I’ve been thinking more and more about financial independence and retirement, even in my early career as a postdoc. It’s important to think about retirement while you still have time at your advantage. Time in the market beats timing the market, because of the magic of compounding. It’s even more important to take investing in your retirement in your own hands as a grad student as there are several things working against us when it comes to retirement savings and investing. You’re not earning a lot in your “prime” working years Most grad students enter grad school at the young age of 21. PhD programs typically take 5-6 years to finish. That means you will be graduating at 26-27. Compared to students who graduated with a bachelors or masters and started working, you will have lost 5 or more years of earning potential. Not only that, the working people will

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My husband and I lived on a monthly stipend of about $2400 and his savings during gradschool. So, we tried our best to stay frugal in order to save money. These habits allowed me to put $5000 towards my car downpayment, invest $6000 in my ROTH IRA almost each year, and travel to Paris and New York City on a limited budget. Housing On-campus housing: The first year of gradschool, we stayed at graduate student housing. This was a really great deal, because all the furniture was provided, and all utilities were covered. Off-campus housing: After the first year, we decided to move to off-campus housing nearby, because we wanted to get a puppy. The rent was comparable for a 1 bedroom apartment, but we did have to pay for utilities ourselves. We split the rent 50/50, so my share of the rent was about $500. And we didn’t live

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So you’ve decided to apply to a PhD program, and are now trying to figure out a best path forward. It can be an extremely stressful time as you balance finishing classes, finding and applying to programs, and work. I was finishing up my master’s thesis during the application period, while also working part-time to save up for the eventual move. I’ll give you some of my strategies on how I applied to PhD programs as a first-generation international student. Decide on a research area A PhD program will train you to do original research in your area of interest. Your first year will usually consist of taking graduate courses related to your area of research. You will learn to conduct literature review, find the gap in your area of interest, develop research questions you want to answer, conduct experiments to answer those questions, and write and defend a dissertation

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So you’ve decided to get a graduate degree, and now you’re worried about how to finance it. Can you get a graduate degree without going into (additional) student debt? I think you can, with some careful planning, being frugal, and having a budget. Here are things that I did to make sure I could get my graduate degrees for free. Combined Bachelors-Masters programs My university offered a bachelors-masters program in mechanical engineering, which allowed me to use some of my senior-level classes towards the masters degree. Lots of universities now offer combined bachelors and masters programs. See if your school offers something similar if you’re thinking of going to graduate school to get a masters, because it could save you a few classes worth of tuition and fees. Company-paid Masters programs I’ve worked at companies that provided this as a benefit to employees. Personally, I didn’t get my masters this

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