Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My Future

I'm finding lately that it is a little bit difficult to figure out how to plan my future. I have multiple conflicting goals, such as
  • keep dating (or marry) Ed
  • avoid a long-distance relationship
  • have (before I'm too old) or adopt (if single or too old) children
  • get a master's degree
  • continue to earn money
Ed's future most likely involves getting his PhD in some unpredictable location, and then seeking a tenure-track position at a different unpredictable location. In the ideal case, he might be settled in one spot in six years or so. It could take longer, or his life could go in some different direction entirely.

I'd love to stay in Denver and get a master's degree at CU-Denver, which I can probably get into, and which has a program that interests me. But going part-time would take me six years, which (a) keeps me in Denver for six years while Ed is elsewhere, and (b) takes me beyond the age at which I'm likely to be able to have biological children. And I can't really see working, getting a master's degree, and having a baby. And that goes double if the baby's father is in, I don't know, Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, if I instead blindly follow Ed to wherever he goes, then I would lose my job, which is lucrative and almost uniquely suited to my talents. There are jobs everywhere, of course, but this is a good one. And then I'd have to move again in another few years anyway.

I still have the dream of teaching.

This morning I was pondering all of this and I thought about resuming my previously abandoned plan of seeking alternative (secondary) teacher certification in Houston. The advantage of doing so in Houston vs. Denver is that Houston pays teachers much more than Denver does, has more openings, and is cheaper to live in. (Of course, you have to live in Houston. But since I haven't visited during the summer in a long time, I mostly long for its greenery and neighborhoods.)

It's kind of an interesting idea. I think I would get into the program (standards are not actually that high, and secondary math teachers are typically in somewhat short supply). The way I envision it is that, when Ed leaves for his PhD program, I would leave for Houston for this. We'd be apart, but that is likely to happen anyway unless I essentially prioritize "living in the same city with Ed" over everything else (i.e., job, master's degree,...), which seems foolish. (He's not prioritizing staying in the same city as me over his other goals, which I think is very smart. Why wouldn't I apply the same reasoning to myself?)

There are several advantages to this idea. First, teaching is something I've always wanted to try, and this would be a great opportunity for it. If the teaching doesn't work out, Houston is one of the cities I can most easily find employment in. If it does work out, I'd have teaching certification after a year-long program, and high school math teachers are employable pretty much anywhere, so that moving to be with Ed would be easy from an employment perspective. Teaching is also an ideal job for having/raising children, in terms of the hours that you work and the holidays/summers that you have off. Teaching is also reasonably compatible with getting a master's degree part-time, if I decided to go that route.

Finances-wise, the starting pay for teachers with no experience in Texas is around $41K. The program costs a few thousand dollars, which they deduct from your paychecks over the first year. The program starts in the summer, and you start teaching in the fall, so I'd have a summer of no income while I took classes (at St. Thomas), but I should easily be able to save up for that by then. And I'd have moving expenses, of course. But overall, in my current debt-free state, it seems very doable financially.

So this is something I'm strongly considering again.


Sally said...

A lot of states have alternative teacher cert. programs. Robert looked into it briefly for NC but it didn't make sense given we're only going to be there for two years. HS teaching is a great (read: convenient) career for someone who will be following an academic around the country (and as you say, for a parent). Depending on where Ed ends up for his PhD program, it may make just as much or more sense to simply relocate with him and start a program in that state.

Tam said...

Yeah, you know, I thought of that after I posted this, and it's a really great idea. I like having it as one of my possible paths forward.

Sally said...

Oh, and I would feel remiss if I didn't go ahead and say one of the obvious things. Since it sounds like anything that happens is going to involve you earning less money than you do right now and since relocating is expensive, it will free up a lot of options for you if you can start living on less money now. It also allows you to test-drive the idea of earning $41,000 a year before the reality hits when you are a teacher (or whatever other less lucrative non-energy job you can get in the city/town where Ed is studying/working).

Tam said...

For what it's worth, I am currently (in theory) living on about $2100 per month, which includes all of my bills, spending money, therapy, and $300/month of savings. The rest of my take-home pay goes to additional savings or charitable contributions.

That's the budget, anyway. In reality I tend to spend about $500 more per month than that. (Yes, horrible I know.)

So, the budget says I need take-home pay of $25,200 and reality says I need about $31,200.

A paycheck calculator I've used before (and that has given me pretty accurate results) suggests that, as a single person making $41,000 a year, with 10% going into a 401K, and health insurance expenses of $150/month, I would take home $27,600 per year.

So I am actually not very far off from doing that already. I need to cut my spending by about $300/month, which I'm hoping the current plan will take care of.