Introducing a weekly series A Pie in the Life, featuring an personal finance and career interview and pie chart budget from professionals around the web!
This week’s A Pie in the Life post is that of Project Coordinator and poet, Shenan! Here is a short interview to give you an idea of her financial details.
What is your job title?
Project Coordinator is my title as it appears on my contract, but that doesn’t tell you much about what I do. If I had to describe myself in terms of my job, I’d say that I am a “cognitive researcher.”
I do research as a contractor for a government office, both primary (actual data-collecting studies with human subjects!) and secondary (literature reviews, meta-analyses, etc…fewer actual humans, more references lists) on cognition (which consists of all sorts of cool stuff like creativity, cognitive flexibility, problem-solving, working memory, metacognitive awareness, spatial skills, adaptability, etc), specifically as it relates to learning and training
How long have you had this job or been in this industry?
Since February 2009, so going on 3.5 years.
How did you get your job? Describe the interview and/or training process you went through.
My position has evolved A LOT throughout the years. I started out as basically a personal/research assistant, doing random editing, organizing, administrative things, and occasionally helping with research (mostly secondary) and moved up from there.
I was on a team of four initially, and assumed a little more responsibility as time went on. Then due to several changes, I was left as the only remaining member of the team, full-time for the first time, and suddenly was in charge of continuing on all the efforts that I’d only assisted with part-time.
Is this job your dream job? If not, what would you do if you could be guaranteed a $500,000 per year salary doing it (besides watching TV…)?
I initially took this job, working only 25ish hours a week, while in grad school, hoping I could support myself (or at least, contribute to supporting our household as much as I could) while in grad school, then pretty much planned to quit after grad school was over.
I guess I had it in my head that after graduate school for an MA in poetry I’d just be handed a job in my. So grad school ended, and um…well, I still needed to support myself! I’ve been pretty successful so far in my second career as “poet,” but I have yet to make any money off of it.
How did you and your spouse come to reach your decision about whether or not to combine finances or keep some of it separate?
It’s definitely something we both felt very strongly the same way about. We both decided to put about 1/3 of our paychecks into a joint checking account that we would use for joint expenses like rent, cable/internet, groceries, ridiculously expensive prescription cat food, etc., as well as mutually-beneficial discretionary spending (e.g., movies we both see, dinners out, home goods/decorating/furniture, the very rare vacation, etc).
We had both been living as a household with separate finances and separate savings for years before we were married, especially with grad school being an expense for me that I was not going to ask someone not-married to me to share in, so it just made sense to us to continue some of that.
Additionally, we both liked the freedom of discretion that comes with having separate accounts to save or spend a percentage of our income according to our own priorities, without feeling the need to justify those decisions or priorities to the other person.
What career advice or financial advice do you have for a 20-something who is just entering the workforce?
- It’s nice to have an idea of the kind work you’d like to do (e.g., writing, editing, video game designing, what have you), but don’t get stuck on the idea of what you want to be, i.e., being “a writer” or “an editor” or “a video game designer,” because you might not land that dream career right away, or at all.
- I hate to be a cynic, but paying your bills and being self-sufficient should be the ultimate goal, and having a fulfilling job that’s exactly what you want to do should be secondary.
- I mean, it’s great and ideal to have your ideal job, and it’s obviously not OK to be miserable in a job. But it’s also OK to not love your job, and to source your fulfillment from what you do outside the 9-5 hours, particularly while you’re still in the young stages of your life and career. Especially in this economy, if you aren’t open to that, you might find yourself holding out for a long time, and that can be as bad as or worse than having a mediocre job, because you’re holding out for an identity in a career. One that may not be achievable right now.
Editor’s Note: I agree whole-heartedly with this paragraph. If you get your identity and sense of self-worth caught up in your 9-5 life and career, you inevitably start to ignore your personal relationships and the outside-of-work life that actually matters. There are rare exceptions (art, writing, music) but otherwise get your kicks outside of work!
My TakeawayI would like to take most of Shenan’s words (especially the full version) and print them out into realistically-inspirational printouts for most college grads. So much of this is information you really don’t get in college. At the typical university, it seems like it’s much more Reach for the Stars! and Live your Dream!… though maybe I just went to a liberal arts university.
The truth is, most jobs are puzzle pieces of different skills and talents – very few of which are identifiable, trainable, and doable. My job, too, is an amalgamation of tips and tricks I’ve picked up and strategies I’ve learned from coworkers. If I had to interview for the job I have now back when I was picked up by my company, I would have been flabbergasted.
And then the fun part: Shenan’s Pie Chart Budget!
The chart on the top is an estimation of my personal “budget.” The chart below is the approximation of where the money in our joint account, into which approximately 1/3 of each of our paycheck, goes every month.
I put “budget” in quotes because this could essentially be called “the budget that never was.” We really should be better about it, if we’re talking about things we could do to be more perfect people.
Managing finances, to me, has always been a little analogous to the ever-toed line of healthy eating and exercise. My approach to money for most of my life has always been a very vague, “Make good choices and don’t spend money on extravagant things you don’t need, and the savings will naturally pile up!” Sort of like a vague “My goal is to eat healthy, quality food, along with treats, in proper portions and intuitively, and be active every day!”
There you go! I hope you enjoyed this look into a Project Coordinator’s budget… if you have any questions for Shenan, feel free to leave a comment!
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