We are so good at looking after the well-being of our students, ensuring that they feel happy and safe. As a result, we are often so busy that we neglect to look after our own well-being. Yes, it’s important to practice self-care and one of the biggest indicators of self-care is feeling financially secure.
When I moved to Qatar in 2011 to start my first international teaching post, I was leaving my home country of Ireland, which was in the depths of an economic recession. Hundreds of thousands of people had lost their jobs, lost their income and lost their homes due to being unable to repay their mortgages. Many businesses and industries went under, and it was as if the whole country had been plunged into a dark depression. This affected me and my family personally, so when I got my contract for my international school in Qatar, I swore to myself that I would do my best to save as much as I could as an expat teacher because I never wanted to experience that fear of losing my home to the banks, as had happened to so many. That is really what has driven me to become financially secure and to take full advantage of all the financial benefits that expat teaching has for us. Since I set up the Empowering Expat Teachers community in 2017, it has been my mission to inspire other teachers to aspire for more in terms of their own money goals and to help them achieve it.
Feeling financially secure is so much more than having money in savings and investments. It means that you have freedom. The freedom to take some time off from teaching (to have children or do a PHD) if you need it. It means you have the financial buffer to support you should you choose to change your career (let’s face it- teaching is becoming more and more intense and many of us are choosing not to stay in this career until 65 years of age).
Being financially secure means you are not a slave to a job or a school that you do not enjoy or where you feel deeply unhappy. Being financially secure gives you options and freedom. We are extremely busy and exhausted and naturally spend our weekends enjoying short term distractions to help us get through the tough work week, but please don’t forget to spend some of your weekend reflecting your own financial well-being. What will matter and affect you in one year, five years, 10 years or 20 years won’t necessarily be the brunches you went to, the designer items you bought, or even the international school that you taught at. But what will affect you and your happiness and health in the future will be your financial well-being.
Here are five actions I have taken to improve my financial well-being and you can too in 2023.
1. I had a clear saving goal in mind
I moved to Qatar in 2011 when I was 25 and when I calculated the savings potential of this opportunity, I told myself that I would save €100,000 by the age of 30, so I could buy a home in Ireland- the terrible Irish economic recession was still very much in my mind. 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 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.
2. I made a SMART plan to reach my saving goal
I had to check that my financial goal was SMART, which means that it is:
Specific: I had a specific amount of money in mind.
Measurable: I broke it down and set myself weekly, monthly, half-year, and annual targets to chart my progress.
Attainable/achievable: I looked at my monthly income to make sure my monthly saving goal allowed me 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?
3. I regularly visualised my goal
There were times when I didn’t want to stick to my budget, so to keep me motivated to fulfill my goal of saving 100K in 5 years, I used a vision board with pictures of my ideal property that I kept on my bedroom wall. I looked at it daily to remind me how wonderful the rewards of my labour would be!
4. I increased my income to accelerate my saving
I ended up saving over six figures in 4 years, at the age of 29, which was due to my efforts to increase my income streams while in Qatar. I tutored in the evenings, I regularly decluttered and sold stuff on secondhand market places and I spent the month of July (during my summer holidays) working at a summer school, to earn extra cash, which went straight into my saving pot!
5. I would read or learn something about money every day.
Financial advice podcasts, blogs, advice books - you name it, I did it! Not only did they give me practical strategies to plan and invest for my financial future but I really believe that they helped me change my attitude towards money and wealth.
Hi, I’m Sorcha! I was an expat teacher in the Gulf for over 10 years and I left teaching in October 2021 to become a Career & Money Strategist and a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and now I help teachers have a life-changing expat experience, i.e. get jobs at top international schools, save $100K+, buy a home & change to a new career they love.
If you would like daily CV, cover letter, money and career change tips and monthly mini trainings, follow me on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/sorchacoyle_eet/
or Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/empoweringexpatteachers
Author: Sorcha Coyle Certified Career Consultant | Expat Career and Money Coach | Founder of Empowering Expat Teachers