Should I quit my PhD and trade fulltime at home?

I have almost finished a PhD in vascular diseases and expect to go into research. I love science and am good at it, but my salary as a researcher will be about £30,000 a year – not enough to buy a house and start a family. Recently, I came across the forex market and took a week off work. I found the fluidity highly profitable and made three times what a top London university professor earns in a month.

I have started to wonder if I should quit my PhD and trade fulltime at home. I mentioned it to my family, who were very negative as they believe in titles – although their MBAs don’t seem to have got them anywhere. Help please.

PhD student, male, 25



I’m struggling to understand how a clever, sublimely well-educated scientist could ask such an idiotic question. I can only assume that you are so starved of money and excitement that one dollop of cash and the rush of adrenaline from a brief winning streak have impaired your reason.

Betting on the foreign exchanges is a bad idea at the best of times; when the money is your own and when you don’t know what you are doing, it is an even worse one. I worked in an FX dealing room years ago and saw how much money people lost who were actually good at it. I also saw the looks on their faces as they were losing it.

All my sympathy is with your parents. I’m not terribly hung up on titles, but in your case you have worked so hard nearly to get a PhD that to give up at the last minute would be lunacy. I urge you to press on and get the letters after your name. When you’ve done that you should get a job as a poorly paid researcher and see how you like it.

Look at the people who are good at it and are 10 years older than you and see how they manage. I can’t believe that none of them has children.

If the sight of their lives of penury fills you with dread you have three options.

The first is to continue as a researcher but earn extra in the evenings by part-time gambling, either in currencies or online poker. I’m not sure I recommend this – in fact, I’m sure I don’t. Gambling is addictive and even if you made enough to start a family you’d never see that family. And eventually you’d lose both the money and probably the family.

Failing that you could leave research and find someone to pay you a large salary for using your brain. Either a job in the City that involves analysis or something in business.

The third option is the best one, but it requires even more luck than winning on the foreign exchanges: find someone who is not only lovable, but also stinking rich and marry her.

Dear Lucy

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

Lucy Kellaway, FT columnist and associate editor, offers her solution to your workplace problems in a fortnightly column in the Financial Times. In this weekly online edition of her 'agony aunt' column, readers are invited to have a say too. Read more about Dear Lucy here.