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Stability Versus Stock Options?

This week, Science Careers' Emma Hitt says that, "with the right planning and enough forethought, academics can enjoy financial stability and a comfortable, if not prosperous, retirement." Susan John, chair of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, tells Hitt that it's important for scientists "to remember that wealth is relative. Some careers do not reward financially as much as they do in other ways, and that is mostly true in the sciences." For this, John suggests academic scientists make an effort toward understanding their personal definition of success, and how large a role money plays in that. "For many people, especially people in the sciences or in academia, their career is their number one asset, and it will be for a long time," says John, who is a certified financial planner, adding that, for some, "what success looks like … may be more about having stability and the ability to think about the future in terms of what is going to bring you long-term happiness," than it is about financial reward.

Wayne State University School of Medicine's Monica Uddin drives that point home, telling Science that "the compensation offered in a for-profit scientific environment might be better, but the stability of the job itself — particularly in the current economic climate — might be less than what would be found in academia, at least for a tenure-track job." In the long run, Hitt adds that, while they may not come with stock options and steep raises, positions in academia are desirable in that they often afford faculty a "plentiful benefits package," including everything from medical, to dental, to tuition assistance.

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