.  Asking for raises, getting grants, taking consulting opportunities, all of these seem to be more important now than when DH is also bringing in cash.  Getting my research done and out so that I can be more attractive should we need to move takes on greater urgency.

Combined with this, I let DH take on greater responsibilities at home.  We already have a pretty egalitarian household, and when DH isn’t earning, he starts taking care of more of the daily and weekly chores, especially kitchen stuff and chauffeuring.  And I feel less guilty about him doing so.  I imagine this is how some women get shunted into home production even when things start out equivalent.  I do spend more time on our finances when I’m the only one earning, but it doesn’t make up for the time I’m no longer spending on regular chores.

I do like having DH take care of things at home, but I also like the stress of not being the only person earning money.  I think I like it best when we’re both enjoying our jobs and earning a lot of money.  I would like it least if I disliked my job but had to keep my job because mine was the only income.  My next least favorite would be being the homemaker if DH was the sole breadwinner and hated his job.  I’m not sure how I would rate hating my job vs. being a homemaker if DH was happy with his job.  I guess it might depend on how easily I could find a new job in that situation.  I suspect that I would rather have each of us make 150K than have DH make 300K with me required to make nothing.  I might prefer making 300K myself and having DH at home to either scenario though.  (Note:  I am happy to test any of these three propositions!)  Smaller dollar amounts would probably lead to different preferred combinations.

As we’ve noted before, this time we’re in a better position than last time DH stopped bringing in income.  As I look through that old post discussing what to do with finances, I am happy that we don’t have to move so much around.  There’s no mortgage to stop prepayment on.  No private school to save tuition for, no mother’s helpers to pay (though we do have summer camp and daycare throughout the summer).  No IRAs to fund (though if DH’s jobless situation continues, I will be eligible to contribute again).  And we have a nice cash cushion.  My plan is to convert this cash cushion into tax-deferred savings (by continuing to max out my 403(b) and 457, even as we dip into savings) with the thought that doing so will make us more likely to be eligible for financial aid when DC1 goes off to college.

I also don’t know how long I am going to be the breadwinner.  DH’s company is supposed to be getting back on track in July, but i’s have not yet been dotted nor t’s crossed on the contract that will put the company back to work for the next couple of years.  We can wait, as can DH’s direct boss, but much of the rest of the company cannot afford to take more than one month unpaid.  If waiting for the contract lasts too long, the company might just go under and the contract will fall through entirely.  My bread-winning this time around may end up being longer term than we had hoped.

Have you ever been the sole breadwinner of a multiple-person household?  How do things change?  Do you feel stressed?  Do you have a family income combination that you prefer (breadwinner/homemaker/dual-income, etc)?

Child family labor: Do you let your kids help with your work?

It is legal in the US for kids under the age of 14 to work if it is for the family business.  Even when they’re older, it is legal for them to work for less than minimum wage if it is for the family business.  Labor laws don’t apply the same way when your employer is a parent.  (Note and disclaimer:  consult a lawyer/do your own research before making employment decisions.)

When I was younger (including when I was on break from college and an experienced grader!) I used to offer to help grade my mom’s stacks of homeworks for free.  She would never let me, even when it was just multiple choice and required no specialized knowledge to mark.  I was never really sure why she wouldn’t.

I have friends whose parents are famous economists who learned Stata practically in the cradle.  These skills came in handy when they were old enough for paying work as students and then later when their humanities degrees didn’t really pan out and they needed to change fields.  Data analysis is a valuable skill.

DC1 has played around with programming in Python and likes building things in minecraft.  Zie has also done some Scratch and some lego-robot programming.  This summer I suggested zie might like to try a little Stata and zie said that sounded fun.  We’ve done about three hours now (1 hour of showing how excel works using our mortgage spreadsheet and 2 hours of creating a numeric variable from a text variable from an incomplete but already created .do file) and zie seems to be enjoying it.  Once we’re done with the variable generation (that I actually do need for my work and would normally have an RA do but they’re all off for a week), we’ll start going through A Gentle Introduction to Stata.  Right now I’m paying $7.50/hour which is much more than zie gets for hir allowance.

Zie is mostly booked all summer with summer camps and a keyboarding class and books and sleepovers and games and traveling and so on.  But there are a few days free here and there, so we’ll put in a little Stata training on those days, and if I have scut work to do and no RA to do them, zie will be able to help out if zie stays interested.  Especially if I’m out of Here to Make Friends podcasts to listen to while copy/pasting.

Did you ever help your parents with their work?  Did they pay you?  Would you let your children help?  Why or why not?

Ask the grumpies: How to decide to leave/stay in a tenured position?

Should I stay or should I go #? asks:

I’m considering leaving a tenured academic position for a soft money position at a private foundation. I’m very excited about the vision of the new program and the resources and time it potentially affords. I’m worried about the pressure of needing to get grants and walking away from tenure. What would you consider (or negotiate for) if you were making a move like this? What would make you decide to stay put? Financially, what would you consider necessary to be prepared for a move of this nature?

#1, as always, starts:

Save a lot, in case your funding runs out. If I were on soft money I’d be stressed; hard money is one of the good things about my current job.

I was lucky that I couldn’t stay put in my tenured position because it was so bad. (Although lots more money would have kept me there for a while; but if they had lots of money for me I wouldn’t have been considering leaving in the first place.)

I mean, you gotta do a mental balance sheet. Leaving is bad: loss of tenure, possible loss of ability to do your own research, loss of stability, have to move. OTOH, never teach again; no more grading; possibly more money; could be a better work situation.

Academia is an extremely flexible and independent schedule; are you willing to potentially give up some or most of that flexibility?

If you pass on this opportunity now, will you be able to find employment later if you should need to leave your current tenured position? Balance that with, if you go for this opportunity and it doesn’t work out, will you be able to find employment later?

What would it take to definitely make you leave? What would it take to definitely make you stay? Which one is more likely?

If things stay exactly as they are for 5 more years, would you be ok with that? 10 years?

#2 chimes in:

One of the things that made it easier for my DH to leave academia was that we had savings and I had a stable position. That meant we weren’t dependent on his income and he was better able to deal with the loss of job security that an academic position affords.

If you haven’t yet, read Your Money or Your Life. Here’s our post with more info on the book.

Finally, what $ amount in the new place would make this decision obvious?  What would your current location need to do to make it obvious in the other direction?  Don’t forget to include the value of benefits (health insurance, retirement matches, etc.) in your decision as well.

Update:  Shannon in the comments adds:

Many institutions have a leave of absence policy for tenured faculty so rather than resigning right off the bat, you can take a 1 (or more) year leave of absence and have the right to come back if things don’t work out. This might give you some reassurances if you make that leap – if you really don’t like it, you can go back to what you have now. It’s definitely worth exploring, and even if there’s not an official policy, it’s worth asking. Given that you have tenure, they can’t let you go for being disloyal or anything, and the worst they can say is no.

She is absolutely correct.  In fact, my DH took a one-year unpaid leave pre-tenure to work on a start-up.

Here’s some related posts:
What would make you quit mid-semester?
What to do after tenure denial?
Bad Work Situation
Here’s one from Inside Higher Ed about Stepping off the tenure track. It also references a website that SIS may find useful.
When #1 quit
When #2’s husband resigned