Reader Case Study: A PhD in English Lit Enters an Uncertain Job Market
Sara is a PhD student in English Literature at a university in the midwest. She’ll graduate with her doctorate this May and would like our help determining what to do next. Sara notes, “In addition to the poor job market, I’m skeptical of academic work culture, and uncertain if I want to commit myself to a life of 80 hour work weeks and unending pressure to publish and produce. I love teaching, my intellectual community, and my research, but academia doesn’t leave much room for the joyful parts of the job.” In addition to the uncertainty surrounding her career, Sara said she feels like her money is an afterthought right now. She wants to change that and take a more proactive approach to her finances. Join me today as we dive into Sara’s story!
What’s a Reader Case Study?
Case Studies address financial and life dilemmas that readers of Frugalwoods send in requesting advice. Then, we (that’d be me and YOU, dear reader) read through their situation and provide advice, encouragement, insight and feedback in the comment section.
For an example, check out the last case study. Case Studies are updated by participants (at the end of the post) several months after the Case is featured. Visit this page for links to all updated Case Studies.
The Goal Of Reader Case Studies
Reader Case Studies intend to highlight a diverse range of financial situations, ages, ethnicities, locations, goals, careers, incomes, family compositions and more!
The Case Study series began in 2016 and, to date, there’ve been 65 Case Studies. I’ve featured folks with annual incomes ranging from $17k to $200k+ and net worths ranging from -$300k to $2.9M+.
I’ve featured single, married, partnered, divorced, child-filled and child-free households. I’ve featured gay, straight and trans people. I’ve featured men, women and non-binary folks. I’ve had cat people and dog people. I’ve featured folks from the US, Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, Spain, Finland and France.
I’ve featured people with PhDs and people with high school diplomas. I’ve featured people in their early 20’s and people in their late 60’s. I’ve featured folks who live on farms and folks who live in New York City.
The goal is diversity and only YOU can help me achieve that by emailing me your story! If you haven’t seen your circumstances reflected in a Case Study, I encourage you to apply to be a Case Study participant by emailing email@example.com.
Reader Case Study Guidelines
I probably don’t need to say the following because you folks are the kindest, most polite commenters on the internet, but please note that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone where we endeavor to help one another, not condemn.
There’s no room for rudeness here–the goal is to create a supportive environment where we all acknowledge that we’re human, we’re flawed, but we choose to be here together, workshopping our money and our lives with positive, proactive suggestions and ideas.
A disclaimer that I am not a trained financial professional and I encourage people not to make serious financial decisions based solely on what one person on the internet advises.
I encourage everyone to do their own research to determine the best course of action for their finances. I am not a financial advisor and I am not your financial advisor.
With that I’ll let Sara, today’s Case Study subject, take it from here!
Hello Frugalwoods! I’m Sara, I’m 32, and I’m a graduate student living in the midwest, working on a doctorate in English Literature. I’m newly out of a long-term relationship, and was previously married and divorced in my early 20’s.
I love writing poetry, thrift shopping, home improvement projects (I have a very laissez-faire landlord!), reality television, and dogs. I’d love to have a dog, but don’t currently have any pets. I find dog ownership as a single person pretty challenging, and at the moment I value my mobility and autonomy.
Prior to graduate school I worked in curriculum development and academic publishing and am considering returning to that field after I complete my degree. I still pick up freelancing here and there to make extra cash and keep my resume current.
This work is quite lucrative, and when I was doing it full time I saved pretty aggressively. This was largely out of a sense of fear, rather than having a plan for my future. The result is that, even after splitting things 50/50 in my divorce, I have a sizable amount in retirement savings (especially considering my salary now!).
Sara’s Financial Journey
Growing up, my parents never made much money. I’ve had at least one (usually two) jobs since I was 11 years old, and I paid my own way through college. I am proud to say I paid off my last remaining student loan in 2020, and I’m completely debt free. I’ve always felt pressure to be financially independent and being frugal is a big part of that.
I do my best to follow a 50/30/20 model with my budget, with 50% of my income going to cost of living, 30% discretionary, and 20% savings. I’ll admit I don’t track my spending like I used to, since my cost of living is so low and my work keeps me preoccupied and reluctant to track spending and expenses. Almost all my money feels like “fun money” which isn’t the best mindset long-term.
Compounding all this, my last relationship was long distance for several years, and I had just moved to an expensive city to be with my partner when the relationship ended. This means I no longer have to ear-mark money for plane tickets or big-city rent, or take anyone else into consideration for long-term planning. I’m back to midwestern prices and just thinking about me.
Sara’s Dilemma: What’s Next?
Right now I’m trying to figure out what’s next for me. Without a partner drawing me somewhere, and no clear sense of my next career move, I could conceivably move anywhere (in the world?!). I have money saved, but no plan for that money.
I recently took myself to Italy for a month, which was my first time spending a significant amount of money on a vacation that was just for me, not to see family or friends. I really loved it, and it felt like a step forward for me in terms of using my money joyfully (rather than saving out of a sense of stress or obligation). I also spent a decent amount on Lasik eye surgery earlier this year (something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but could never justify). I’m happy with both decisions, but know I can’t afford to keep making large purchases like this over the long-term.
What feels most pressing right now? What brings you to submit a Case Study?
I’m about to graduate from my PhD program (in May 2022), and don’t have a clear sense of what’s next. The job market for humanities PhDs is bad (like, really bad). I’ll probably go on the market at least once, but I don’t have high hopes for landing a tenure track job, let alone a tenure track job somewhere I’d actually want to live. Once I graduate I do have a guaranteed 10-month post-doc position at my current institution, so I have some time to weigh my options and apply for jobs, but after that there aren’t any viable opportunities for academic careers in my town (and I don’t really want to stay here anyway).
In addition to the poor job market, I’m skeptical of academic work culture, and uncertain if I want to commit myself to a life of 80 hour work weeks and unending pressure to publish and produce. I love teaching, my intellectual community, and my research, but academia doesn’t leave much room for the joyful parts of the job. I also want to make space in my life for creative work, and pursue publishing a book of my poetry, or doing other large-scale art projects.
I’m trying to figure out what’s next, and how I might best martial my finances to support whatever that is. Right now my money feels like an afterthought, and I know I could be doing more to proactively shape my future possibilities.
What’s the best part of your current lifestyle/routine?
I love the autonomy and flexibility of working from home, paired with some work that requires me to be in-person, like teaching and administrative duties. It’s a nice mix of individual deep work, with social, collaborative work (though never as much of the latter as I’d like).
For the most part I make my own schedule, which means I can workout when I want to (3pm, usually!), work the weekend to take a weekday or two off, or travel to see family and friends without much trouble. I also live in a place with a very low cost of living, which means I can afford to make less money in a more creative job without much financial stress.
I love my community, and have a few dear friends within walking distance. I’m also within walking distance of our (modest) downtown, which means I can walk or bike most anywhere I need to go.
Right now I really enjoy renting. I’ve previously owned a home but found it mentally taxing and financially burdensome, and I was able to sell it without much of a loss. I want a space I can make my own, and I’m grateful to live in an apartment that I can make changes to, but am not ultimately responsible for. I might want to own something in the future, but only if it makes good financial sense, and I’m certain about sticking around somewhere.
Lastly, I don’t plan on having kids. I love my friends’ children, and deeply enjoy the relationships I have with them, but have no pull to have my own.
What’s the worst part of your current lifestyle/routine?
In terms of work, I miss being part of a team and working on large scale projects collaboratively. The collaborative work I do now is mostly administrative and my larger projects are independent.
In terms of lifestyle, I would prefer to live in an urban area and would love to not own a car! In my heart I think I’m a midwesterner, but the options for urban living without a car here are few (Chicago? Minneapolis?). I have family on the east and west coasts, and friends throughout the country, so I could really go anywhere.
I love to swim and hike, but don’t get to do much of either lately. Pre-Covid I went to the pool at my university once a week, but that hasn’t been an option for a while. In the past I lived in places with easily accessible hiking and outdoor, seasonal swimming (hello, Vermont) and I miss that, too. This may be at odds with my desire to not own a car?
Also, most of my friends and family live far away from me, so I have to travel long distances to spend time with them, and don’t see them as often as I’d like.
Where Sara Wants To be in 10 years:
- When I imagine financial stability, I imagine the ability to occasionally treat my friends to an extravagant dinner without a second thought.
- I’d also like to make enough to contribute substantially to social causes I care about, and invest in my local community.
- Ideally I would be solvent enough to be choose-y about the work I take on, and to take longer breaks for creative projects.
- I’d like to be in a long-term partnership, live in an apartment (that I own?) in a city, walk everywhere (with a dog?) or take public transit.
- Mostly, I’d like to be deeply engaged in a creative community (attend poetry readings, gallery openings, go to museums, collaborate on art projects, etc.), see friends regularly, and travel occasionally for pleasure.
- I also enjoy occasionally splashing out on a really fancy meal as I mentioned above, and would love to be able to afford to do this once or twice a year!
- I’d like a full but relaxed life that isn’t defined by my work.
- I’ll be 42 and I would like to have published a book (academic or poetry, or both!).
- I’d also like to be publishing reviews and articles regularly, be teaching or involved with education in some capacity, and have a stable income with decent health insurance (ideally the government will get it together and we’ll all be covered by a single payer system by then!).
- I’d like my work to be flexible enough that I could take time off for artists’ residencies, or to work on creative projects.
|Sara’s net income||$2,062||Net salary minus health insurance (no dental) and taxes. I don’t have great benefits through my university.|
|Freelance income||$496||This varies, but this year I expect to make about $8,500 (pre-tax). I deducted 30% for taxes. This income will likely come as one lump sum late in the year, and go right into savings.|
|Item||Amount||Notes||Interest/type of securities held||Name of bank/brokerage|
|Roth IRA||$57,753||I contribute $120/month to this account.||VFFVX||Vanguard|
|401k||$14,702||This is a retirement account from an old job. I’m never sure if I should roll it over or not (and I may reapply to work there post-PhD).||VFFVX||Vanguard|
|Brokerage Account||$6,710||I contribute $100/month to this account.||VTSAX||Vanguard|
|Emergency Savings||$5,967||I could probably stretch this amount to cover six months worth of my current living expenses. I contribute $50/month to this account.||0.50%||Ally Bank|
|12-Month CD||$5,243||I meant to invest this money when the CD expired last year, but missed the window and it automatically rolled over. The interest rate is abysmal.||0.65%||Ally Bank|
|Short Term Savings||$2,795||Savings for upcoming non-recurring expenses, like traveling for two weddings this fall. I contribute $142/month to this account.||0.50%||Ally Bank|
|Money Market||$1,400||I regularly move money from this account into the Brokerage Account.||VMFXX||Vanguard|
|Prorated Checking||$824||I prorate yearly expenses like car insurance, health-care costs, and gifts. I contribute $128.50 per month to this account so I can pay those costs in full with cash when they arise.||0.10%||Ally Bank|
|Primary Checking||$42||This is where my paycheck deposits and major expenses are withdrawn, like rent.||0.10%||Ally Bank|
|Cash Withdrawals Checking||$20||I use this account to withdraw cash in small amounts.||0.10%||Ally Bank|
|Vehicle make, model, year||Valued at||Mileage||Paid off?|
|Honda Fit 2011||$6,000||75,000||Yes|
|Groceries||$300||I don’t eat out much, so I like to purchase nice coffee, expensive butter, and local produce. This also includes household supplies like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.|
|Rent||$270||I split a total monthly rent of $540 with a roommate for a two-bedroom, one bath. I may take over the apartment for myself next year when my roommate leaves after graduation. Water and trash included.|
|Spending Money||$100||I generally give myself $100 cash to spend on entertainment or eating out at restaurants. I’m not great about sticking to this budget and often put ‘fun’ purchases on my credit card (with the justification that I’m earning cash back!).|
|Travel||$100||I travel semi-regularly to see family and friends that live several states away (or in other countries). I almost always have somewhere to stay for free, so this expense is for transportation (driving or flying).|
|Healthcare||$68||I have a semi-serious health condition that requires regular monitoring. I spent more this past year than usual on doctor’s visits, which I don’t expect to be the norm, but I have pretty terrible coverage through my university. I will always have a fixed cost for prescriptions.|
|Car Insurance||$66||Currently AllState – I work with a local insurance broker that I trust to get me the best deal available to me.|
|Phone bill||$55||I have a phone plan with T-Mobile that I don’t love. In the past I’ve also done Republic Wireless, but found the call quality to be poor. I’m open to changing and don’t have a contract.|
|Gasoline||$50||I rarely spend this much unless I am driving long-distance to see family. I walk as much as possible and use my car mainly for grocery runs.|
|Car Maintenance||$42||I budget $500/year for regular car maintenance (oil changes, brakes, etc.).|
|Gifts||$30||Mostly gifts for my friends’ kids at this point in my life. Occasionally birthday gifts for friends, but we enjoy thrifting for each other so that’s relatively low cost. My immediate family does a secret Santa for Christmas, so I’m only responsible for one person (approx. $100 budget).|
|Subscriptions||$27||I pay for Apple Cloud Storage ($1/month), Spotify Student ($5/month), Marco Polo Plus to keep up with friends ($5/month), have a yearly fee for my Southwest Credit Card* ($5.75/month) and have a yearly web-hosting subscription to Squarespace ($10/month). (*affiliate link)|
|Personal Care||$26||I enjoy skincare and regularly purchase new lotions and potions. I get my hair cut in a no-frills salon 1-2 times/year.|
|Charitable donations||$20||I have a recurring monthly donation to my local homeless shelter, and would love to be donating more.|
|Clothing||$20||This really should come out of my spending money, but I spend about $20/month at the thrift store on clothes.|
|Home Improvement||$15||Things like paint, shelving, caulk, tools. I have been trying lately to repurpose what I already have to lower this cost.|
|Utilities (electric, wifi)||$0||My roommate currently covers the electric and wifi for our apartment, since I do most of the cleaning and home maintenance.|
Credit Card Strategy
|Card Name||Rewards Type?||Bank/card company|
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card||Cash Back (1.5%)||Capital One|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards||Travel||Chase|
Note: these credit card links are affiliate links
Sara’s Questions for You:
1) I know I’m in a fortunate position with a really low cost of living, no debt, and no partner or kids I’m responsible for. How can I motivate myself to budget more strictly and make better use of this time?
2) What more can I do to make my money work for me long-term as someone who wants to pursue a creative career? Should I put more money into investment accounts, rather than retirement?
3) Are there any ethical or socially-conscious investment options you can recommend? Right now I have investment accounts with Vanguard, and the portfolio includes companies I have serious qualms with. How can I divest to bring my money in line with my social values?
Liz Frugalwoods’ Recommendations
Sara, you are doing a great job! I find it really commendable that Sara managed to weather several circumstances that often spell financial doom: a divorce, moving and pursing a PhD. And she’s nowhere near a state of financial doom–she’s in a state of financial greatness!
I’m so impressed with her ability to live so frugally and to pay off all of her student debt, invest for retirement and have emergency savings to boot. A true testament to what’s possible when you embrace frugality to the fullest. Well done, Sara! You should feel proud of yourself! Alrighty, let’s dig into her questions.
Sara’s Question #1: I know I’m in a fortunate position with a really low cost of living, no debt, and no partner or kids I’m responsible for. How can I motivate myself to budget more strictly and make better use of this time?
I honestly don’t think Sara could possibly be doing a better job with her budgeting and savings! She’s living on a mere $14k a year, which is frugal boss level. I don’t see how she could spend much less and still have a roof over her head and food to eat. She has a sweet living situation with super low rent and a roommate covering utilities in exchange for Sara doing the housework–a brilliant barter and trade system, I must say! I mean, sure, she could trim around the edges of her spending, but it’s not going to amount to very much savings and would likely decrease her quality of life–who wants that?!
Switch To An MVNO ASAP
The one thing I think Sara should do on the expenses front is switch her phone service over to an MVNO because it’s an easy change that will net her savings every single month for the longterm. I like a savings opportunity like this because you’re not giving up anything and you’re not depriving yourself, you’re just being smart.
MVNOs are wireless service re-sellers and they re-sell name-brand services (think Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc). Since Sara already owns her phone and isn’t under contract, this’ll be a super simple switchover for slam dunk savings. Sara currently has T-Mobile and, if she likes the service she has, she can just select an MVNO that re-sells T-Mobile. If you want to read my full explanation on MVNOs, go to this post.
Here’s the chart from that post outlining which MVNOs re-sell which service:
|Name of MVNO||The Networks They Resell||Base Price||Can you bring your own phone?||Contract free?||Nationwide 5G Coverage?||International plans available?||Sign-up Here:|
|Ting (this is the service I use and I like it a lot).||Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon||$10 per month for unlimited talk and text without data +$5 per shared GB
of fast data
|Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Go here to browse Ting’s service plans|
|Twigby||Sprint and Verizon||$10 per month (for first 6 months, then $20 per month) for 3GB, unlimited talk and text||Yes||Yes||No; 4G LTE||Yes||Go here to browse Twigby’s service plans|
|Mint||T-Mobile||$15 per month (for first 3 months, then $25/month)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Go here to browse Mint’s service plans|
|GoSmart||T-Mobile||$15 per month for unlimited talk and text||Yes||Yes||No; 4G LTE||Yes||Go here to browse GoSmart’s service plans|
|Republic Wireless||Sprint and T-Mobile||$15 per month for unlimited talk and text||Yes||Yes||No; 4G LTE||Limited options||Go here to browse Republic Wireless’ service plans|
|Net 10 Wireless||AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and US Cellular||$15 per month for unlimited talk, text and data||Yes||Yes||No; 4G LTE||Yes||Go here to browse Net 10’s service plans|
|Tracfone Wireless||AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular (feature phones only), and Verizon||$20 per month for unlimited minutes and text and 1GB of data||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Go here to browse Tracfone’s service plans|
|Total Wireless||Verizon||$23.70 per month for unlimited||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Go here to browse Total Wireless’ service plans|
|Simple Mobile||T-Mobile||$25 per month for unlimited talk and text||Yes||Yes||Yes in some areas, otherwise 4G LTE||Yes||Go here to browse Simple Mobile’s service plans|
|Straight Talk||AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon||$30 per month with 100MB of data||Yes||Yes||I couldn’t find any info on it, so probably not||Yes||Go here to browse Straight Talk’s service plans|
Note to you: these are affiliate links for MVNOs. Wondering what that means? Here ya go.
I myself use Ting and pay about $14 a month.
Sara’s Question #2: What more can I do to make my money work for me long-term as someone who wants to pursue a creative career? Should I put more money into investment accounts, rather than retirement?
The backbone of my answer is to increase her income. There’s a finite amount of investing and saving that Sara can do on her current income of $30k a year. She’s already saving and investing at pretty much the highest rate possible given this income. The real change will happen when she earns more. To that end, I’d say now’s the time for Sara to dig in and focus on her job search.
Since she indicated she doesn’t want to remain in the midwest and is considering the coasts, she’ll need to increase her income in order to afford the higher cost of living on either coast. Sara has options here–she can pretty much do whatever she wants! How cool is that!
Since Sara sounds bit uncertain about where she’d like to work, I wonder if she’d enjoy teaching high school English at an exclusive private school, perhaps in the Northeast? From what I understand, some of these schools offer nice salaries, good benefits, a good quality of life, the possibility of free room and board (via living on campus), travel opportunities and a walkable community. Not the publish or perish cutthroat environment of higher ed. Just something to consider.
Overview of Accounts
Let’s do an overview of where Sara’s assets are at.
Between her Roth IRA and 401k, Sara has $72,454. According to Fidelity’s (somewhat oversimplified) retirement rule of thumb, you should have:
…at least 1x your salary by 30, 3x by 40, 6x by 50, 8x by 60, and 10x by 67.
Since Sara’s in her early thirties, she should have 1x her salary, which would be $30k. By this metric, she’s doing great! The key will be for Sara to continue investing for her retirement throughout her working years so that she’s able to reap the magic of compounding interest when she retires.
These are also called “taxable investments” and Sara has just such a brokerage account with Vanguard that’s at $6,710. This is a great start and she should continue investing into this as long as she doesn’t have major expensive life changes on the horizon. Much like with a retirement account, you want to keep your taxable investments invested for the long term. You can pull money in and out of these, but you’ll pay capital gains taxes and you likely won’t see a return on the money. The point of an investment account is that you don’t touch it for many decades. You just watch it grow and grow!
Sara’s incredibly organized in this arena and has $11,047 in cash savings. This gives her an emergency fund that would cover more than nine months of her living expenses–very well done!
One question I have here is why she has this spread out across six different accounts at different banks with different interest rates? If it were me, I would consolidate this to one savings account–whichever one has the highest interest rate. If Sara prefers having six different accounts, go for it! But I question not taking full advantage of the highest interest rate of 0.50% (which, by the way, is awesome in the current interest rate environment!)
CD (Certificate of Deposit)
I agree with Sara’s assessment that she should roll this money into her taxable investments the next time it’s eligible to do so.
Sara’s Question #3) Are there any ethical or socially-conscious investment options you can recommend? Right now I have investment accounts with Vanguard, and the portfolio includes companies I have serious qualms with. How can I divest to bring my money in line with my social values?
To get us started, let’s do a deep dive into Vanguard’s socially responsible fund, ESG US Stock ETF (ESGV), which they define as follows:
ESG investing, which typically assesses the factors listed below [environmental, social, governance], offers a way for you to invest in funds that consider environmental, social, and governance issues. You may hear the term used interchangeably with “socially responsible investing (SRI)” and “sustainable investing.” source: Vanguard
Sounds pretty good, right? But now, let’s a take a close look at what ESGV is ACTUALLY invested in:
Folks, 8 of the top 10 holdings of Vanguard’s socially responsible investing ETF are IDENTICAL to those of Vanguard’s regular old total market fund. And sure, I suppose you could make the argument that Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Tesla are “ethical” companies, but I’m pretty sure you could just as easily make the opposite argument.
To whit, let’s take a look at Tesla. This is a great environmental company, right? Building electric cars, saving the planet? And to a certain extent, that’s true! But on the other hand, it’s important to note that Tesla is heavily reliant on the mineral cobalt, which they import from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is mined by…. child labor. Here’s what an article in Forbes says on the matter:
Most tech and auto companies using cobalt have taken steps to avoid sourcing from cobalt mines that rely on child labor, but it’s a hard thing to track since it changes hands several times before reaching a battery cell at the end of the supply chain. Source: Tesla Supercharges Africa’s Cobalt Concerns With New Glencore Deal
I don’t think any of us would argue that child labor counts as “ethical.”
I’m not here to hate on Tesla or Vanguard or the stock market. Rather, I’m here to illuminate the fact that our economy is interconnected. There is no way to avoid horrific things like this, even when investing in what’s dubbed a socially responsible investment.
Anther great example in this vein is the John Deere tractor company. Are they socially responsible or are they monsters? On one hand, John Deere sells tractors to small family farms who grow local organic produce that we buy at our farmer’s markets. Good, right? However, John Deere also sells excavation equipment to coal companies. The whole point of a capitalist economy is that it’s interconnected. If you invest in the stock market, then by its very definition, you’re going to be investing in things you might find unsavory. Even if you invested in just one company that you deemed pure, every single for-profit company makes ethical compromises at some point.
Paying More for… the Same Thing
I’m not trying to bum everyone out here, I’m just trying to point out that most “ethically responsible social investing” is just marketing. At the end of the day? It’s invested in pretty much the same stuff AND it charges you more for the privilege. Oh yes, you pay more for essentially the same thing.
This Vanguard page provides a fantastic side-by-side comparison of their ethical investment vehicle (ESGV) and their regular old total market fund (VTI). In order to view this comparison, you need to select the two funds and click “compare.”
We saw in the chart above that 8 of the top 10 holdings for these two funds are IDENTICAL. However, ESGV charges you an expense ratio of 0.12% while VTI charges you a mere 0.03%. That’s a really big difference. That’s a lot of money you’re going to lose over a lifetime of investing to fees for what is, again, essentially the same exact product. If you want to do this, you can, but know that it’s an emotional decision, not a wise financial decision and not a decision that actually invests you in “pure” companies (see again my note above about Tesla, which is the poster child for many ESGs).
What to do Instead? Volunteer Your Time, Donate Your Money
So what’s my actual answer here? I choose to invest in a total market, low fee index fund.
If a person did this, that person could then use the money they save by not paying the much higher ESG fees to donate to causes and organizations they believe in (here’s how I manage my charitable giving). A person could also use the time they save by not researching ESGs to volunteer at organizations they believe in.
The only thing you’re really doing when you buy an ESG is giving more of your money to investment brokers who will go spend it on… uh, whatever it is they spend money on. Again, I’m not trying to be a downer, but I do get worked up when I see clever marketing trying to convince us to pay more in order to be better people. At the end of the day, you very often cannot buy your way to green. What you can do is live a frugal, lower-impact lifestyle where you buy used, minimize your trash, compost your food scraps, reduce your driving (or drive electric/hybrid), look for energy efficiency options in your home, donate your money and volunteer your time.
- Start job searching ASAP! Consider the possibility of a private secondary school that would provide a good salary, benefits, work/life balance and the possibility of free room and board.
- Switch to an MVNO for cell phone service.
- Know that your current savings rate and budget are fantastic and that there’s not much more you could possibly be doing on you current income. The focus should be on finding a well-paying new job in a location that you enjoy.
- Research socially responsible investing, but please understand that in most cases, you’ll be invested in many of the same stocks and will pay more in fees for the “privilege” of doing do.
- Feel confident in the awesome financial decisions you’ve made thus far! You are killing it (in a good way, to be clear)!
Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Sara? We’ll both reply to comments, so please feel free to ask any clarifying questions!
Would you like your own case study to appear here on Frugalwoods? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) your brief story and we’ll talk.
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