kehyler wrote: ↑
Fri Feb 02, 2018 9:17 am
I have a question for you all. I was offered a job to work with the federal gov, I'm hoping for some comments about the finances of such a job. I think it seems reasonable, but I'm curious if any of ya'll see something that I didn't catch.
- Location is rural, LCOL, I could find a very adequate house for ~200k.
- They offered me a starting salary of 80ishk, and would be hiring me in a salary band that tops out at 115k
- There is hope that I could be eventually promoted one band higher (this band tops at $155k)
- My education at the time of employment would be a PhD in physics. I have seen multiple other physics PhDs begin at in low 100ks in medium cost of living areas at private companies. In your view, should I value fed. gov. benefits as sufficient to forgo the extra ~20-30k of salary that I might be able to receive by working in the private sector?
- I would be 29 at the time of employment.
- Married, no kids (though this might change in a year or two), no debt.
- For retirement, my goal is to save >1k/month.
(If someone is curious, another career that seems viable is tenure track prof. job in LCOL, starting at ~$65k/year. ~$65k/year seems hard to make a budget work while saving ~>1k/month for retirement.)
Perhaps because of this forum, your question seems over focused on savings goals to me.
I don't know to what extent Federal benefits compensate for private sector compensation, but I believe US Federal government employees have an excellent healthcare + disability + pension benefits package (also possibly life insurance?). If you ever become disabled or develop a chronic medical condition that could be quite important. The pension package, a mix of a modest Defined Benefit scheme + TSP at very low cost, sounds excellent. US civil servants seem to be able to return mid 50s- early 60s on comfortable standards of living. I should note this is entirely 2nd hand-- I am not US based nor a US citizen.
The real questions are:
- which role seems the most allied with my skills, ability & goals out of a career? There are no clean quick answers on this
- generally Federal govt jobs have greater stability. But these days, nothing is certain.
- where do you want to live? LCOL areas are nice BUT usually dependent on a few big employers. When one of those closes, you may have to move. And you won't have much housing equity to help you if you move to a higher COL area. The reality is, if job change is likely to be part of your future life, then big metropolitan areas with lots of different employment options are preferred-- Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, NorCal, NYC. However there are big hassles in living in same in terms of housing costs (in some) and traffic/ commuting (in all).
But it's important to live some place you are happy to live. For example, in my youth, I needed to be some place where there were lots of single women of my age (read: a big City).
Being a professor is not a financial choice. There are huge challenges in being an academic. Until you get tenure, if you get tenure, you will work 60+ hours per week-- teaching, research, administration, grants applications etc.
Post tenure you will have more control over your life (but tenure no longer means perfect job security; changes like those in Wisconsin + legal judgements that allow, as I understand it, universities to make tenured faculty redundant for budget reasons) but you will still probably work pretty hard if you want to continue to have an impact in your field. There will probably be more administrative work required once you are tenured.
So being an academic is about feeling a calling: like to be a US Marine Corps officer, or a social worker. A desire to contribute to knowledge in your field and to the education of the next generation of scholars - -to advance the frontier of human progress.
The choice Federal v. Private sector is a more complex one.