Highlighted Articles

Be a Financially Empowered Expat Teacher!

September 19, 2020


My name is Sorcha Coyle and I’ve been teaching in the Gulf (Qatar and Dubai) for the last 8 years. I have always taught local students and I love the unique cultural insight that this has given me. Outside work, I love travelling (not at the moment, of course! #flattenthecurve) and the sunny expat lifestyle! In my time abroad, I have been fortunate enough to save six figures, which I have used to purchase 2 properties (a 4-bedroomed house in my home country and a 3-bed apartment in Spain), start a profitable investment portfolio, complete my Masters, set up a side business, and travel the world. Today I will talk about my “why” and how it pushes me to save more and more each year. Then I will share my “how” with you, so you can boost your savings too!

Why?

9 years ago, when I lived in the UK, I was working at a lovely school but because of my long hours and low pay, I was incredibly stressed and overwhelmed. I was spending well over 50% of my salary on rent (in a shared apartment) and after council tax and bills; I was barely breaking even each month. Meanwhile back in my home country of Ireland, we were facing our worst economic crash. In 2008, the construction industry collapsed. Businesses went bankrupt. Property values plummeted. Almost overnight, hundreds of thousands of citizens lost their jobs. Honest hardworking people couldn’t repay their mortgages. Many lost their homes. From that moment on, I swore to myself that I would be financially empowered. I wanted to have peace of mind no matter the state of the economy. Soon I realised that I had to take a drastic step to fulfill this goal, so after much research, I moved to the Gulf region in 2011. As an expat there, I have job security, a great salary, zero rent, and zero tax- what is not to love about it?

It is true that the expat life has so many wonderful aspects- the high salary, the job security, the sun, and the standard of living. However, it has one downside- it is unpredictable. We might plan to teach here forever with its tax-free salary and perks, but life here can change in the blink of an eye. We might lose our job (sadly more common since COVID reared its ugly head), do something silly and get deported, or we may have to go home for family reasons. Whatever the reason, we want to have something to show for all our hard work.

Moreover, many of us are no longer paying into our private teaching pension at home, which means we must have alternative methods to fund a comfortable retirement that will allow us to lead the kind of life we have now. Speaking of pensions, right now we have longer to work before retirement (until 68 instead of 65) to qualify for the state pension. Unfortunately, by the time we get closer to retirement, the state pension age may even have been pushed up to 74 years.

From the day I began teaching abroad, I realised the incredible saving potential that this situation gave me and made a decision there and then to maximise it to its fullest.

How?

Regardless of where we work, us single teachers have a great opportunity to save tonnes and set ourselves up for life, financially.

How much you save all depends on 2 factors:

1) How much you want and plan to save

2) Your desire to do extra to save as much as you can

Let me go into more detail…

1) How much you want and plan to save

Saving does not happen by chance; you must absolutely plan for it. You need to set a financial goal, make a budget, and then work hard to stick to it to achieve it. I highly recommend setting SMART financial goals. This means that your goals are:

  • Specific: You have a specific amount of money in mind.
  • Measurable: You can break your goal down and set yourself weekly, monthly, half-year, and annual targets to chart your progress.
  • Attainable/achievable: This is REALLY IMPORTANT! Look at your monthly salary to make sure your monthly saving allows you to live as well!
  • Realistic: AGAIN, this is REALLY IMPORTANT! While you are working abroad, you have to enjoy yourself too by socialising, travelling, etc., so if what you need for a house deposit is completely unrealistic in a 2-year timeframe, then either look at a smaller and cheaper property or decide to commit to living abroad for 3 or 4 years instead. Sometimes, you will be homesick and lonely as an expat teacher, so feeling like you’re broke all the time while you save will probably discourage you from staying and ruin your expat experience!
  • Timed: If you plan to work abroad for 2 years, break it down into months and weeks, i.e. 24 months = 104 weeks to save it up. This makes your goal seem a lot more attainable. If 2 years is not enough to save for your house deposit, then perhaps extend your timeframe to 3 or 4 years of teaching abroad? Again, break it down into months and weeks to know how much to save each week, month, etc.

From Day 1 in Qatar, I told myself I’d save €100,000 before I turned 30. I don’t even know where I plucked that number from- it just seemed like a nice round number! By having this SMART financial goal, I was focused and knew that I had to save a certain amount each month. It also continuously motivated me as I would have a competition with myself and try to beat my previous month’s savings! I was 25 when I moved to Doha and I managed to smash that goal when I left 4 years later at the grand old age of 29. However, I didn’t reach my savings goal just from sticking to a budget and saving as much of my teaching salary as possible. I knew that if I wanted to accelerate my ability to save, I would have to increase my (streams of) income! Read more below….

2) Your desire to do extra to save as much as you can

In addition to saving as much of my teaching salary as possible, I do a few more things too…

  • I only apply to schools whose packages include a decent rent allowance rather than school accommodation because I know how much it can boost my savings provided the amount is equal to or above the rent of a one-bed apartment in a nice part of the city in question. I then rent a studio, so I can pocket the difference! Last year, I saved $7900 of my rent allowance by doing exactly that.
  • During my summer holidays, I always spend a month working as an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Teacher at a summer school in the UK.
  • I have a side business called Teach Abroad Transformation, which teaches future and current expat teachers how to craft an outstanding CV and cover letter that guarantees them an interview for every single teaching job abroad they apply to.
  • I tutored students of all ages most evenings in Qatar.
  • For a few years, I would work in a friend’s parents’ shop in my hometown for a few weeks in the summer (after my month at the summer school in the UK!), which I absolutely loved!

All those actions above have helped me reach my target of saving six figures in 8 years, so these small “sacrifices” are 100% worth it! What can you do this year to boost your savings?

As well as teaching full-time, I am also the founder of Empowering Expat Teachers and my mission is to empower future and current expat teachers to lead personally, professionally, and financially rewarding lives! Follow me on Facebook, IG, and my blog for lots of helpful tips and advice to help you become an empowered expat teacher too! I have recently set up the Financially Empowered Expat IG that focuses exclusively on saving more, earning more, and retiring with more and you can find me @thefinanciallyempoweredexpat on IG!

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Highlighted Articles

Fulfilling the Dream to Travel the World

June 24, 2018


Most people can probably relate to the fact that you don’t get to travel the world very much when you are a teacher in your home country (and definitely before you start your career in teaching). For me personally, I had only been able to travel to 10 different countries before I moved away to start my first international school teaching placement.

travel

Of course, I realize that ten countries might be a lot for the majority of the world’s citizens. Most people would be lucky to have the chance and money to travel to that many countries in the world. But for some people, it only makes them desire to see even more!

There is something addictive about traveling to and experiencing firsthand the many different countries in this world. You do see a lot of similarities (i.e. there’s always a fruit seller selling his/her fruit, the local barber has some shop cutting people’s hair, etc.), but the fun part is seeing the different things or even how each countries does that same things slightly differently.

travel

Now you might be wondering how did I get to those ten countries before I started working at international schools, being that I hadn’t started my career yet or was only making a state school’s salary for a teacher just starting out. The first one was because I decided to do a study abroad program through my university, to Spain. I believe I was a junior at the time. Even though I went to that country to study for only 2.5 months, I made sure to visit two of the neighboring countries during my time there (France and Portugal). So, now I was up three countries visited in just one year! It was in Europe too, before the Euro currency had taken over, so I feel lucky that I got the chance to see those countries before the big change. Because this was a study abroad program through my university, I did have to pay for this “trip”, but it would have been a very similar amount if I had just stayed at my university to study there instead.

Just a year later after that study abroad experience, I found another program that would take me to another country, and a very unique and interesting one at that…Russia!  I went through a program called Camp Counselors USA. You do have a pay some money to go on this program, but it wasn’t that much and many people also got paid some money while they were there.  Basically, you have to work and teach English at one of the many summer camps all around Russia (a popular tradition there). This adventure was the first time I could experience being completely immersed in a language that wasn’t my home language. Though stressful at times, I have many wonderful memories of that trip. Russia is a country that many people just simply don’t know that much about. I’m so lucky to get a chance to have an insight into this beautiful country and its lovely people.

That’s now four countries, in total.

travel

Then many years passed until I had my next foreign country adventure. I thank the big tax refund that I received that year which allowed me to buy a ticket to Colombia! I decided to go there because one of my friends was living there. You guessed it, she was working at an international school there. You are simply a fool if you do not go and visit your friend when they are living abroad. Traveling to a foreign country can be scary. But if you have a friend there, there is simply nothing to worry about any more because they know the way around there and know what to do and what not to do. Another big money saver is that you can just stay at their place while you’re visiting. Now we are at five countries!

A few years after Colombia, a friend tipped me off to another program for teachers. One where you could travel completely for free, all expenses paid for a three-week trip. The program was called People to People Student Ambassador Program. My first placement with them was to travel to all four countries of the British Isles. Even though it was a free trip doing amazing things traveling around these countries, your main job is to be a chaperone to 30-40 middle or high school students. But it isn’t that bad at all. Looking back, you really get to do very unique things that you probably wouldn’t have done traveling there by yourself. You also stay at quite nice hotels that you probably wouldn’t have booked and paid for if the money was coming out of your own wallet! The total countries visited now is up to nine.

travel

The last country that I visited before I took my first international school job was to Australia. It was a dream to go there! And I got to go there for free as well, through the same People to People Student Ambassador Program. Three weeks traveling around Eastern Australia was definitely a dream come true! Back then, no way did I have the money to fund this kind of trip if I was going to travel there on my own. Australia was country number 10!

Once that country visit was over with, a few weeks after actually, I hopped onto an airplane to start my first international school teaching placement. I have worked at three international schools in total now. Throughout those 10+ years working at international schools, I have now visited over 70 countries!

Have I visited enough now and is my desire to explore the world waning? I don’t think so. The dream to experience different countries and cultures firsthand is still pretty strong. Even if I moved back to my home country and ran out of “extra” money to traveling with, I’m certain I would find some ways again to explore new countries for free or for very cheap means. There are probably even more programs out there nowadays, especially for teachers. Luckily, my international school teacher/expat lifestyle is still affording me the opportunity to travel on my own and/or with my partner. It still gets me excited to open up Kayak.com and start searching for my next trip/adventure!

This article was submitted to us by a guest author and ISC member.

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Photo Contests

Top Three Photos For Best Jump Shot While Traveling: And the winners of this photo contest are…

December 31, 2017


We’re happy to announce the winners of our latest Photo Contest: Your Best Jump Shot While Traveling

First Place“Jumping in the Atacama Desert, Moon Valley, Chile”

jump shot

Congratulations, Kimberlee Peters!

Prize awarded: Premium membership for TWO YEARS on our website!

Second Place: “#pacificcoast #nwusa #americanbeaches”

jump shot

Congratulations, roxanaportland!

Prize awarded: Premium membership for ONE YEAR on our website!

Third Place“Memorable walk on an isolated beach in southern Italy a few year ago. To get a good jump picture it usually takes a few jumps, but believe it or not, this one was the first jump!”

jump shot

Congratulations, Mario Arana!

Prize awarded: Premium membership for SIX MONTHS on our website!

Thanks to everyone who participated!  We have awarded everyone else ONE WEEK of premium membership for participating in this photo contest.

jump shot

Stay tuned for our next photo contest. Check out our previous Photo Contests here.

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Photo Contests

New Photo Contest: Your Best Jump Shot While Traveling

December 16, 2017


We’ve all done it, trying to get the best jump shot photo of ourselves while traveling around in a beautiful location.

jump shot

This begs the questions, why do people even do jump shots? It might be that it shows how much we are enjoying life, especially the expat life.

Or it might be that we get really excited and want to jump when we are in a spectacular place in the world; blown away by the beauty of the world.

Getting the perfect jump shot is also an obsession as well.

You need the right spot, the right lighting from the sun, and a good camera. It is easier if you are jumping solo. With a group though, the challenge is higher to get everyone synchronized into the perfect jump.

jump shot

So when you get it just right (solo or in a group), it is the best feeling ever!

 

So, what is your best jump shot while traveling?  Submit your photo to us and enter our photo contest! All participants receive free premium membership to our website!

Photo contest topic:
Your Best Jump Shot While Traveling

The PRIZES:
1st prize: 2 YEARS FREE of premium membership
2nd prize: 1 YEAR FREE of premium membership
3rd prize: 6 MONTHS FREE of premium membership

(Those submissions that are not in the top three will receive 1 free week of premium membership just for participating.)

Send your photo to editor @ internationalschoolcommunity.com. Please remember to:

• Write your name and email address
• Attach your picture and write a short description about it
• Enter these words in your subject: International School Community Photo Contest Entry: Best Jump Shot While Traveling

or

Tweet the photo and mention our profile @IS_Community to make sure we will see it. If you are on Instagram, tag us when you post the photo and/or use the official hashtag #iscommunityphoto

(Deadline to submit your photo: Saturday, 30 December, 2017. Maximum one photo entry per contestant.)

Check out our previous Photo Contests here.

Photo credits: Pixabay

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Comment Topic Highlight

How Much Do Flights Actually Cost from Various Cities Around the World?

December 27, 2016


It’s holiday time and most of us are on some trip enjoying our time off. We might be home with our families in our home countries, or we also might be on some tropical island (if we are so lucky!).

How Much Do Flights Actually Cost

But where you go often depends on how much the flight costs to the place you want to go. If your school is paying via your flight allowance benefit, then perfect! But if you are paying, then you for sure are looking out for the best deal (sometimes for hours on flight search websites!)

It is hard to know what it is like flying out of a city you haven’t lived in yet. How much are the flights to within the host country itself, to nearby countries and to your home country like England or the United States for example?

If the flights are too expensive in relation to your salary, then it might be very likely you won’t be going home a lot for the holidays. If going home every holiday season is important for you, then it is good to know this information up front before you make a decision to move and live somewhere.

How Much Do Flights Actually Cost

An average international school teacher probably goes on at least one flight every one to two months while living abroad. That means many cities in a number of different countries. These costs can add up and take away from your savings, but it is just what international school teachers like to do!

When job searching, make sure to consider the full picture of the host country airport that you might just be using if you sign a contract with a school there.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to getting the inside scoop on how much flights actually cost from various host cities across the world, so you can stay the most informed as possible. It is called: “Sample travel airfares from host city airport to destinations nearby.

Our veteran international school teachers have submitted a total of 141 comments in this comment topic (Dec. 2016).  Here are a few that have been submitted:

“Direct flights to the US can be up to 2000USD (JFK), Europe around 1500USD and Australia similar. Prices shoot up around major holidays. There are a number of low-cost airlines operating, which means you can fly more or less anywhere in East/South East Asia for less that 200USD.” – Hong Kong Academy (Hong Kong, China)54 Comments

“Flights purchased 21 days in advance on discount airlines within Europe can be as little as 20$. But beware, sometimes these flights are cancelled with little or now warning, and you’re left having to purchase a much more expensive one with a different airline at the last-minute. Flights to Asia or the USA will run between 500-1000$, depending on when you travel. Everything is more expensive in July and August, so try to plan travel in off-peak times for the best deals.” – Oeiras International School (Lisbon, Portugal)111 Comments

“Check KLM’s website every now and again. They sometimes give great deals on empty seats from Denpasar to Singapore. I’ve flown it for $59 on occasion. Also- pro tip- If you have money to spare and want a few hours of luxury. When checking in, go to the Business Class counter and ask if there are any empty seats. They used to sell them for $50 extra. Now they’ve fixed the price at about $110.” – Green School Bali (Denpasar, Indonesia)54 Comments

“Doha is a central airport in the world – usually the stopover for flights from Europe to Asia, so there are amazing flight options from here. Cheapest weekend flights are to other middle eastern countries/cities – Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Bahrain/ Oman. You can get good deals on Qatar Airways too. Popular destinations from here (but not in a weekend): Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, Turkey. I think the flight prices aren’t too bad (in relation to salaries here) they might seem expensive when you exchange to another currency.” – Qatar Academy (Sidra) (Doha, Qatar)59 Comments

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