What We Do

Your brain
This is your brain on finance

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.

Me... not working
Me… not working

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.



The Hoard: August 2015
Striking A Balance

6 thoughts on “What We Do

  1. I was curious how you were able to get so much time off. 🙂 Makes perfect sense.

    Education is a great path if you want lots of time off. Unfortunately most of the K-12 teachers I’ve talked to can’t manage their finances well enough to be able to do epic travel in their summers off.

    Granted, starting pay for the first 5 years or so is only $35k, but hey, that’s about what we spend every year for a family of 5!

    • Hey, thanks for taking the time to comment! Yeah, I figured with all the talk about the trip this summer people might be wondering.

      Education can certainly be tough at the K-12 level. A lot of it depends on which state you live in. Some compensate teachers much better than others.

      Also, I love teaching, but I’ve tried high school and it’s no picnic. I have respect for anyone who chooses to teach anywhere in the K-12 range.

      You guys do awesome on the expenses front! We should all be so finely tuned. Thanks for stopping by, man.

  2. As soon as I read about it I guess education. So much time off….

    It makes my mouth water…. But I don’t think I could handle all that schooling…. But I have thought about it. Not to a university level more like high school middle school.

    I’ve given training at my job so… I teach in a way… And it is so fulfilling when someone learns something and it improves their life.

    Big thumbs up for picking the right path for you.

    • Yeah, education makes sense given the 24 day vacation we just took. It DOES take a lot of schooling, so it’s not really something you want to get into just for the path it affords if you’re striving for FI, but it’s got great work/life balance.

      Training is very similar to teaching in the most important ways. The biggest difference is you have to be much more careful with your time when training. I get all semester to teach a class, so there’s some wiggle room in what gets more time and what gets less.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  3. Back when I was in school I LOVED summer break. Now that I’m adult I still LOVE summer breaks…so I took a mini retirement this past summer and went RV-ing for three months with the boyfriend. Best decision ever. Glad to see you took so much time off for a Belize trip, it makes me want to go international too.

    I really enjoy the blog, keep it up!

    • Hey Selina,

      Thanks for stopping by! As someone who’s pretty much been in school forever, I agree that summer breaks are awesome. Mini retirement: the summer vacation of adulthood 🙂 I was looking around your blog and saw that RV trip. Totally jealous! I bet it was lots of fun and a real learning experience. Thanks for the kind words!

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The Hoard: August 2015

Every good dragon has a hoard.  You know.  The collection of gold, jewels, and other valuables that the dragon guards...