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 had 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 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?