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European considering postdoc in US

PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:21 am
by Liv U.
I am finishing my PhD in Europe and considering postdoc in US. Labs from Stanford and HMS/MGH are interested. However, I am really confused with salary and cost of living. I have a spouse who cannot work in US for 3-5 months because of waiting for work permit. Thus we don't know whether we can survive with only 1 salary. What is real amount of money (net) after tax reduction, insurance,...,you get? Is it possible to find affordable living in Boston with less than 30 min commuting?
Any info about postdoc life expectation vs reality welcome :)

Re: European considering postdoc in US

PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 9:54 am
by J.B.
I've lived in both of the areas you mention so I can offer a bit of insight.

Neither are very affordable, they are both well-known expensive hub areas. I don't know what you'd be realistically taking home after taxes and everything, but having to provide for 2 people complicates that. Some other things to consider:

    * I believe the Stanford postdoc stipends are quite a bit more generous than other universities.
    * It's possible to live in Boston without a vehicle, and that can end up saving you quite a bit of money. MGH has a dedicated stop along the red line subway, so you have options as long as you live decently close to one of the stops.
    * The climates are very different. California is fairly temperate and your utility bills probably won't fluctuate hugely between summer and winter. Boston swings between both very hot and very cold and your bills will reflect that.

Both locations are near major biotech/pharma hubs so your opportunities to meet people and find future employment are good. But you will likely need to live a spartan lifestyle to support 2 people on a single postdoctoral salary in either location. Feel free to send me a PM if you'd like to discuss this in more detail.

Re: European considering postdoc in US

PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 12:10 pm
by Liv U.
Thank you for response! We hope that after few months will have work permit so hopefully wont have spartan life for long time. I was looking for accommodation in some boston areas but it seems to me as impossible to find flat up to 2000$ without 1hour commute in morning and evening. After 12h shift I dont want to spend 2 more hours on way. Stanford PI fairly said that housing situation might be problematic but I it is hard to imagine as it is completely different.

Re: European considering postdoc in US

PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 4:54 pm
by J.B.
Yes, the work permit will help you live more comfortably. But securing a place to live will be contingent on what income you have at the moment, which is only yours.

Where are you looking for places? Most of the apartment complexes with a functional website are listed as "luxury apartments" and will be priced out of your range. If you look through Craigslist you will find more options that are affordable to you. And if you're a Reddit user there's a sub /r/bostonhousing. In particular, the Somerville area is close to the red line and is densely populated with housing so you'll probably find something more reasonable there. Watch out for scams though, if anybody says they require a deposit before even showing you a place they're lying.

One awful thing I forgot to mention; nearly all Boston housing is run through real estate brokers, which means you pay an extra fee for somebody to print your lease for you. Often this fee is a full month's rent, but sometimes you can find places that will pay for half of it. For both California and Boston, consider that you will need to have at least 3 month's worth of rent ready to give up when you sign a lease. First/last month of rent and a security deposit. For Boston add another month for broker's fee, but maybe 1/2 month.

Stanford PI is correct, housing can be an issue. Again, Craigslist is probably a good option to find places to live. You can afford to spend a bit more on monthly rent due to the climate. In Boston, expect your winter heating bill to be over $100 each month. Cooling in the summer can be similar. In California it will stay fairly constant, maybe $40-50 each month, summer and winter. But you'll probably need a car in Palo Alto, you can live without one in Boston, especially if you're in an area near the subway.

Re: European considering postdoc in US

PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2017 12:08 pm
by Liv U.
ufff its quite a lot of money! I agree Somerville or North Boston is many flats.
I looked at craiglist or zillow. But as I don't know how much is the net salary I don't know where to set line/trashold for maximal rent. Also I don't know how it is with amenities.
In some adds its written that heating or water included but in some not thus we don't know whether are all included automatically in rent or not.

Re: European considering postdoc in US

PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2017 9:53 am
by J.B.
I understand your frustration, it's not easy.

Assume utilities are not included unless they say so. If a place says they offer heat/water, it's because that's a feature that not all apartments offer.

One very crude calculation you can use: most of the apartments around Boston run some form of credit check and often require that you make 2x or 3x the amount of the monthly rent. If I'm not mistaken, that is calculated from your gross salary, not your actual take-home. So if you're making the NIH recommended minimum of $39,000 (I think this number has gone up recently, don't know if it has gone into effect yet), your monthly gross is $3,250. You can look at places between $1000-1500, but I would probably lean towards the lower end just to be safe.