Lab technician: My budget and planning for the future
Brian talks about how he paid for college, his current budget in Boston, and how his salary and living expenses will change when he relocates to Atlanta for a PhD program.
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My name is Brain Dobosh. I am 23 years old. I am a research associate more commonly referred to as a lab tech at the Weiss Lab for Synthetic Biology at MIT, and I make $47,000 a year. So for me when I started researching what scholarships where available to me, I felt very small. I had no idea where to even start. Under the advice of the professor that I worked with at Northeastern my freshman year, she insisted to start at the NSF web page, the National Science Foundation. And there they have hundreds of pages listing the grants that they provide or also provided by other governmental institutions. And so I started with this massive webpages, clicking on every single link, reading through it, and seeing if I was okay to apply for it. For all of those that were okay, I started writing essays and filling out all the questionnaires that I had to and surveys. Something that really helped was to remember that if I just write on my own, I'm not that strong of a writer. I'm probably not going to get the scholarship or grant. And so I had teachers or also friends help read through my essays and tell me what was good, what was bad, what they thought about it. And that was important for me to get the scholarships that I needed. Fortunately due to the combination of scholarships and family support, I was able to graduate from college without having to take out any loans. But in addition to those two things, I also worked throughout college, doing a variety of tasks. As I've been mentioning, at least relevant to my science career, I've worked in three different labs during my time at Northeastern. I was a TA, a teaching assistant, to help people in the class. And I also tutored throughout undergrad, and I continue doing that now. And all of these were supplemental income that helped pay through college. Generally when I created my budget, I will round my numbers and underestimate how much money I have, and overestimate how much I'm spending. That way at the end of creating my budget, I'm pleasantly surprised when I save a lot more than I calculated. But for this, I'll use the real numbers. And so my annual salary is $47,475.96. Before taxes and deductions, that comes out to $3,956.33. And then for taxes, there's about 18 to 20% taken out so 732. And then for my 401K, I put in 1,340. The 401K has $18,000 per year that you can put in and also if your employer helps match some of your 401K contributions, that always helps. Some other benefits that I get from MIT are dental and health insurance, and they also pay for public transportation within Boston-Cambridge area. And there's also a small amount that they pay for gas if you need. Another nice perk of working academic environment is that there's always food available. There's clubs meeting , and their leftovers come to us as well. At the end of all of that, my take home or net income is about $1,876 a month. My rent is 2,500 which if you split it between three people is $833.33 a month. And my gas and electric comes out to about $60 depending on the month. TV and internet is 50, and my phone bill is about 40. And for my student loans thanks to scholarships and family support as well as having a few jobs throughout undergrad, I have no loans. Food I budget about $40 per week for groceries so 160 a month. And then I also enjoy going rock climbing. And so that's about $75 a month. And then so because I can't just make food all the time, I do go out. And I budget about $200 a month for that. In the end, what I have left over is $418, and I guess about 61 cents. And then I also have a few extra side income cause I still tutor which can be anywhere from $150 to ... 1,300 a month depending on how much I tutor. An important thing is having an emergency fund, something where a place where you have money in case something that unexpected happened. You know maybe you fall down and break your leg. Something where you can pay for an unexpected occurrence. And so for me, I have three months of savings saved up for that, but I have more in savings as well. And so when I was creating that emergency fund, it was probably closer to about 30 or 40% that I was putting into my savings account. So what prompted me to budget? Was like I was saying in the beginning, I ate a lot. I was a big, fat kid. And so I had saw, seen that my big issue was eating out. So I made an effort to cook at home. And when I started cooking at home and buying my own groceries, I realized how much money I was saving. And so from that point, I started looking at what other ways could I save. What could I be doing better with my lifestyle choices? So I guess my first prompting to start saving money was try to make myself look good. For my financial goals for the future, I really don't have too many. I guess one day, I'd like to have a house and live comfortably like most people. But I also have some hobbies. One day I want to have a piano. I enjoyed playing that when I was younger, and when I went to college that didn't really continue. Buy a piano one day and have a house and that requires a lot of maintenance. And so I don't have anything too concrete besides that stuff. So a PhD is interesting, and it'll depend upon what you're studying, but for most STEM fields, you don't pay anything. They pay all your tuition, and they will also give you a yearly stipend in return for doing lab work. For grad school, I received a stipend of $30,000. And that's a reduction from what I'm making now. But there's also cost of living, and so rent is about a 40% decrease which is a big amount. Then other things in the area are also cheaper. It doesn't cost as much to go to a concert. But something else that happens in Atlanta is that you also have to have a car. And so that's budgeted for cause now you have gas money which you don't have when you take public transportation here in Boston. So there are lifestyle choices, but there are additional scholarships and grants for grad school as well that can help out with that.