I’ve been doing some thinking about how much information I share on this blog. I am trying to remain anonymous since I share our net worth here every month. Really, I only blog as a means of keeping track of how our finances are doing, and as a way to keep me thinking about financial progress.
Because of this I haven’t yet told you readers what Mrs. Dragon and I do for a living. It just seemed unnecessary and kept one more layer on anonymity between us. But there are some things I’ve shared on this blog that don’t really make sense if you put them together.
1.) I’m in the first year of a new job, but I just took a 24 day vacation to Belize. There is no way I could have accrued that many vacation days in such a short amount of time.
2.) Mrs. Dragon and I both worked overtime this summer and it REALLY inflated our paychecks, as seen in this Hoard update. That must be a lot of overtime.
3.) That’s really it, but don’t you think lists look better in threes?
So, what kind of new job gives you a ton of overtime in your first summer, then turns around and gives you 24 days off in a row?
The answer, of course, is that we work in education.
Specifically, Mrs. Dragon and I both work for a public university. Our appointments are 9 month jobs (the school year), but we take our paychecks spread out over 12 months to even out our income.
However, since we are DINKs right now (that’s Dual Income No Kids), we decided to teach part of the summer for extra income. So, all those “extra hours” at work were really just us teaching summer school.
After our classes ended, we had the rest of the summer off. That’s how we had the time off to take a 24 day international vacation in our first year on the job.
As it turns out, teaching (at least at the university level) is a pretty sweet gig for people pursuing financial independence. For one, many people choose to pursue financial independence because they want more time off/time for stuff other than work. Well, since work is a 9-month position for us we get 3 months off every year.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that during the 9 months of work we get about 7 weeks of paid time off? Specifically, our academic calendar includes a week off for spring break, three days for Thanksgiving, labor day, MLK day, Easter Friday, and a full 5 weeks off over Christmas.
I have often joked with other young professors about how compared to our friends with “real jobs” we barely work at all.
Of course, there are a couple of trade-offs here. The first is that you need a PhD to be semi-well compensated in education, and that’s a lot of school. Like … a LOT. Most people don’t want to stay in school that long. Hell, most people want to be done with school before they turn 18.
Another thing about staying in school so long is that you miss a lot of years of earned income. I got my PhD last year at 29 years old and I had made an average of about $16k for the previous 6 years. And that’s only if you go into a field that has decent funding for assistantships. Want to do grad school in Art/English/History/many other fields? You likely won’t be anywhere near $16k, and you may have to take out debt.
But for the few who actually enjoy school, and don’t mind trading a few years for a free education, it’s pretty sweet.
The other big trade-off is that I could be making a lot more money if I wanted to. Having a PhD in a STEM field means that I could be making a salary much higher than the one I make as a professor. But those high-octane jobs don’t come with four and a half months off every year and a flexible schedule (I can schedule office hours at 7am, or 7pm, if I want).
The time off really is a HUGE perk. Enough that we are willing to essentially halve our salaries for it.
Something else that’s a huge check on the plus side is that the job is meaningful. That may or may not sound hokey to you, but literally this very morning (for me as I’m typing, not for you as you’re reading) Mrs. Dragon got a card from a student she recently taught. In it was a heartfelt handwritten message about how much the class, and Mrs. Dragon, had meant to this student. She was brought to tears by the kind words of a student whose life she had improved.
You can’t put a dollar amount on that. Sure there are a bunch of little dickheads, smarting off and trying to impress the girls/boys. And a bunch of lazy assholes who show up and do nothing and then complain at the end of the semester, “where’s my C?” But there are also young people who work hard and want to do well. Giving advice and just being a good influence are part of the job, and it’s nice to know that you can touch someone’s life and improve their future.
Anyway, I’ll get off the emotional soapbox and just say that teaching is the right job for us, and it’s what allowed us to take a 24 day international vacation this summer without even having to run it by our boss. It’s not for everyone, but we feel like we’ve landed on our feet.
So, the professor is in. His name is Dr. Bearded Dragon. And he’s here to share his story.
Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments if you have them.