My name is Sorcha and I’ve been teaching in the Gulf for the past 9 years. I can honestly say it’s the most empowering decision I’ve ever made. I also run the Empowering Expat Teachers community - join the FB group here and follow me on IG @sorchacoyle_eet Thanks to my time as an expat teacher in Qatar and Dubai, I have saved six figures, which I have used to purchase 2 beautiful 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. I have fulfilled these goals solely from my earnings as an expat teacher, so if I can do it, you can too!
We are fortunate to earn a decent tax-free salary with our accommodation costs covered. As a result, we have a lot of disposable income- a new concept for many of us who taught in our home countries with high tax and low salaries! Living in a wonderful place like the UAE with thousands of activities, restaurants, shops and services to try means it can be very easy to fall into the habit of constantly spending. But let’s just think back a few months ago when COVID hit and thousands of expats lost their jobs in Dubai. Buy-and-sell Facebook groups were flooded with desperate and devastated expats selling expensive handbags, shoes, cars, and furniture. Many were evicted because they could not pay their monthly rents and those with loans with local banks were in such a terrible stressful situation. Because of this, I am passionate about promoting positive financial wellbeing amongst expat teachers because personally, no piece of clothing, designer handbag or expensive watch can match the feeling of being financially secure and the happiness and and peace of mind it gives me on a daily basis. Most of all, I relish the freedom of not having to depend on a job or a school I may no longer enjoy.
Here are my top tips to help you save more and boost your financial wellbeing in 2021!
Have a saving goal
Ask yourself, “Where do I want to be this time next year/ in five years/ in 10 years?” Start with the 10 year time frame and work backwards to see what steps you need to achieve along the way. Start thinking about your saving goals- this is something I do myself every September and January. Ask yourself:
- Where will you be living- at home or abroad? What kind of a house/ apartment do you want to live in?
- Do you still want to teach? Or work in another field of education? Do you wish to change career or work for yourself?
For example, if you wish to move home and change careers in 5 years’ time, then your saving goals could be to save for a mortgage deposit (30%-35%+ for an expat mortgage) and for a qualification in your new career.
Make a SMART plan to save
Look at the financial goal you have calculated above. You need to check if this financial goal is SMART, which means that it is:
Specific: Have a specific amount of money in mind.
Measurable: Break your goal down and set yourself weekly, monthly, half-year, and annual targets to chart your progress.
Attainable/achievable: Look at your monthly salary to make sure your monthly savings allows you to live as well!
Realistic: While working abroad, you have to enjoy your life too by socialising, travelling, etc., so if your saving goal is completely unrealistic in a 2-year timeframe, rethink it!
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 reach your financial goals, 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.
Save money on our biggest expenditures, which generally tend to be our rent, transport, groceries and entertainment.
Rent: If you get a rent allowance, try your best to save as much of it as you can because it is such an easy way to boost your savings! Join area-specific FB groups and communicate directly with landlords (to avoid paying a real estate agent commission) and negotiate! You can usually get the best deal if you pay upfront in one cheque. How about a studio, a hotel apartment or moving in with some friends to save even more?
Transport: Do not blow your budget on a brand new vehicle. Its value will depreciate the minute you drive off the lot. Look for a good second-hand car. Do you really need your own car? Public transport and taxis are so cheap here, so consider living somewhere with access to the metro and think about carpooling with a colleague.
Save on groceries (and toiletries) by using Noon and Amazon to get the best deals on non-perishable items.
Save lots more with the Teacher Socials app, which provides exclusive discounts for teachers on a range of services, including restaurants, activities, staycations, theme parks, car rental, and pampering! Download it here!
Get another form of income
Right now when so many expats are sadly losing jobs and facing salary cuts, it is more important than ever to never depend on one single income. Create at least 2 more streams of income- start tutoring, take on a job in the summer holidays, sign up to mark for examination boards, set up an online business, create and monetise a blog, or write a book. Each stream does not have to be equal but as long as they are consistent, they all add up. The ideal number is seven!
Get into the “saving more and retire with more” mindset
It is so important to develop this “save more and retire with more” mindset when you move abroad. You can do this by buying Andrew Hallam's book, "Millionaire Expat" and by finding like-minded expats who also want to achieve FI (financial independence) on these Facebook groups: SimplyFI - Common Sense Personal Finance and Investing and Expats & International School Educators - Financial Advice
Here is to a financially abundant 2021 for all of us!