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Sun 19 Mar 2017 by mskala Tags used: , ,

As a side effect of some other accounting I was doing, I've managed to put a number on how much my venture in Denmark cost me.

The number is $42,000 Canadian. That is neither a gross nor a net number; rather it's something like cash flow, representing how far I had to dip into my savings to fund my job search, travel, apartment search, and other expenses, before I was able to start spending my pay cheques. Alternately, it's how far I would have had to go into debt to make the project work, if I hadn't had savings to dip into. As you may recall from my postings at the time, I didn't actually get any money from my job until after I'd been in the country for some weeks, because I couldn't receive my pay until I had a bank account, and getting a bank account and renting an apartment each seemed to require that I do the other first.

The number is high because of the job search. It was about a year and a half between when my main contract at U of Manitoba expired and when I actually landed the job in Copenhagen, and during that time I was mostly living on savings, with little bits and pieces of paid work from U of Manitoba as people there were able to find scraps of funding to temporarily re-hire me. It's hard to separate which expenses were part of the job search and which were part of the move, but a rough guesstimate would be that about $30,000 was the job search (net - my living expenses for a year and a half were more, but partly covered by the short-term contracts). Maybe it's not fair to count job search expenses as part of the cost of taking the job; but if I hadn't insisted on an academic job, I would have found some other job faster and wouldn't have paid those expenses, so they're part of the cost of having an academic job.

My salary in Copenhagen was high even by Danish standards, let alone Canadian academic standards, though low compared to non-academic jobs for PhD holders in North America. Since I was only supporting one person, even after paying the sky-high Copenhagen rent I didn't have much else I needed to spend money on. I was able to save a lot of my after-tax pay. After two years that certainly came to enough to pay back the $42,000; but after also covering the cost of moving back to Canada, I think the net profit between when I started my job search and when I returned to Canada and paid off all the Denmark-associated bills, will probably be no more than $10,000. It would not be an overall profit if my initial one-year contract had not been extended to two.

Some of the expenses and money transfers for the move back have not yet been handled, even now half a year after my job ended, because of stuff like my Danish income tax for 2016, which is yet to be processed. However, I don't expect to ever have an accurate final number for the net overall cost of the entire venture anyway; computing such a thing would require answering some questions on which costs to include and which ones not to, that ultimately may have no correct answers.

Whether it was worth it is an even more complicated question. One important factor that's hard to put a price on is that during the time in question I was able to pursue my modular-synthesizer hobby and develop skills to the point of being able to attempt a commercial venture based on that upon my return; I couldn't have founded North Coast if I set out to do so immediately when my main contract at Manitoba ended, without that skill-building time. Other considerations that are even harder to put prices on are related to whether I did or didn't achieve the career and life goals I'd hoped to achieve by doing the job search and taking the Danish contract.

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