All life is a cost-benefit decision, even if you personally eschew capitalism

Feb 27 2015 Published by under life, time, Uncategorized

Forget the capitalism part, that's just trolling.

There is a convo on the tweets about paying for stuff that are "perks" or marginally necessary for what one does professionally.

As scientists, for the most part, there will never be anyone else to pay for many of the science things you wish to do. This ranges from going to meetings and staying somewhere other than a hostel with hordes of unwashed and stoned teenagers to journal subscriptions to page costs to duct tape with little animals on it.

I am not going to sit or stand or lie here and say "this is worth paying for and this is not". There are certainly extremes that are relatively easy to decide (forgo the duct tape and pay for your own coffee on the road). But whether something is "worth it" or not is a totally personal decision. Whether to dip into your shoe budget or cigs budget to buy that duct tape is not a decision anyone can make for you. The value you place on a Friday night beer vs a Monday morning fancy coffee vs flying or driving to a meeting is something everyone decides for themselves.

That of course, makes some of the decisions even harder. And many are not trivial at all. One example: people who are on a 9 month, academic year salary, do you teach in the summer? Depending on the university, the union and other factors one can earn 10-30% of ones academic year salary. That is not small potatoes. But, you still have to teach for that money. Sometimes the teaching is easy, and sometimes not. Sometimes even if its freshman bio, or remedial M1 physiology, and something you can do in your sleep, it will suck the life out of you. Even if its only in the mornings, you are too mind-fracked to do real science in the p.m. Sometimes the decision gets more complex. You add in the cost of daycare for little ones vs. salary in vs getting another paper out before tenure. These are tough decisions. And they are decisions that you weigh for yourself. They are based on your ability to parse time efficiently, stay on track and not run yourself into the ground.

The important thing is to understand that you are making a cost/benefit decision. Do I want to teach or write? The next most important thing is to be able to assess the costs and the benefits with some accuracy. What is a new car, better day care, a night out once in a while worth to me? The third most important thing is to remember that money is just a counter in your to translate those cost/benefit decisions. It is not anything more than that. Money means buying this or that. Money means my students don't pay me in sheep wool that I have to spin and then weave into a pair pants. I have always found it useful not to think "I need (to earn, to acquire, to beg) another $Xk", but to think about what that $Xk means to what I can and cannot do. Yes, this is the tedious "do a budget" thing, but it is important when you make these cost benefit decisions and comparisons. Just like time, money slips away. In fact, in organizing my younger academic life, I far more frequently that at any other time in my life thought money is time.

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