Information for Members

So Many International Schools WITHOUT Retirement Plans!

February 28, 2021


It is on all international school teachers’ minds. How am I helping to contribute to my future now (for when I retire/stop working) as a current teacher in the international school community?

Not that everything is all worry-free if you just stayed teaching and earning money in your home country, but living and teaching abroad can sound pretty risky to some people (maybe even many people).

If you are working at an international school that has an amazingly high salary with equally amazing benefits, then that is one story. Even if this type of school doesn’t actually offer a nice retirement plan benefit, you still have the opportunity to save a lot of money.

But if you are working at an international school and receiving a salary that helps you ‘just get by’ along with very average benefits (for example, there is not a retirement plan benefit that is on offer to you), then international school educators need to consider if the experience working at this type of international school is a good fit for their future plans.

Does an international school that doesn’t offer a retirement or pension plan benefit immediately equate to being a bad decision for your future? Not necessarily. If you are only planning on staying there for one to two years, then it shouldn’t make that big of a difference. If you receiving a high salary along with paid housing, not having an established pension plan benefit shouldn’t make that big of a difference because your savings potential is high. Hopefully, you have a laser-focused investment plan for all of that money saved.

But for those of us that are not so smart with money and don’t have the expertise to manage our own savings/retirement plan, it can definitely not bit a good fit to accept a teaching job at a school that doesn’t offer retirement plan benefits.

We did a keyword search on our Comment Search feature and found a number of comments related to international schools that don’t offer a retirement or pension plan benefit.

We found 26 comments when we searched the short phrase: “No retirement
Here are a few of those comments:

Amman Baccalaureate School (16) Total comments
No retirement plan right now is on offer as a benefit.”

Canadian International School (Tokyo) (93) Total comments
No retirement plan for teachers.”

International School Ho Chi Minh City (93) Total comments
“Unfortunately there is no retirement plan.”

We also searched the short phrase “No pension” and found 85 comments.
Here are a few of those comments:

Zhuhai International School (121) Total comments
“There are no pension plans from the school (included in the contract) although if you wished to establish one the office staff would be able to assist you in establishing one.”

Varee Chiang Mai International School (117) Total comments
“There is no pension provision, but an end-of-contract gratuity is awarded in lieu.”

Stamford American International School (307) Total comments
“There is no pension, but this means you can invest your money as you see fit. There is a 15% allowance that is paid monthly with your salary. This is “in lieu of CPF” which is paid for Singaporeans and PR.”

On the more positive side, we had a quick search for this key phrase “matching” (30 comments) hoping to find comments related to international schools that match the pension plan contribution of the teachers.  
Here are a few of those comments:

American International School Vienna (81) Total comments
“Under the newest contract, teachers now have 10% matching for retirement fund commencing at first year. Certainly better if you’re there short-term, though perhaps not if you’d plan to stay 30 years.”

Hong Kong International School (151) Total comments
“I spend a lot of money here because I love to do eat out a lot, travel, and there are many things to do in the city. With that being said, I save about 1,300 USD a month, not counting the school severance/matching scheme which is another 1,300 USD.”

Cairo American College (196) Total comments
“The pay continues to be good. There is now a higher matching for retirement. The cost of living is still very inexpensive in Egypt.”

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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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How NOT to Save Money

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #3: Send money home every month (Mortgage, College Debt, etc.)

May 25, 2014


We all hear about the big possibility of saving money while working at international schools, but the reality is that many of us don’t save much of any money.  So, why aren’t these international school teachers saving money?

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #3 – Send money home every month to pay your mortgage, college debt, etc.)

DSC_9710Not all teachers decide to move abroad because they have a sense for adventure. It is because they need to save some money to pay off their debts; which we all know is something hard to accomplish as a teacher back in your home country!

Do you have a similar story?  You just finish getting your Bachelor’s degree and teaching license at a good university (working part-time as well of course). Then you take out one loan (a big one at that) to do your 15-month Master’s degree programme (while continuing to work part-time!).  Finally you receive your license and luckily get a teaching job straight away. You just start getting into the world of the working adult while just starting to pay off your student loans. The payment is so small each month, you hardly see any of your loan amount going down. Then you hear about a programme that states if you work continuously in a school of high poverty for five years, that your government will take some money off of your total loan amount. Finally after working six years and getting a part of your loan paid off by the government, you find it is the right time to finally teach abroad like your friends are doing.  Unfortunately, you DSC_4746still have some of your student loan left to be paid (even after you receive the help from the government).  Also during this time, you bought a house and now have a mortgage payment as well.  Deciding it might be a good idea to rent out your house while you teach abroad, you continue to own it while you set off to your first placement.  To make a long story short, you have two monthly payments that are not going to stop anytime soon.

So the big question is, do you work abroad to save money to pay off your loans or do you work abroad to enjoy the wonderful expat life of traveling and exploring the world?  Can you do both?  Many of us try!

Your original goal of paying off your debt with all this extra money you are making teaching abroad might not happen as quickly as you had originally hoped.  I mean there is always another break coming up and a trip to be planned! And I don’t need to remind you that you might also find your travel money dwindling away as you continue to make those student loan and house payments.  Thus the cycle continues; whatever savings you start to have to help you pay off your loans just gets sucked away into whatever you need to pay for at the time.  There are always things that come up here and there that you need to put your savings towards: deposit for your new apartment, helping a family member in need, etc.

Of course, the easy answer to finally pay off your loans is to just simply stop traveling and going out to eat all the time, but of course that is easier said than IMG_0061done.  Maybe you can earn some extra money by tutoring some kids at your school, but then that takes away from that wonderful expat life as well…causing you to stay late at your school.  I guess there needs to be some give and take somewhere to help you achieve your goal. Where are those international schools again where you can have it all (paying off debts while continue to live the wonderfully exciting life of an expat)?  I’m not for sure they exist.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe after 8-10 years of working abroad you finally have your financial situation under control. You find that you have enough extra savings to make a one-time payment to pay off the rest of your student loan.  Yes, you’d rather use that money to take a trip to the Seychelles, but you know it is something you must do and the time is finally right to do it.

The goal of finally being debt free is a good goal to have. Can you just imagine the life of an expat international school teacher who is debt free?  Now at last you will be saving thousands each month!  {If only it were that easy!}

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10250675_670889319613030_1138008231_nTo save you some money, we do have a comment topic on our website related to this theme.  It is in the benefits section of the comments and information tab on the school profile pages. It is called: Average amount of money that is left to be saved.

‘Depending on lifestyle and housing expenses you could save around $10,000US a year.’ – Green School Bali (Denpasar, Indonesia) – 44 Comments

‘The amount that can be saved depends entirely on how teachers choose to spend their money. It’s entirely possible to eat at nice restaurants daily and stay in accommodations that cost 50,000 baht per month or more. However, it’s also possible to stay in a decent condo or apartment for 20,000 – 30,000 baht per month, and spend much less on food and other necessities.’ – NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 29 Comments

‘You can save about 1000 USD a month once you are settled and are able to budget yourself. Of course, the less you do, the more you save.’ – Canadian International School Bangalore (Bangalore, India) – 18 Comments

‘A single person, if they choose to live modestly, could easily save $1000-$2,000 a month. The EPF program also is an automatic savings (retirement) which is an additional savings of $1,000 a month through school and self contribution. That money also earns interest while you live in the country.’ – Mont’Kiara International School (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – 27 Comments

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Discussion Topics

Where Do International Teachers Go When They Retire and What Do They Do?

January 18, 2014


The beginning of new a phase of life is often a time for reflection–thinking about where one has been and where one is going. I would like to share some of the questions I have learned to ask myself with regard to retirement; something I never seriously considered until I was 50 when life events compelled me to do so.

When I walked out of the school door for the last time at the end of June last year, I knew that another door was opening to the next adventure because, for me, teaching in an international school has been a series of adventures.  Retirement was, finally, a reality after 38 years of non-stop teaching, with only a 4 month maternity leave back in the 70s.

retire

My first and only international school teaching position began in 1975 in what was then a small international school in a pleasant little northern European country.  I never imagined that I would stay, make the new country my home and eventually retire there. What’s more, I certainly didn’t think much about retirement planning along the way. I was too busy working, doing the family thing, and traveling. I was also learning to deal with the challenges presented by living in a different culture, with different traditions and a new unpronounceable language to learn. I quickly learned that the host country had expectations of someone who comes to stay—integrate, or else. As time passed, I also found out that I was different from the teachers who moved from country to country. Sometimes I envied them because their lives seemed more exciting and exotic than mine.

Many years passed, the marriage ended when I was 50 and suddenly I was faced with sole responsibility for my financial future. Fortunately, I had been married to a man with sensible economic values; he understood the national tax and financial system and kept our family economy balanced while saving for the future. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention. 16 years later I am still learning lessons.

At about the same I was active in the International Schools Curriculum Project and subsequently, the IB-Primary Years Programme. This work enabled me to connect with other international colleagues, and the curriculum focus on inquiry pedagogy provided an intellectual tool for posing questions from multiple perspectives. This has helped me become a more critical thinker and I constantly remind myself that if I don’t pose the right questions, I won’t get the information or answers I need. The international professional network and critical thinking skills are two key elements that I continue to value greatly.

To make a long story short, these are some of the questions that I have posed and reframed along the way. They might give a clue to some of the issues I have considered when choosing to retire in country other than my country of origin.

retire

• Where do I want to retire? Where can I afford to live? Where do I feel I fit in and can have a good life?
• Will I buy or rent? Will I have multiple residences?
• When will I retire? How will age of retirement affect retirement benefits?
• What will my total retirement benefits be? How will I collect funds if I have worked in many different countries? • Will they all add up to enough to live the life to which I have become accustomed?
• If my present school doesn’t provide a retirement plan, how do I save or invest my money? How do I protect myself against economic down-turns?

• If my school does have a retirement plan, how and when do I get the money paid out?
• Will I still be able to travel as much as I want to? How will I balance my own travel wishes with visits to the family back in the home country?
• Will I work part-time? Be a consultant? Volunteer?
• Do I qualify for the national pension of my adopted country? What are the residence qualifications if I am not a citizen of the country?How do I feel about citizenship, especially if becoming a citizen of the adopted country gives better retirement benefits? Do I qualify for citizenship?

• How I can I balance major planned and unexpected expenses—medical and dental, home maintenance, accidents, natural disasters, etc—with my wish to travel often? (recent personal example: new fridge/freezer + new glasses + new washer = 3 round-trip air tickets between northern Europe and USA)
• Am I covered by the national health care system? Is it of a good quality and reliable? Do I need supplementary medical/dental insurance? Accident insurance? Does my credit card offer comprehensive travel insurance?
• Am I comfortable with the language, culture and traditions of the country in which I choose to retire?
• What sorts of creative affordable travel are there to explore? How can keep earning frequent flyer miles?
• Do I have a personal network, local and international?

I continue to ask these questions and many more. It is never too early to think about retirement and some sort of planning makes it easier to predict what might be possible. If you are a career international school educator, most likely you will want to continue to travel. One of the hardest adjustments for me is that living on a fixed income often presents difficult choices. However, I am very determined and persistent and am developing some very resourceful strategies to get what I want.  Am I enjoying retirement?  Yes!!

This article was submitted by International School Community member:  NordicLifer

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