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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If you are a postdoc or newly minted faculty working in academia, or if you’re working for a non-profit, you may be able to contribute to a retirement savings account known as a 403(b). It is similar to the 401(k) in terms of contribution limits and benefits. You can contribute to it using pre-tax income, lowering your taxable income. You pay taxes when you withdraw the money after retirement age (59.5 years). Or, if the institution offers it, you can contribute after-tax money to a Roth 403(b). When you withdraw after you turn 59.5, and as long as the account has existed for at least 5 years, you can withdraw the money tax-free. Benefits of a 403(b) The benefits are similar to contributing to a 401(k). Your employer can also provide a match to motivate you to save for retirement. If that’s the case, contribute up to the match. You

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I have two brokerage accounts with Fidelity. One is for a future car purchase, and the other is for house down payment. I don’t plan on drawing from these investments for a few years. But, I still want to be able to access them before the traditional retirement age. Plus, I didn’t want to use a high yield savings account, which currently pays out 0.5% at Ally. That money needs to work harder than that. Brokerage accounts make sense … … if you want to invest your extra cash and you don’t need them for a couple of years. If you sell the investment within a year, you will be subject to short term capital gains tax. This is equal to your ordinary income tax. If you hold your investments for longer than a year, they will be subject to long term capital gains tax. Long term capital gains tax

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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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