Thursday, February 9, 2017

The most alarming sentence I read today

"Worse, my devotion to the job hollowed out my marriage." 

(In the midst of an long article by a University of Maine tenure-track assistant professor of communications Josh Roiland about his money troubles and the money troubles of people who desire tenure-track positions in the humanities.)

(Is there a job for which I would sacrifice my marriage? My answer is "no.") (Sorry for moralizing.) 

18 comments:

  1. We all make decisions on our relative priorities in life. Some people fashion for themselves the choice between a being a highly recognized professor and their private/family life. 100 years from now, who will remember someone who published 500 articles in Nature? Will they have a family with children?

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  2. I'm an assistant prof making about the same salary in an area with a similar cost of living. With a spouse and 3 kids, I live comfortably, albeit modestly. The biggest difference between myself and the subject of this article is the student loan debt. That's a crazy amount of debt to carry and has nearly zero ROI. Seeing that monthly payment dissolve every month has to be depressing. Best of luck to this guy.

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    1. That's a really good point, re: the student loan debt. That's gotta drive a person crazy.

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    2. I fail to understand how this subject pays so little on such a high student loan. I have about half of that debt and pay almost twice per month. I.e. please teach me how I can pay less per month, because that burden is brutal on me, with also very high credit card debt. I'm already on the income-driven repayment and make a little more than the subject.

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    3. Depending on how he acquired the student loan debt (did he spend college loan money on extravagant living expenses in college?), it doesn't have low ROI - he wouldn't have been able to get his job (or something else that he wanted to do without it).

      In general, I think, college graduates are doing significantly better than other people, so the ROI in general probably doesn't suck. Unfortunately, the combination of uncertain employment and previous good earnings of college grads (meaning that universities want a higher fraction of the income gained from going to college) is problematic. Since current graduates aren't likely to make as much as previous grads (because jobs won't pay as much and they are likely to be laid off in their highest-paying years) and can't invest as much so that they aren't likely to gain as much benefit from college (because they have to pay income to their loans or in available savings for eventual job loss rather than invest it), the rate of increase in tuition and loan debt is probably not going to be worth it in the future (or maybe now).

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  3. I don't mean to be unkind to the poor fellow, but "Both added debt, but not nearly as much as me attending several international conferences to present my work in hopes of boosting my profile for the impending job market. I self-financed these trips to Lisbon and London and Paris.".

    When I was in grad school I'd heard London and Paris were nice....

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    1. At some point you have to be able to sit down and do a cost-benefit analysis: $250,000 in debt to get a job that pays $50,000 per year is a pretty terrible deal, even if it is your dream job. Although, he makes an 8 hour trip to get $50, 20 of which is eaten up by gas, and the remaining by the overage charges on his credit and debit cards for filling up his tank, so maybe this sort of thing is not his strong suit.

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    2. I am reminded of the phrase: "If you can't be a good example, be a dire warning."

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  4. Easy way to fix it: don't get married. It's an old, outdated institution.

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    1. There is a 100% correlation of divorce to marriage....

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    2. I absolutely agree BTR

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    3. This presents some difficulty for academics, especially if you end up having to do time abroad, or if you happen to be an international coming to work in the USA. If governments made more allowances for real couples who happen to not be married, then perhaps people wouldn't have to. I know for many in academia, marriage is the only feasible way a couple could remain together.

      Now I know many countries do make allowances for common law partners, but those are so difficult to get that they may as well not offer them. I remember when I was younger I tried to get a partner visa for my then fiancee, who I had been together with for 6 years, shared a home, and a bank account, and was flat out denied on failure to prove we were a legitimate couple... whatever that means.

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  5. The article is a cautionary tale for everyone: "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender." Nowhere is this more true than our Student Loan program, and equally, nowhere is this explained to young adults in college. Credit card debt is (fairly) easily wiped out; however (I believe) that Student Loan debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Make no mistake, this was a planned regulation, and one that eats at the heart of our educational system, and really gripes my wagger as well.

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    1. You can (or used to - 2004), but you can't receive federal aid after having it discharged.

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    2. Hap - It appears as though my belief is mistaken and you are correct, and thank you for pointing that out - it made me go and look. You CAN discharge student loans in bankruptcy, but one must demonstrate "undue hardship." I have no idea how high a bar that may be. Here's a link:

      http://www.studentloanborrowerassistance.org/bankruptcy/

      I think my comment regarding the difficulty of discharging the loan is still valid - the laws were written to make student debt a special class of debt and difficult to discharge.

      I think the article fits into the "It's better to learn from a horrible example than to be one."

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    3. It's a very high bar. Two real examples that were not found an undue hardship are a 62 year old unemployed and living on SS of less than $800/month and a 66 year old unemployed for 13 years who already lost his house to foreclosure. The latter is under appeal.

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    4. No, I wasn't trying to claim you were wrong. I knew someone who went through bankruptcy and specifically exempted student loans from discharge to avoid not being able to get further loans, so I assumed that at that time (when the bankruptcy laws were being changed) it was possible but not desirable. I haven't looked since, though.

      Before, if you could, it was costly and likely (as below) hard so your point about it being mostly unavailable or difficult seems OK.

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    5. Someone told me this and I don't know if it's true, but your best bet if you wish to go through bankruptcy and have student loans is to try to consolidate all student loans into a non-government operated bank loan, then declare bankruptcy. At this point, one can allegedly get their student-loans-turned-personal/private-loans to zero.

      Again, I am no finance person or an expert on banking, just a word from a friend when I brought up this story to him (he works at a large US bank in as a loan officer).

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