I'm new, too. Just logged in for the first time. I'm closing in on 58. My retirement funds have lost nearly 40% of their value in the last 12 months and it looks unlikely that I will be able to retire before I'm 70. I'm very concerned that my retirement years will just be years of isolation and misery, because I will lack the money to enjoy those years with my children and grandchildren.
I made the biggest mistake of my life by starting a PhD program 5 years ago. Now I'm realizing that it has saddled me with a mountain of debt that I can't possibly repay unless my salary QUADRUPLES once I get those magic initials after my name. So I've come here looking for ideas how to climb out of the enormous hole I've dug for myself.
Thanks for the encouragement. Unfortunately, the only thing I've learned in my PhD program is that I should never have done it. Otherwise, it amounts to little more than the most protracted fraternity hazing I've ever endured. My kids all live in different cities now, so without plenty of travel money, I will rarely see them or my grandkids. Just the interest on my school loans will be more than 3 times my combined house and car payments and will leave me with NOTHING unless I simply default on them.
You're right about keeping my faith and hopes in the Almighty, because I don't have any faith in Social Security, Medicare, or my retirement funds to provide what I need when the time comes! But don't get me wrong -- I don't see the glass as half-empty. It's just not BIG enough!
Thanks for taking the time to reply to my rant. Minutes ago I received official notice that I have been dismissed from my doctoral program for failure to meet the deadline for submission of my dissertation proposal, so your timing couldn't have been better. The next steps will be notification that my school loan payments must begin, followed by default on those payments, destruction of my credit, and probable dismissal from my current job. Life doesn't get any better than this!
So, yes. I would be VERY interested in hearing at least the highlights of your journey, if for no other reason that to provide me another glimmer of false hope. :-)
I advise that you write to the Chair of your Department, seeking a (further) extension for submitting your dissertation proposal, and cite reasons for your delay(s) up to now. The letter should show copies going to your dissertation advisor, and to any secondary readers (as we used to call them). The letter should also outline the consequences to you (as you reviewed in your posting here), and why, at this particular time in our economy, some further extension for you would be reasonable. Your letter should ask for a meeting asap to discuss everything. Needless to say, your letter deserves the most careful proofreading.
You also want to consider sending a shown copy (cc) to your university president.
As I compose this, I would add that, assuming that you are on good terms with your faculty supervisor -- the person who will be the primary reader of your dissertation -- you should ask his/her advise about structuring and phrasing your letter: perhaps you might have him or her review a draft of the letter.
If there are any extenuating circumstances for your delay so far, such as a disability (of yours or of a family member that you are helping), this letter is the place where you should mention it. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) uses the term "reasonable accommodation" as some action, step or facility needed to allow a disabled person to use the facilities, program or service involved in a situation -- and allow the entity interfacing with the disabled person avoid violating the ADA, which is a civil rights statute with loads of remedies. Almost every college and university campus has an office to assist students (including graduate students) with disability issues. You might be surprised about what the ADA considers a disability and what "reasonable accommodations" include -- extensions of time are clearly among the lists of reasonable accommodations. Have a confidential chat (in person, not just on the phone) with that campus office.
Don't overlook the political route. Chances are that you reside in the same state as the university where you are studying. Go to the local office of your state senator or your U.S. congress(wo)man, and lay out your circumstances. Your goal here is a letter from the politician to the university president, seeking an extension of time. Do not for a moment think that because you are in the politician's opposing party that he or she won't help you. They love to do it for "even" other party registrants, and they do this for any number of reasons.
You want to start acting on this very promptly, so do start a sketch of your letter, including full names, titles and addresses of people you will possibly be sending it to (addressee and "cc" recipients). Then make some phone calls (supervisor, chairperson, ADA office on campus, political offices) and set up appoinments in the NEAR future. If your faculty person(s) are away on leave, get their phone numbers or addresses.
Your goal in the very near future is to get your letter out. You say or imply that you just got the notification that you are so (properly) concerned about. Therefore, you should get to the politicians' offices asap, because you want them -- meaning, their staffs -- to write for you as well. Therefore, too, walk into the office of the campus disabilities officer, and get results there asap.
Keep a log and record of all that you do: phone calls, drafts and sent copies of letters, as well as letters received.
I am a now-retired ex-college teacher (Ph.D. in History, 1970) and a now-retired corporate attorney (J.D. 1978), living in the Valley Forge area (Pennsylvania). Our daughter is getting married in 10 days. I am brand new to this Discussion or Chat board.
In the background, think about that dissertation outline.
Don't give up. Never, never, never, never, never.........do that.
Good luck for now. I will look for further news from you to everyone in a few days.
Vincent, I probably should add that I essentially took your (very much appreciated) advice. I petitioned for reinstatement. Started the process in early September, got officially reinstated in early December. Two weeks later got dismissed from the program again -- this time for failing to complete in 7 years. Petitioned for re-reinstatement on "cruel and unusual punishment grounds" on got reinstated again about two weeks ago ...
It's the 3-ring circus aspect that has me so dissillusioned with academia now that I can't wait to get out of it. The day I successfully defend my dissertation will be my very last day in academia, I guarantee!!! And it can't come too soon.
You might want to rethink your plans for the future. I will be 66 in April and am still working with one full-time job, 1 small part-time job and a host of volunteer activities. I have never been busier and even though I know I won't want or be able to do this forever, it's fine for now. Let's start with your investments - mine took a nose-dive, too, but are now almost fully recovered - unless you had your heart set on retiring now, you have time to rebuild your assets. Had you asked me, I would have advised against the PhD but since you went for it, then I'd follow the other advice given and try to finish it. You don't say what field it is in but one way to pick up some extra money is through teaching a course or two at a local community college, 4-year college or graduate school. A lot of schools and universities these days hire part-time faculty. You don't need a doctorate to do this - in many instances a Master's will do. Many of these courses are taught in the evenings and on Saturdays so you could have another job and also teach. I did it for many years. You could also earn money as a tutor for high school and college students. I would also follow the advice to go back to your school and be honest about your circumstances. It doesn't look good for a university to have a lot of uncompleted degrees so it's in their interest to help you out if you are really committed to finishing. If you really do want to chuck it, then do so and "own" the decision. I left mine unfinished, too, when my career goals changed. As to the student loans, if worse comes to worst, then go back to your lender and try to renegotiate them for a lower monthly payment. It's in their interest and yours that you repay so they might be willing to accommodate you.
You seem to be very down on yourself right now; hope things start looking brighter as you consider your options - and you do have some options. Good luck!
Thanks for the suggestions, Katy. I have made a number of decisions since I made that post last year ...
1) I have decided to finish the PhD, since I'm going to pay for it anyway. I embarked on it because of pressure from my employer. I was an adjunct with an MBA and was informed that they were going to stop using all adjuncts without terminal degrees. That's the only reason I started the program to begin with. REVISED GOAL: Use the magic letters "PhD" after my name to help sell books -- the first being my dissertation reformatted for the mass market.
2) I am shifting my career focus to writing. I have three published works already in highly specialized fields (read that as "very low royalty payments"), so I will next write for broader markets. An extra $1,000 a month from royalties will make a world of difference in my retirement living (from subsistence level to reasonable comfort), and writing is something I will be happy to continue doing while "retired". I have lost all desire to teach on a regular basis, but I might do occasional seminars for nearby colleges and universities as an income supplement.
3) My retirement portfolio does not seem to have recovered as quickly as yours. It is back up at its 2007 balance now. Taking compounding into account, I estimate that my retirement date has been delayed 3 years by the 2008 crash. I can live with that. If I can get about 20 royalty-producing works in the market over the next 10 years, I should be able to live primarily off the royalties and not be dependent upon Social Security or TIAA-CREF.
That's the revised plan in a nutshell. I'm not happy about it, but it'll have to do.
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