How much does money matter?

kroner
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How much does money matter?

Postby kroner » Wed Mar 31, 2010 7:53 pm

I guess I'm hoping to get some opinions from current grad students who have some perspective on the matter.
How much should the amount of money being offered affect my decision of where to go?

For example, let's say that purely hypothetically I got an offer of $30k/yr (2 years of fellowship, plus 3 of TA) at school A and an offer of a $15.5k/yr TAship at school B. Both schools have comparable ranking and both do work in some of the areas I'm interested in, but after visiting both I like school B a little better. Not a lot better, just a little. Suppose the offer I got at school B is standard, and people do manage to get by on it. Can money buy happiness? Should I allow myself to be pulled by the gnarled claws of greed?

mobytish
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Re: How much does money matter?

Postby mobytish » Wed Mar 31, 2010 8:08 pm

Well, I'm not a current graduate student, but I would recommend looking at cost of living around the two places you're looking at. Taking the average apartment rent cost on craigslist for the surrounding area may be a good place to start. While the two fellowships you mention below are really different, the adjustment for cost of living could bring them much closer together.

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fermiboy
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Re: How much does money matter?

Postby fermiboy » Wed Mar 31, 2010 10:15 pm

Obviously you know that I think money is important from the other thread, but if the schools are equal in rank and you feel approximately the same about each program then take the money IMO. You're talking about almost 100% difference in salary and that's huge. You'll have almost 75K more after 5 years, that could be used to invest, pay off student loans if you have them, by a house, etc. These things may not seem important right now, but they will be in the future, so why not get a head start?

30K a year is high roller territory for grad students :D

As mobytish says, cost of living should also be taken into account, but I don't think it would have such a huge effect that 15K in city A = 30K in city B, but I could be wrong.

In my 2 years as a grad student, I had the opportunity each semester to take on an extra section as a TA to increase my salary by 50%, and I did it each semester except the first. Being poor sucks.

Edit: Also, it's not greedy to take the offer with more money. It's just being prudent. Your time is worth money and the more you are compensated the better your life will be (from a utilitarian point of view) both because you will be more financially secure and you will have more time to do the things you want. Our society is driven by money, and while that might suck, it isn't changing any time soon and generally the more you have the more you are empowered to control your own life (with some exceptions obviously).

kroner
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Re: How much does money matter?

Postby kroner » Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:06 am

I was kidding about the greed thing. :)
I realize that money has a real effect on quality of life, but I'm not so sure about exactly how much value that has in relation to how one feels about the program. Thanks for your input on that.

Also yeah the cost of living is a bit higher in place A, but probably not by any more than 20%. Hypothetically of course.

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notnaps
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Re: How much does money matter?

Postby notnaps » Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:19 am

http://www.bestplaces.net/col/?salary=2 ... 2=50673906

A comparison between Champaign, IL and Stanford, CA.. Obviously this is a little ridiculous (I hope?!) but cost of living can be a huge factor (much more than 20%). If money is a deciding factor it would definitely be worth looking into the cost of housing, etc.

kroner
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Re: How much does money matter?

Postby kroner » Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:30 am

Cost of living differences can be large but in this case they are not. School A is USC (in LA) and school B is Boulder (more expensive than you might expect). For instance according to that website LA is 10% higher, although there is plenty of variation within LA. It's also sort of tangential to the more abstract issue I'm trying to figure out, which is how much value extra money has relative to how good you feel about a department.

Is anyone just scraping by but really happy about the decision they made or maybe it's really ruining their experience? Is anyone who took a really good offer now regretting that they did so because it pushed them into a bad fit or maybe loving the extra comfort it provided? That may be hard to answer since it's impossible to know what could have been.

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noojens
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Re: How much does money matter?

Postby noojens » Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:10 pm

Dude, go to Boulder. Awesome location, hot girls, nearby national lab, great outdoor activities vs. stuck up rich kids in the LA burbs.

Plus, you won't be a TA forever and your RA funding will almost certainly be better than $15.5k. And there's always external fellowships, tutoring and gigolo...ing if you need some extra ca$h.

kroner
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Re: How much does money matter?

Postby kroner » Sun Apr 04, 2010 12:04 am

See this is why it was better when it was hypothetical. :wink:
Also it seems that math grad students at each are mostly funded by TAships. They need people to teach everyone else calculus and there's less research funding money. So the arrangement might be kinda permanent, although I guess there are still all those other things to do for money...




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