When Plans Change

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.


Grad School


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.


binders with yearsIf 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.


Living Apart


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/yearIn 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


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Filed under: career, cars, goals, marriage, personal, savings, spending, transitions · Tags: , , , ,

28 Responses to "When Plans Change"

  1. Alicia says:

    I have so been there. I was supposed to graduate May 2012, then August 2012, then December 2012. I finally defended January 2013. It happens so often that I rarely believe anyone’s timeline anymore 🙂 it was definitely stressful, and there was only me to worry about, let alone two PhD wrap-ups. I am a pretty big worrier in general, so that transition wreaked havoc on my stress levels. I love arching my savings increase (and in my case, debt decrease) – it means I m making progress.

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah, I don’t believe anyone’s timelines either, especially my own. I’ve been saying I’ll graduate in “about a year” for 7 months and I have no intent to change it.

      Probably as soon as Kyle defends I’ll switch to crazy worry about my own defense, but apparently I won’t do both at once!

  2. E 2 says:

    Oh man, sounds like grad school! In most ways this change sounds positive for you guys, though. My husband’s graduation date also got pushed back from May 2013 to May 2014 (May 2013 was optimistic in the first place), but it meant we had another year here together. My graduation date is in flux due to circumstances out of my control (advisor’s sabbatical), but I’ll be writing and don’t need to be on location, so I’m just trying to prepare to support myself somehow if I run out of funding. Unfortunately, running multiple job searches + dissertation writing makes it hard to be amazing at both! So anyway, I hear that, and extra cash on hand in case of uncertainty is not a bad thing.

    1. Emily says:

      I’m glad you and your husband get to be together for longer. That’s really great that you’re to the writing-only stage, though. I agree it’s difficult to get great work done and search for a job simultaneously, which is why I don’t mind Kyle waiting on the postdoc applications until after his defense. I’m not looking forward to doing it myself in a few months. It’s great you have all that savings on hand for the upcoming transitions!

  3. Leigh says:

    There is a ton of uncertainty in my future! I have my whole life ahead of me, after all. No real events to plan for either. I mean, will I get married some day? Will I have kids some day? Will I marry my current boyfriend? Will we live together at some point before marriage? Do I want to stay an individual contributor at work and become a more senior engineer or manage people or manage projects? If I don’t have kids, would I stay in my condo for a long time? Will I stay in my current city for a long time or will I move at some point?

    I still remember in college, having very particular plans about how my life was going to go in that time period and the first year after. Well, now I’ve been out of college for four years and the future is mostly uncertain, but I’m okay with that so long as I like where I am.

    I absolutely love seeing my savings increase and that’s not an indicator that my life is no fun because I am saving 66-80% of my net income 🙂

    Hmmm in the next few months, I anticipate starting a new job. I don’t really like where I am in terms of work content and I’ve been hunting around internally for a few months now. Hopefully the current lead I’ve been following will pan out.

    I’ve had a few friends go through issues like you and Kyle with graduating from grad school. It would drive me nuts not feeling like I was in control of my life like that!
    Leigh recently posted..Two Year Mortgage Pay-off Plan

    1. Emily says:

      It’s interesting to consider the difference between having certain hopes for the future (that you don’t know if they will come about) and just not knowing what’s going to happen. Like, I hope that we’ll have kids, and we likely will find a way to bring that about, and that’s very different from not knowing if we want to have kids. I really don’t like this 95%-sure-we’re-going-to-move-but-no-idea-yet-to-what-city-and-I-have-little-input-on-the-matter situation!

      That’s great that you are looking for a new position. I hope you can find one with your current company!

  4. Mrs Pop says:

    Everything’s uncertain all the time, but we just do the best we can with what we have at the moment. When I was in school “five year plans” were always so important, but I got too invested in them and would get disappointed if there was a deviation from them. Now we make “estimated trajectories”, rather than plans and if there’s a change, well… That’s life!
    Mrs Pop recently posted..Happy Friday – Happy Money: Invest In Others

    1. Emily says:

      I think there are areas in my life in which I have more certainty, though it’s not 100%. I really like that I have the marriage thing in place, even recognizing the small possibility of Kyle’s early death.

      This end-of-grad-school time is really teaching me about the value of estimated trajectories over five year plans!

  5. We are facing similar uncertainty with Mrs. Done by Forty’s graduation date. The best way I’ve found to deal with it is just to know it will be done as quickly as possible, but to focus on a specific target date probably will just result in some anxiety. Arizona has been good to us so while I love the idea of going somewhere new, I am in no hurry to leave, either. No matter what happens, I think the results will work out fine in the end…they always do!
    Done by Forty recently posted..Leaving on a Jet Plane…

    1. Emily says:

      What a great attitude! Kyle’s attitude right now is “I love my life” and he doesn’t understand why I think about the future so much. When he talks like that, I don’t understand either!

  6. Cash Rebel says:

    Because you guys are still making money by being at grad school, it doesn’t seem as bad as people who keep delaying grad school graduation but have to pay for it. But obviously is sucks that you have to wait longer for your salaries to shoot up. At least you guys don’t have to separate quite yet.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..Do extroverts or introverts make more money?

    1. Emily says:

      Eh, I dunno… I think if we were paying for school we would be more motivated to get out. I mean, look at graduation rates within 4 years from public vs. private universities. But actually, our tuition is pretty cheap at this point – at our university, there is a steep cut after the 4th year.

  7. We are looking at another 2 years of living apart, at least, but hopefully it won’t last much longer than that. I’m really happy to hear that you and Kyle will be doing long distance for shorter than you thought you had to!
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..5 best places to get free ebooks for Kindle, Nook, and other ereaders

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks! It sucks for you guys to be apart but at least you’ll both be up to new things.

  8. […] PF reminds us all that sometimes plans change but they are still very inspiring as they work their way through […]

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  10. That’s a lot of changes, but it sounds like some of them will work in your favor, especially important ones like not having to be apart from each other for as long (hopefully). I’m an absolute planner and I hate uncertainty. It’s something I’ve always struggled with. Right now I guess the only uncertainty for me is when bf and I will get married and if we’ll stay in the city when we do. I’d like to move closer to my family and friends, but bf’s job is here and it would be hard for him to find another job doing what he does now in another part of the country.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Will I Regret Not Having a Wedding?

    1. Emily says:

      Considering where we would live was a very important topic for me and Kyle when we were considering marriage. If we couldn’t agree on that for the long-term (or at least agree to be flexible) the whole endeavor would have been dead in the water. :/

  11. […] lengthier and there are a lot of factors that their graduation date hinges on, like the couple at Evolving Personal Finance, who are doing really well as students so they don’t have to worry as […]

  12. SP says:

    The uncertainty was the worst for me. For awhile it was something I could live with, but once it became more real (interviews in specific places, and the waiting for offers), it was torture. While we have a lot of uncertainty ahead, it has drastically dropped!

    Best of luck, and I’m glad to hear you’ll have less time apart!

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks for the heads up about what I have to look forward to! 😉 I’m glad things are looking so settled for you.

  13. […] per month than it was at our last residence.  We’re only going to be here for around a year (give or take) and the breakeven time is 1.5 years.  But until the moving expenses are repaid, all our budget […]

  14. […] had two small developments in the graduating/finding jobs front of our lives since my last update that are having a major impact on our two-body […]

  15. Cash Rebel says:

    Wow, you guys have been busy saving money. Increasing your net worth by $28,000 is quite an accomplishment on grad student salaries. Hell, it’s a great accomplishment regardless. Many people will never have a year like that.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..November 2013 Goals Update

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah, it wasn’t super intentional. Thank you, bull market! I doubt we’ll hit that >50% increase accomplishment again… ever??

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