Save Money Anywhere

Save $$$ at International Schools ANYWHERE: Tip #4 (Extravagant Vacations)

December 19, 2021


As a career international teacher, I am happy to continue this series on Save $$$ ANYWHERE! Last month we introduced the avoiding large purchases topic as a way for international teachers to save $$.

Helpful Hint #4: Extravagant Vacations

The final savings destroyer is extravagant vacations.

Now, these are far less common because of the COVID global pandemic, but revenge vacations are starting to emerge. We all need vacations, they are good for us physically, mentally, and emotionally. There is however a wide range on what international teachers can spend on a vacation.

A family of 4 can spend anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 USD on a vacation. Following the Silk Road, exploring Japan tip to tip, and cruising the Galapagos Islands are memorable once-in-a-lifetime vacations. They will make your Facebook account look great, and will make you the envy of all your friends back home in the snow, but is it worth it? The answer to that is a personal choice. For some, those vacations are why we became international teachers in the first place, so the answer for them is YES – It is worth it!

As a super-saver, I’ve done all those vacations without breaking my savings pledge. I’ve backpacked the Silk Road with our 3-year old boy, I’ve hitchhiked across rural Japan, and used local ferries to ping pong around the Galapagos Islands. We got some strange looks, got lost more times than I can remember, and made great friends along the way.

When borders re-open, and travel begins again for you in your host country, look at your bank account and see how much you saved on not going on vacations last year during the big lockdown.

Finding a vacation that provides you the necessary physical and mental recharge is important, just make sure it doesn’t drain your bank account and put you in a financially vulnerable position. International school enrollment is down globally because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and schools are looking at any way to get financial relief. Having a good nest egg to carry you for 6 months can offer a lot of comfort in these unstable times. 

Stay tuned next month for Tip #5 on Save $$$ ANYWHERE!

This article was submitted by an ISC member and veteran international school teacher. If you are interested in being a guest author on our blog, please contact us here.

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Save Money Anywhere

Save $$$ at International Schools ANYWHERE: Tip #3

November 11, 2021


As a career international teacher, I am happy to continue this series on Save $$$ ANYWHERE! Last month we introduced the housing package topic as a way for international teachers to save $$.

Helpful Hint #3: Avoid Large Purchases

As an expatriate teacher, I have never needed a car, even though many of my colleagues have one. It’s a great luxury, but also a great expense when you consider gas, insurance, maintenance, license plate, and the loss in resale value. Uber is available in just about all counties now, and if a car is really necessary, a short-term rental can be obtained economically.

Avoiding the big purchases will make for better savings and fewer inconveniences when it comes time to move to the next assignment. Anyone who had to move without a shipping allowance understands the pain of letting go of your expensive cappuccino machine for pennies on the dollar.

Never own anything you can’t walk away from in 20 minutes. When the COVID-19 pandemic first came, and many teachers were locked out of their work country, saying goodbye to everything was very real. Teachers lost baby photos, family heirlooms, and all their personal belongings. One friend of mine who got locked out of China told me, “All my stuff wasn’t worth anything anyway”, and moved on happily. Others are still fighting with schools and governments to get back what was lost.

Having some creature comforts are important, especially with lockdowns and quarantine. Just be aware that having a new 80’ Smart TV is great, but you’ll never get back the money you invested. Avoiding large purchases can help you reach your savings goals.

Stay tuned next month for Tip #4 on Save $$$ ANYWHERE!

This article was submitted by an ISC member and veteran international school teacher. If you are interested in being a guest author on our blog, please contact us here.

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Save Money Anywhere

Save $$$ at International Schools ANYWHERE: Tip #2

September 29, 2021


As a career international teacher, I am happy to continue this series on Save $$$ ANYWHERE! Last week we introduced the 70% target for savings as an international teacher.

Helpful Hint #2: Housing Package

When moving to a new country for a new teaching assignment, there is always a transition period. Culture shock is real and different for everyone. Some teachers can hit the ground running, some take a few weeks or months, and some break contract and never transition. Moving is hard, and international schools understand that a proper induction program can make-or-break a new teacher. The first impulse when arriving is to surround yourself with “comfort stuff”.

When relocating to a new country, housing is one of the most important factors in accepting an assignment. Some schools offer a housing allowance, others offer discounted housing, and some offer fully furnished, and fully subsidized housing. These details are important and often glazed over during the recruitment phase. Asking lots of questions is important to understanding the full cost of relocation.

A colleague of mine was looking for a new school during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he asked the school for a larger housing allowance, as he did the research and found out the allowance would only support a studio apartment. Living in a studio was unacceptable for him, so he asked for a housing allowance that would pay for a 1 bedroom. The answer was a harsh “NO – the terms of the contract are non-negotiable”. My friend smiled at me and said, “Wow I guess the reports on this school were true, no wonder they are struggling to find teachers”. Doing your homework and due diligence can uncover many red flags, and set you nicely up to reach your savings goals.

International teachers generally only stay at an International School for an average of 2.4 years. The money that you spend on your relocation, you will almost never get back. This is a sunk cost, and understanding what you are moving into can help increase your savings, and speed up your acclimatization to your new home.

Stay tuned next month for Tip #3 on Save $$$ ANYWHERE!

This article was submitted by an ISC member and veteran international school teacher. If you are interested in being a guest author on our blog, please contact us here.

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Save Money Anywhere

Save $$$ at International Schools ANYWHERE: Tip #1

August 30, 2021


As a career international teacher, I have had to learn the hard way about international school finances and savings. As an established teaching nomad, I have made the conscious choice of forgoing my national teachers’ pension and accepting the reality that when retirement comes, I will be fully responsible.

Having worked in 4 schools, on 4 different continents, I have learned that work contracts never tell you enough about the real cost of living. Many international teachers find it hard to save money, as the cost of an expat-lifestyle can be more costly than our home country.

It is possible to save ANYWHERE, but it does require a plan and some helpful hints from teachers that have worked in the international teaching circuit for a number of years.

Helpful Hint #1: Save 70% of your Salary (Anywhere)!!!!

In every country, I have always saved at least 70% of my salary.

For countries around the Indian subcontinent of South Asia, that is very easy because of an exceptionally low cost of living. I managed to save 97% of my salary simply by eating locally, avoiding restaurants that never agreed with my gastrointestinal tract, and only succumbing to the $9 bag of Doritos on super special occasions. 

While working in China, the online food applications were a lifesaver, as the food was at your door faster than you could walk to the grocery store. A little help from locals with a basic understanding of Chinese was needed, but after the learning curve was mastered, the savings were exponential.

Many of my colleagues would shop exclusively at the expat grocery store and spend more on one meal than I would for an entire week. The high cost of expat food is justified in the name of organic, natural, GMO-free food, that was grown with the same soil and water as everything else. Yes, you can buy the $5 green pepper if it makes you feel better and safer, but that security is mostly an illusion. In China, you can easily spend half your salary on food and daily living. Starbucks can be delivered to your school, but the local apps are just as good and less than half the price.

Anywhere you live, saving 70% of your salary is not only possible but easy to achieve.

Stay tuned next month for Part 2 on Save $$$ ANYWHERE!

This article was submitted by an ISC member and veteran international school teacher. If you are interested in being a guest author on our blog, please contact us here.

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Top 10 Lists

Retirement: Nine International Schools With Excellent Pension Plans

July 30, 2016


It’s never to early to think about your retirement plan. As many of you know, we have a wealth of information on the International School Community website.  There are now over 17500 reviews and comments submitted on over 900+ international school across the globe. We’re certain to reach 20000 by the end of this year! A number of schools have reached the 100 comments milestone (with a few even going over 200 comments!).  Check out this blog article regarding the most-commented schools on our website from July 2016.

saving for retirement

A number of our members are curious about their future, especially if their future is to become a “seasoned international school teacher“.  Part of our future is planning for retirement. Many of us have unfortunately stopped contributing to the retirement plans we were paying into before we moved abroad.

In turn, we now are hoping that international schools will help us do the saving. But not all international schools are a great help in this area; the truth is that some have non-existent retirement plan options for their teachers.

There are a few though that are leading the way in terms of helping you save something for when retire. Using our unique Comment Search feature (premium membership access only), we found 203 comments that have the keyword “retirement”.  After scouring through these comments, we would like to share nine of them that highlight some schools that appear to have some excellent retirement benefits.

1. Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea)
“SFS is a treasure amongst international schools. It is not spoken of as much as other “top” Asian international schools–this is what keeps it special. This school has allowed me to grow professionally and in my faith, has set me up with a hefty retirement for my future and plush savings for the present. The amount of on site training, college certificates, and international conferences I have been allotted to participate in haa been fully funded by the school. The package retains teachers and the demand of hard work keeps the professional teachers here for the long haul. It is a living, learning, and growing community with lots of busyness and potential to never become stagnate.”

2. American School Foundation of Monterrey (Monterrey, Mexico)
“There are 2 things:
1. Mexico has a “social security” plan and you pay into that so you pay in for your years, leave, and you can come back when you are 65 to collect.
2. The school has a 13% matching program that you can collect 1 or 2 times a year based on your choosing. This is the retirement plan but it is up to you to do move the money somewhere.”

3. International School of Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
“We get paid monthly but receive July’s salary in June also. Salary is paid in RM with up to 40% at a fixed USD rate. Tax is around 21-23 % depending on salary. Average for 8 yrs experience (max entry point) and an advanced degree would be appx 5000 USD after tax and deductions (this includes travel and housing allowance) Additionally 11% is previously deducted for retirement fund with an extra 17% added by the employer. On same criteria this would be 1500 USD per month into a retirement plan.”

man thinking about retiring

4. American School in Japan (Tokyo, Japan)
“The school provides a retirement plan and contributes 5.27% of base salary in each of the first two years, 11.57% in year three, and increasing each year up to a maximum of 16.82%. The school does not participate in US or Japanese social security. The retirement age at ASIJ is 65 years old.”

5. Escola Americana do Campinas (Campinas, Brazil)
Retirement plan is 8% school contribution a month. School pays 8% of salary to local savings plan for employee.”

6. United Nations International School (Vietnam) (Hanoi, Vietnam)
“In lieu of a school-established retirement plan, the school currently reserves an annual salary supplement of fifteen percent (15%) of the annual base salary and disburses the total amount of this annual salary supplement to the expatriate professional staff member upon termination of employment with UNIS. Alternatively, this supplement may be paid to the employee on an annual basis.”

7. Hong Kong Academy (Hong Kong)
“With a reasonable mix of some travel and eating out it is possible for a single teacher to comfortably save anywhere from 8,000-12,000 US$ per year not including the 10% +10% of base salary matching retirement plan.”

8. American School of the Hague (The Hague, The Netherlands)
“The school offers a retirement plan which is open to all employees on a voluntary basis. ASH offers two different plans: Nationale Nederlanden (pre-tax) and ECIS. ASH contributes 8% of the pensionable salary to the plan. Participation in the ECIS scheme on a pre-tax basis is only possible if one has vested and contributed regularly at another school before coming to the Netherlands. The teacher may make additional pre-tax pension contributions based on his/her age, ranging between 0.2% and 26% of the pensionable salary for employees. The pensionable salary is the gross annual salary minus about € 12,500 (on a full-time basis).”

9. Seoul International School (Seoul, South Korea)
“I have 14 years experience and my Masters. I earn about $1,500 per month in Won (about $400 of that is taken out of my paycheck for a retirement plan which is matched by school which I have access to at the end of the school year), and then another $2,000 in US dollars which is sent to my US account every month. I pay no taxes. The school takes care of it. I am paid 12 times a year although we get the summer pay all at once, in May.”

retiement piggypank

It’s never too early to think about retirement.

Of course there are many more schools that have attractive retirement plans for their teachers, but the nine schools we’ve highlighted here sure do seem nice! It all depends on what stage you are at in your career and how old you are, regarding how attractive a retirement plan would be to you. But we suppose that any retirement plan option is better then none at all!

Please share what you know about the retirement plans of the international schools you’ve worked at. Login to our website today and submit some comments here!

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