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Paycheck-to-paycheck October 25, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in life, Marseille.

I’m 41 years old and I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck.

It is a combination of bureaucracy, taking a sabbatical (a 30% pay cut), living in Europe, the very weak dollar. Just on our salary alone, after we finish paying rent over here in Marseille and for daycare so both of us can work, we are left with about 400-500 euros per month to live on. We’d have quite a bit more except for the extremely weak dollar (as we are still being paid in the USA). This is very tight, though possible (just), for a family of three. It is a lot tighter than we’ve lived in the past 10 or 15 years! However, on paper we have plenty of money – more than plenty of money. Even enough to add to savings (’cause Julia needs to go to college sometime!), to not worry about going out to eat, or perhaps just buying a new pair of jeans on the weekend because we feel like it. That is where the bureaucracy comes in. France is paying me a hefty per-diem, but getting it setup has taken months longer than I ever imagined or planned for. No particular party has been responsible for this delay; I was just overly optimistic. Hopefully the money will flow before we leave France, or the dollar returns to its strength (since this money is in Euros). 😉

In the meantime, we are eating at home more than we are used to!



1. Kea - October 25, 2007

I’m 40 years old and I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck. And I’m used to it. Join the club.

2. Gordon Watts - October 25, 2007

Yeah — but that is the point — I’m not! I’ve spent a significant amount of time arranging it so I don’t have to – and I’ve been very lucky in that for the most part that is how I’m living now!

I have watched some of my friends start a bussiness. To me this looks like a blind leap off a cliff — how do they know where the next paycheck will come from? I don’t think I could ever do it. I would have enough trouble convincing myself I could work at someone else’s startup. I know that is ridiculous — millions of people do it, some because they want to, and some because they don’t have any other options — but it is a block I have… I’m sure if I was forced to do it, I would quickly adapt, but not having done it, I live in some fear of it…

3. Dmitry - October 25, 2007

Fear is not a good adviser. Would you pass an opportunity to work on a neat project just because it’s not 100% sure bet to get a promotion?

4. Kea - October 26, 2007

Dmitry, you’re talking about most theoretical physicists.

5. gordonwatts - October 26, 2007

The projects I spend time on have definately changed as I’ve gotten older and my job has gotten more secure. Ironically, I’m more willing to work on risky things now than I used to. Also, I’m not as bothered if the payoff is going to be many years down the line instead of 2 or 3 years down the line. So, definately, “fear” has been an advisor in what I’ve choosen to work on!

I might also call “fear” the “system,” however. In order to get promoted I need to have results. And there is a time limit on the tenure promotion — so I limted myself to work on projects that have a good chance of producing results in time to get my promotion… I’m not sure if I’d call that fear, but I can see why somepeople might. 🙂

6. J - October 26, 2007

I just hope it hasn’t prevented you from accomplishing some particular thing of real and major substance — beyond the interesting but, for the most part, fairly standard and unremarkable nuggets that it takes to get tenure. Not to be too harsh, but one should always remember the old quote, “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”

We are _not_ working for a department or a collaboration, we’re working for the contents of the textbooks of the year 2100. That should be internalized.

7. Gordon Watts - October 26, 2007

J – I’ve now got tenure, which is why I can relax a bit and think a bit more long term. But no matter how you slice it, you do have to pay attention to the tenure clock while it is ticking. You can still tackle the interesting things that might not pan out — but you have to make sure you have a healthy backup plan!

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