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Grad school, marriage & money

jollymamajollymama Registered User Posts: 180 Junior Member
I'm thinking ahead, and I'm not yet ready to join the "wedding moms and dads" thread, though I've been lurking.

My DS and his longtime GF are still in college but have been talking more and more about making it permanent! (She's great; I love her already, so, yay!)

Here's the scene, though, and where I'd appreciate this community's wisdom to possibly pass their way. DS is studying engineering and plans to get a job right out of undergrad, possibly going to grad school later, on his employer's dime. GF is in a science field and thinking of a PhD. My understanding is that PhD students get funded through their departments based on their qualifications, not based on need. In other words, grad funding is totally different from undergrad financial aid. Right?

DS wonders, if they were to marry when GF is starting grad school, would she be considered his dependent? Would his (theoretical) $65,000 salary stand in the way of her getting funding? I think not, but I am not entirely sure how this all works.

If love and practicality go hand in hand (and for this couple they do), they are wondering if it matters when they tie the knot.

Replies to: Grad school, marriage & money

  • donnaleighgdonnaleighg Registered User Posts: 1,353 Senior Member
    Grad school funding is based on merit not financial need. No worries about his salary.
  • jollymamajollymama Registered User Posts: 180 Junior Member
    @donnaleighg , thanks a bunch. He will be relieved. One less thing to think about.
  • boneh3adboneh3ad Forum Champion Engineering Posts: 7,281 Forum Champion
    In fact, that will be really nice for her. I was super broke for the first portion of grad school. Then I got married and my wife got an "adult job" and it made things so much easier. No more ramen!
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 33,468 Senior Member
    The biggest issue could be location. Getting into a program in her area of interest in the same place he gets a job can be challenging.
  • yourmommayourmomma Registered User Posts: 675 Member
    Don't know about the money. But my cousin's husband was going for his phd. She had to move around with him throughout his studies. So be prepared.
  • rocket88rocket88 Registered User Posts: 246 Junior Member
    A PhD in a science field will probably be 5-6 years. Classes for the first 1-2 years with teaching (TA) and some research. After advancement to candidacy, it will likely be all research but could include more teaching (if advisor doesn't have much grant funding). Typically you will get a waiver from tuition if you are working as a teaching assistant or research assistant, which is basically everybody working on a PhD at a research university. You will be paid a subsistence wage as a TA or RA. The new tax bill ended up not changing the tax handling of the tuition waver, fortunately. So no loans, no financial aid, no debt (in contrast to professional schools like med school), unless someone needs to take out a loan just to get by while in grad school, which can happen.

    After the PhD, typically you will have to do a 2 year postdoc (in fields like chemistry) or possibly 1-2 postdocs of 2-3 year duration (in many biology fields) to be considered for a full-time research faculty position. Industrial positions might not require as much postdoctoral work.

    The "two body problem" is common for highly-educated couples these days, and the couple involved will just have to look at options when the time comes and choose the best one available at the time.

    In terms of taxes, the married couple will probably file a joint return. The TA/RA earnings are regular income. When one spouse earns much more than the other, I think this works out as little or no "marriage penalty."
  • rocket88rocket88 Registered User Posts: 246 Junior Member
    Also, I think grad students and postdocs these days can get reasonable health insurance through work, but this might not be the case. It might be that getting married will make a great amount of sense in order to get health insurance through the "fully employed" spouse.

    Another thing to think about is the timing of having kids. A woman getting a PhD and doing postdocs could be 32-34 before getting a permanent position, and might be hesitant to take maternity leave the first few years in the permanent position while getting established. That puts her in her late 30s before having kids. Many, many women/.families do this and it works great, but there are others that choose to have kids while in grad school, or even just before starting grad school. This can cause a lot of stress, because typically grad students are poor, and you are at the mercy of your advisor, who might or might not be understanding. But in the best circumstances, this can work out well because doing research in grad school is the ultimate example of flex time, so you can often set your schedule to fit your needs.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 33,468 Senior Member
    The health insurance depends on the program. Some of my kid's PhD acceptances included it (school covered the premiums). At some places the college offered it and student could pay premiums. And some schools did not offer it at all. But if he is working & they are married, she may be able to be in his insurance.
  • jollymamajollymama Registered User Posts: 180 Junior Member
    Thanks, everyone, for the thoughtful responses. I am going to reread carefully in the morning.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,298 Super Moderator
    One of my best friends had this almost exact same life situation set up. She (who I'll call Jane) met her husband (who I'll call Mark) in college, and he was in school for engineering and she wanted a PhD in in a science-related field. Jill and Mark got married sometime after college; long story short he got a job at a big tech company as a software developer. She ended up getting into a really good PhD program in the same city (she deliberately targeted it after they moved here). She had full funding, he was working, they had health insurance and everything; they bought a house, about 2-3 years into the program they had a daughter, she finished up, now she works with me and they just bought a beautiful house in a nice neighborhood with the equity from the first one :D

    One full-time working spouse and one spouse in grad school can work out really well...as long as the doctoral student learns to balance the demands and craziness of the program with maintaining their marriage and mental health. Unless you slow down and relax a bit the program can do a number on your relationship. In my experience, it was worth it to slow down and take an extra year to make sure my husband didn't want to kill me (I got married at the beginning of my fourth year of doctoral work).

    But having a working spouse also means that you don't have to delay as much all of the hallmarks of adulthood, particularly the very expensive ones. My husband and I were in school at the same time, so we're both starting our adult financial lives together more or less, and we're contemplating our first house. I have several friends who were married to working spouses while in doctoral programs and were able to buy small houses in grad school (significant for my age group, because that was the nadir of the recession when houses dropped in value) and build equity - or able to invest in portfolios or whatever.
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 21,807 Senior Member
    Is there any reason to get married so young - right out of college? A lot of uncertainty and growing to do in the next few years.
  • jollymamajollymama Registered User Posts: 180 Junior Member
    edited January 6
    @oldfort, I have my opinions on that, too, but it's not exactly what I was seeking advice for here. (And I don't think I, as mom, get to decide that.)
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,298 Super Moderator
    They're just talking about it. If they've been together for a couple years, I think it's completely normal to discuss it.
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