evolosophy/grad school As soon as I found a catchphrase, I placed it here.
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I Don't Got The Money. I Got The Money.
Publish: 2024-04-28 16:21:40
Categories: grad school

So, how the hell am I paying for all of this?

Umm... I don't know? 🙂

It's been almost 3 years since I've been gainfully employed. After 2 years of self-employment (Ha!) and a little vacationing, I've eaten up the bulk of my savings. With a two years Master's program starting in half a year, it's going to be a while before I'm gainfully employed once again.

Now, here's the thing, I simply don't have enough cash left to get through this. So, how do I do this?

The "Money" Story

I'm broke

Originally, my tentative multi-point plan was:

  1. Year 1 - pay for life with cash on hand.
  2. Year 2 - pay for life by completely selling off my personal stock portfolio.
  3. Tuition - apply for student loans via the FAFSA, take out the max, pay for all of college via loans.
  4. Fudge Factor - with rough, back-of-the-envelope calculations it was clear I may not have quite enough. As an experience electrical engineer, hopefully I'd find it easy to get a paying part-time gig as a TA at the university I attended to make a few bucks. If not that, some other side work somewhere along the way.

That's the math. Things don't quite fit... but if I can get the loans to pay for the tuition, I should be able to ride out the rest.


I'm rich

OK, so I still haven't heard back from the FAFSA. That's one concern. A second concern is that the rough budgeting above still falls on the optimistic side of budgetary planning - one broken leg shits the bed pretty quickly. My third concern is, well, having worked my entire life just to earn my way into the (upper?) middle class, I'm not super keen on living the poor life again. I'm just not.

So, at the start of this adventure in late 2023, I wasn't sure how serious to take it. I was still job hunting and this honestly started off as kind of a flyer. The rough budgeting above was fine. As it has transitioned into reality, the gaps in the budget have been on my mind once or twice. But also, to be really honest, I really hate the idea of selling my stock portfolio. I'm really proud of some of my buys and really, really want to see the portfolio mature.

So I think I've made a decision. I won't have to worry about this for another year or so, so there's still room for me to figure out other options, but I do believe I've found a proper answer for all of it - the budget gaps, the reliance of student loans, and the lack safety net. While, sadly, I don't have a rich uncle to turn to, I do have one last card to play: the retirement account.

This is stupid. I get that.

No really, let me say it again. This is stupid.

Pulling money from your retirement account early, and paying a penalty for it, is almost never a good idea. And it's hard to argue that it's my best option now. Especially if I'm choosing to use this money pool before my no-penalty-on-removal stock portfolio. By every financial measure, this is the worse option. But, as of now, I'm going this route anyway. Let me share why.

First, I'm choosing my retirement account over my stock portfolio for sentimental reasons. Again, really a stupid way to make financial decisions, but sometimes we're dumb. 🙂

Second, by choosing to make a single, huge pull from my retirement account in the 2nd year of grad school, I'm leaving my stock assets in play for quick selling bits & pieces if any emergencies do indeed occur.

Third, and this directly plays off number 2, is the peace of mind. The "if" of this adventure is almost entirely dead. This is (almost for sure) happening. Deciding to fund this to the end, no matter the source of money, is very freeing. I should cover this in more detail one day, but going into undergrad with a "poor person" mentality caused me to make some terrible choices at the end. If I've worked my whole life for one thing, it's this - being able to make a big decision and then see it through no matter what.

The "Life" Story

So yeah. I don't have the money, but I do. I'm still planning on maxing out my public federal student loans and hopefully avoiding any private ones. If picking up some income along the way makes sense, I'll give that a go as well.

I don't plan on sharing my too much more of my personal financial data, but I do want to share the funding aspects as the adventure unfolds. Life's opportunities continue to be unfairly dictated by how much you're willing to pay into the system, financially and otherwise. I think paying for all of it is enough of a challenge that it's worth sharing.

And, moreover, if I do get pick up some sort of job along the way, well of course I'll have to blog about it. 😋

I can't make any mathematically sound argument for my plan. But let's be honest, even if I had enough cash on hand to pay for all of this, it would still be hard to argue that this is a good financial move. I'm in my mid 40's and have 20 years experience as an electrical engineer. I've turned down job offers in recent months that pay significantly more than starting salary will be for me coming out in 2 years. The raw & simple fact is that the financial hit I'm taking will almost for sure never be recovered in the working life I have left. The simpler fact is that I grad school isn't to blame for any of this, I dug my hole well prior - this is the fix. Simple, honest fact. 🙂

When I get out and start working, I will make a very, very clear and direct plan to pay back what I take out of my retirement account. 100%. That said, financially, I will never recover from choosing to stop working, much less choosing to go back to school.

But read the heading; this is my "life" story, not my "money" story. 😉 I'm still doing my best to be financially intelligent, but I've worked my whole life to get to make this one particular (albeit huge) bad call. And if that bad call buys me the opportunity I want, then I can consider myself fortunate that it's a choice I get to make. 🙂

So, yeah, that's where things sit. Things will remain fluid throughout, I'm sure, but I do think there's a plan that gets me to the finish line. Whether it's smart or not, well, that's yet to be determined. 🙂 Stay tuned...

PS - as some poor kid from a tiny apartment in Queens, NYC, this is probably the first time in my life I've truly felt non-poor. Weird huh? But that's the journey, isn't it? Climbing up not only from life's challenges, but from our own self-imposed limits? Maybe I'll regret it, but sitting in this coffee shop sipping a London Fog and smashing keyboard keys into a blog post, I will admit that it does feel like a small personal victory to get to be reckless by choice.

23 👀



one day. possibly.