International School Community Blog

Andrew Hallam: How Are Int’l School Teachers Stacking Up?

Money and sex. Culturally, we don’t talk about either. Some would say that’s OK. Keep our bedrooms closed and our finances locked. But wouldn’t you like to see how you stack up…financially speaking, that is?

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

As an international teacher, you aren’t likely contributing to a defined benefit pension.  If you’re American, you aren’t contributing to Social Security, either. Whether the older person within you eventually sinks or swims depends on what you’re doing now.

How much are you investing?  Do you have revenue-generating real estate? How much money do you have, so far?

My friend Dr. Jeff Devens and I created an anonymous survey for international teachers. Please take two minutes to access the survey here.

So far, the results are eye-opening, and we’re planning to share them with you once we’ve broadened the database.  

We’ll soon know, for example, what percentage of teachers have student loan debt.  We’ll have the breakdown by age.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

We’ll know how much the typical 30-year-old teacher is saving and how much money they have for retirement. We’ll have figures for teachers within every age bracket.

After speaking at more than 90 international schools, I’ve learned that individual results will differ wildly. You might expect that, depending on how much the teachers earn. But there’s much more to it.

For example, I have friends I’ll call Bob and Margaret. They taught for 25 years at one of the highest-paid international schools in the world. When they “aged out” they were forced to retire.

Bob and Margaret earned great salaries. While working, they didn’t have to pay for housing. They received enough “home leave” allowance to fly home twice a year.

Today, they collect Social Security payments. But it’s a fraction of what they would have earned if they had stayed in the United States. They have a small investment portfolio. But they don’t earn much from that.

Bob and Margaret are almost broke.

Image by dietcheese from Pixabay

Other friends of mine worked at a school that didn’t pay as well. Like Bob and Margaret, they raised two children and helped them pay for college. Like Bob and Margaret, they traveled and enjoyed dining out. They also laughed and smiled with the same ease as Bob and Margaret.

But similarities end there. This second couple, also in their late 60s, has almost two million dollars.

No matter what school you work at, I’ve learned that there’s a huge chasm between how much money your colleagues have. Some are doing well. Others are living underwater.

You might not notice their lifestyle differences. It can be really subtle. For example, in my book, Balance, I mentioned that my wife and I enjoyed weekly massages for 12 years. 

We don’t regret that expense. But those massages cost our retirement portfolio about $750,000. Small costs, if they are invested instead of spent, can add up to huge amounts.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Now what if somebody had a weekly massage and twice-daily coffees at Starbucks? That might not sound like such a big deal. And it isn’t. But over a working career, such small decisions would cost them more than $1 million…if that money were invested, instead.  That’s why two teachers can have vastly different wealth, even if they spent a career at the same school.

No, you don’t have to live like a pauper.  And yes, you could enjoy massages, weekly restaurant meals and Starbucks every day.  But when we do, we should cut back on other things.

Once again, our anonymous survey is live, and can be accessed here.

You’ll soon be able to see how you stack up.

But more importantly, this data will provide a framework for discussion.

We can help each other, cheer each other on, and support our quests for financial wellness.

Thank you, in advance, for completing the survey.

We look forward to sharing the results.

Andrew Hallam is the international bestseller of Millionaire Teacher, Millionaire Expat and Balance.