I originally posted this in the personal finance stack exchange, but since it hasn't received any responses, I thought I'd try here.
I just turned 38 and am contemplating pursuing an academic career, but I want to weigh the financial risks before making a decision. I graduated from college in 2018 with a general liberal arts degree, though I plan on studying a humanities field in graduate school. (Because I've mentioned a specific situation with a prof. on other stack exchanges, I'm reluctant to reveal the field, as it would identity her.) My education was paid for with financial aid, though I ended up borrowing $25,000 in federal loans for personal expenses (about 10K of this is unsubsidized accumulating interest). Additionally, I have a spotty employment history (minus a stint of self-employment a decade ago, I've never kept a job);thus, I have no retirement savings or financial "safety net." I currently live with and am primarily supported by my mother, and I have no children/dependents.
I'm only at the point of applying for a master's degree, but I want to carefully consider whether this is a viable path for me. First, most graduate assistantships pay poverty level wages. As long as I continue living at home, it's okay, provided that my mother (in her late sixties) remains in decent health (she has medical conditions). However, I would not be able to support myself on that wage if I had to. Alternatively, I could forgo funding and take out more loans for my graduate education, but that would leave me with exorbitant debt.
Next, I would be entering the job market around my late 40's, possibly early fifties. From what I hear, tenure track positions straight out of grad. school are rare, and many newly-minted PhDs end up with part-time adjunct positions or post-docs, neither offering financial security. (I'm also averse to relocating, which limits my options.) Again, I wouldn't be able to build up any savings on the teaching or research assistantship (or I'd have exorbitant debt from loans), so I would be graduating in a precarious financial situation.
Lastly, tenure track positions (particularly in the humanities) are scarce, and there's a chance I could never achieve tenure, even if I completed a PhD. (My reluctance to relocate is an additional obstacle, as it limits my opportunities.)
Money is not my main motive for pursuing this path. I'm passionate about this area of research, and it's a rewarding and challenging career. Additionally, I think academia offers the perfect balance of autonomy and job security (if you're able to get tenure). However, given my financial situation, I'm not sure if it's viable for me financially. For example, as idealistic as it seems now, I'm trying to imagine being in my 50's, close to the age where most people retire, having no savings (and possibly a lot of debt), and being thrown into an uncertain job market.
However, there's nothing else that I think I'd enjoying doing, and there aren't any lucrative options with my degree anyway. Moreover, I'll always regret not even trying to pursue my dream. Thus, I want to ask, from a purely financial perspective, is this a viable path for me?
united-states education career
Edit- There are some financial risks for most people pursuing an academic career. However, a better way to word/ask the question is "How does an individual determine whether these risks are worth it?" For example, is there a point where no matter how passionate and talented someone may be, the risks are too great (i.e. possibly enduring lifelong poverty, never being able to retire etc.)?
Does probability for success factor in (i.e. ending up a tenured professor)? I think I'm too early in the process (haven't even started a master's yet) to determine this. If undergrad. performance is any predictor of future success, I graduated with a 3.93 cumulative GPA and 4.0 in my field (average to light course load), six of those credits being at the graduate level. I didn't decide to pursue graduate school in this field until later in my degree, so I didn't have many research opportunities or any publications. While this isn't the most impressive undergrad. resume, I also don't think it screams "unfit for grad. school."
So, again, how does one determine whether the financial risks are worth pursuing an academic career path? Hopefully my rephrasing of this question will get it reopened.
Edit- While I still haven't decided if/where to attend grad. school, I've decided that finances aren't going to be the deciding factor. The problem is that I'm conflicted between not wanting to relocate and not wanting to attend my alma mater after this ordeal w/ the dept. chair/admin.