Thursday, November 05, 2009

Expectations vs. reality

All told, it took Jeremy about six years to earn his postgraduate degrees. It was a long and winding road, and at times, the only thing keeping us going was the thought of what life would be like once he had a real job. It was our way of focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel, I suppose.

There were actually lots of little lights at the end of the tunnel, but they fell into basically two categories: when Jeremy has a real job, we will have a lot more money, and a lot more time. So how is that all working out for us?

1. We will have a lot more money. Of course we had no expectations of brilliant wealth - if that was our goal, we were in the wrong field, big time. But we were hoping not to have to watch expenses quite so closely.

On the face of things, we do have a lot more money. Another thing we have a lot more of is expenses - remember that real job I mentioned? Well, it comes with awesome benefits. And those benefits cost money. It's nice to have a 401k, but someone has to actually put money in it, you know? Similarly, it's nice to be able to afford preschool, but "affording" is just another way of saying "forking out the money to pay for."

The other mitigating factor in this category is that we held off buying so many things for so long, especially while Jeremy was in his PhD program. Now all those delinquent accounts, as it were, are coming due. I'm talking about stuff like shoes (neither Jeremy nor I has had a new pair of shoes since about March 2008), a new laptop for me (my old one lasted almost six years, a veritable dinosaur), and clothes, especially winter outerwear (stuff we never needed in Tucson).

So no, it's not a dream world flowing with riches, but we didn't expect that, either. I would say it's just a little tighter than we thought it would be. I remember when we found out what Jeremy's salary would be, and at first it was like, "what will we do with all that money?" Well, guess what: you find things, or things find you.

2. We will have a lot more time. This is definitely true, but that's only because there was really nowhere to go but up. The biggest difference that I've noticed is that I no longer have to take my kids with me everywhere I go, which feels like such a luxury. Let me tell you, it feels SO good to no longer be "the one who always has her kids with her, no matter how inappropriate the situation." Jeremy even comes on family outings now. That's not to say he's absolutely a free man - obviously he is at work quite a bit, but at least there is such a thing as a weekend now. In fact, I bet his schedule seems a bit light at times, but that's part of the natural ebb and flow of things, and also, DUDE, he deserves it.

In summary, life on the other side is good. School for Jeremy is done forever. He has a real job and we're happy. The end.


Spencer said...

It's so good to hear that people actually finish school and get jobs. We often wonder how different life will be 'on the other side.' Most of the time I figure it will be pretty close to what we're doing now, except with slightly better pay. Glad to hear that you guys have ended up in such a good place for your first stop in the real world.

And hats off to Jeremy for finishing so quickly--it looks like my total 'grad school time' will be closer to nine years . . . sigh.

Liz Johnson said...

This post almost makes me cry. So there really is a real world out there?! Where your spouse exists and spends time with you?! And where you pay off debt instead of accrue it?!

Where oh where is this magical place you speak of!??!?!

Amanda said...

Yeah. The 401(K), the health insurance, the life insurance, 529s for the girls, more than state-minimum car insurance, fixing your own oven when it breaks, a trash/sewer bill. They find you.

Also, I thought Tyler would have a lot more time at home after grad school, but it's not really so because we lived a 3 minute bike ride away from school so he could just pop home for lunch, or whatever, and now we live 30 minutes away from his work, so there's no popping. Ever.

Jeremy Palmer said...

Bridget makes our salary sound higher than it actually is. It's not. We are still living in student housing, have only one car, no expensive camera, no expensive hobbies, we eat out about once every two - three months, no cabin, no vacation home, no gym memberships, no iphone (sadly), no internet on phones, no landline, I have a work laptop but my personal laptop is six years old, no tv (but a nice imac computer), no country club memberships, no xbox, no nintendo, no any game system, cheapest netflix option, no dvd player except for computers, no season tickets, no planned vacations for their own purpose, we drove across the U.S. to save money, we are saving very very little each month from my salary. There are some major pluses, however. Long winter break. Fall break. Spring break. Don't forget 3 months of a summer break! I don't have to stay in the office all day. Students think I am smart, because I just know a little Arabic and they don't. None of my colleagues would ask me to join a pyramid scheme. Free hot chocolate at work.


JackJen said...

I remember being told by family members that my dream of having more time with my husband would NEVER come to fruition--that you just get busier, even after schooling is over.

Well, here we are, 2 1/2 years out of grad school, and I can thankfully say that they were so, so WRONG! I see my husband WAYYYYYYY more than I ever did when he was in school.

Sure, church callings take up time...but instead of giving up 5+ nights/week to his mistress-the-thesis and all of that darn research, I'm giving up ONE night for YM/scouts. And that's just one example. Perhaps things will get busier when kids get older and more involved, but so far, I'm THRILLED with post-grad life.

(And Liz, you'll be there SOOOOO soon! SOON SOON SOON!)

Eevi said...

I like that you used the word "dude". I don't really associate that word with Bridget Palmer:) Yes, it sure is nice to have a real job and actually make money. We are kind of in an interesting situation now that Troy is back to school. We still have all the real life expenses, but he works 8 hours less each week, which amounts to quite a bit of less money each month. So we are looking forward to going back to full-salary when Troy finishes school.

Eevi said...

I love the fact that while I was posting my comment, Jeremy and Jackjen posted comments as well.

I wanted to add that I think the "more time" is almost more luxurious than the "more money". Since Troy still works 33 hours a week, tries to do thesis research and goes to class/does homework, there is always something that he should be doing rather than being home and spending time with us. It gets exhausting, which you obviously fully understand. And I only have one kid so you have my respects of doing so much on your own with two kids...even if it might have seemed inappropriate:)

Jeremy, I really think you should pay for a country club membership. A country club membership and you seem like a match made in heaven.

I promise I wont add any more comments:)

Bridget said...

Let me just point out that we don't live in student housing. A lot of students live here, but they're just regular apartments that happen to be in a great location for Cornell. We could probably afford a "nicer" place but I will come right out in the open here and say that I am so happy with where we are living. This, despite no garage and no laundry. So there.

Otherwise, I really liked your list, Jeremy. It makes me feel like such an ascetic!

Lindsay said...

I have to say that Bryan is probably busier now than he was in school. Ugh. That is partly due to the fact that he is still learning the biz, and things will get better, but I'm afraid he'll always be a busy fella in his line of work. At least we are making some money now, though. But where does it all go....

Katie said...

Bryan and I were just discussing this past Tuesday evening how long it will be before we could even possibly be living in our own home. Man, that green grass on the other side is a long, long way off. Please enjoy the fresh-cut smell for me. It'll be a while before we meet you there.

Nancy said...

*Sigh.* I have to say that I both loved and loathed* reading this post. Andrew and I talk about these things often. Like, you know, getting a paycheck at regular intervals. Or at all.

Oh, and not having to stay up until past midnight every night to read/write/edit/etc.

So I love that you're loving it and I'm just kind of sad that we still have so far to go...

But maybe we'll join you in that there "student housing." :) We'll see.

PS. I'm in for NaBloPoMo, or whatever it is. Andrew won't get off my back...and I've been doing it, just haven't announced it yet. :)

PPS. Another benefit about living in Cairo is that Andrew and I just got new shoes and it cost us all of $5. Of course, the new shoes were flip-flops and his mother brought them from America...but still. Who needs shoes?

*loathed is too strong of a word. But it was an L-word that meant dislike due to extreme jealousy.

Aimee said...

Coming from a professor's wife's point of will stabilize. I think moving in general is expensive. You will love those LONG vacations and the year will always be divided into quarters or semesters. Your children will get really used to having their dad around all the time, and you will learn to take advantage of the time he spends at home.

Anna said...

I really loved Jeremy's comment which outlined your non-rich life. It always makes me feel cool when people I like don't have money. It makes it okay to be poor. Also, sometimes I make lists in my head similar to the one Jeremy made outlining how poor we are, and it made me happy to see someone else's list.

Shannan said...

I relate to this post in that my husband has climbed his corporate ladder very quickly. Every time he gets a promotion we think "Yes!! We will have so much money!!" and yet, it seems like the same amount is left over every time. I guess I should reflect and notice that we have a lot more 'stuff' than we used to and we can actually afford to buy some things that were always out of the question (like new furniture or activities for the kids). But I still feel like I cringe and croak every time I open the cell phone bill or the water bill is $20 higher than last time.

Oh and we thought moving to Oregon would be a brillant career move because Jeremy's job would make us $15,000 more a year. Too bad Oregon has state income tax and the insurance is a lot more expensive not to mention the utilities and property taxes are more expensive than Washington. It totally and completely ate up that salary raise!

Craig said...

What a thought provoking post. I recall looking forward to graduating from college, getting a job, being "rich", and living like "real people" do (we used to look longingly at normal neighborhoods outside our married student housing complex).

Each stage in life has pros and cons. The danger is always not enjoying today and forgetting to count your blessings.

I could say so much more but will post to my blog on this topic instead.

Jeremy, just let me say that your list describes me for a full ten or 15 years after graduating and earning a decent engineer's salary. Nothing wrong with that.

Great post and comments!

Anonymous said...

I can definitely relate. Scott and I started our marriage with very little money--I was following him around, and had either low-paying jobs or no jobs. Now he's following me for the time being while he finishes his Ph.D. (whose completion has been postponed through no fault of his own).

At this point, I'm the one with a "real" job, and I've had similar experiences with the money. I'm making much more money now than with any previous job, and I had very high expectations for how far I could stretch that salary when I started. Well, with living in an expensive area, contributing money to my retirement account, and dealing with all the unexpected expenses that seek us out, there is a lot less left over than I would have thought. It's okay, though, because so far we haven't had an unexpected expense that we couldn't pay for. And my salary does allow us to slowly build a nest egg. I wouldn't say that owning our own home is around the corner, but it doesn't seem quite so impossible anymore.


Spencer Jarvis said...

Your comments ring true to our experience on leaving school for the real world as well. The money never goes as far as you thought it would. We have been out of school for a couple of years now and it still feels like we are paying for all the deferred maintenance or delinquent accounts we built up during school. Someday we will finally get current on our accounts.

It is always a pleasure reading your blog.

Kristen said...

I'm so happy for you guys too. Especially because of the free hot chocolate.



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