21 Comments

  1. First of all, we can’t complain about our salaries and not saving enough. It is stories like your own that in part motivated us to get our act together to save more.

    I think irrespective of the situation, there are common elements that apply to us all. Many folks don’t even know what opportunities are available regarding savings accounts, including HSA’s, and a little bit of digging into benefits information is easy. At the end of the day it is discipline that is required to live a little below your means and let that behavior start to snowball. Like compound interest, not long before the good effects start to appear….

    Impressed by your miles account. We have been at travel hacking for about a year and have amassed a few hundred thousand. Not hardcore but enough to do a lot for, well, free!

    • Mr. Pie, I imagine 99% of the working world thinks they are underpaid. Before I understood the opportunity in the U.S., I know I complained more about “how bad I had it.” As I got older and reflected on some of my travels abroad, it became embarrassing to complain about poverty and lack of opportunity in America. I saw real poverty in: Honduras where people lived in mud huts with thatched roofs, India where mothers pushed their children up to car windows in hope of getting 10 cents, and Saudi Arabia where TCN’s (third country nationals) worked as near slaves in the dessert heat. Those are just three examples that spring to mind; I could probably list 100+ such examples. Over the last ten years I have also picked the brains of many immigrant kids from India and Mexico. It amazes me how well many of these individuals do financially in spite of the fact that they arrive here with virtually nothing other than their desire to succeed.

      As crazy as it may sound at first, teachers have MORE savings plans than 99% of the U.S. workforce. Here are 8 potential savings money buckets available to teachers: pension, 457, 403b, 401a (in lieu of social security in some districts), IRA, HSA, ESA, and 529 plans. These savings plans allow for incredible hardcore savings opportunities. However, if you decide to wallow in your pity and accept the social narrative that that all teachers are poor, you will most likely squander your savings opportunities and save nothing. The realization that a teaching job affords tremendous financial opportunities is a revolutionary idea that I’ll continue to push. That realization added to some basic personal financial knowledge and a dollop of self-discipline would lead to hundreds of thousands of millionaire educators, right?

      As for our travel hacking points, we look forward to using some of them within the month. Other than a few hotel stays, we’ve haven’t used many of our points, so it will be nice to finally put them to use. Stay tuned for more travel updates and thanks for the comment. Ed

  2. I am going to have to come back to this post and read it 87 more times. But I had to let you know right away that I am so glad that you write. I am trying to so hard to get my investing/saving self in order, and it helps so much to have someone in teaching pave the way for me!

    • Thank you Penny! I’m glad you like some of my ideas. If I didn’t write some of them down, they would rattle around in my head and drive me crazy. The beauty of the internet and blogging is that eventually a few other “crazy” people come across your posts and actually like them. The next thing you know, a few hundred teachers are saving $25k+ a year and planning for their financial independence instead of the 30-year prison sentence. I view FIRE as revolutionary for all people regardless of profession. It’s time for teachers to pick up their financial pitchforks.

  3. Casey Ray

    First, I love reading your work! It’s incredibly inspirational and I hope you keep blogging as you continue on your incredible adventures.

    As a former teacher, I agree with a lot of your assessments – the savings plans and pension available to all teachers are incredible (if underutilized by the vast majority of teachers, unfortunately!). I left the profession, however, to achieve some semblance of work life balance. When I started teaching I was working 80+ hours a week and never less than 60+ even after 5 years of experience. I also taught in North Carolina, where I never earned more than $45,000 per year. If I’d been able to work a normal 40 hour week, I agree that the salary when combined with the benefits would have been an incredible deal. Many of my fellow teachers, however, were unable to achieve this. I think that may account for some of the frustration my former coworkers felt regarding pay.

    Perhaps I could have left my beloved Title-I school for a different environment, or looked at a different grade level or specialty, or simply been more restrictive with how much time I was willing to spend on lesson planning and grading. I admire that you’ve been able to be so flexible and driven in your career and have clearly reaped incredible rewards from doing so!

    • Welcome Casey,
      Thanks for your encouraging words. I totally hear you on the work-life balance issues. As all teachers know, teaching bleeds over into all facets of our lives, and it’s often impossible to shut it off. My hope is that if teachers are going expend so much life energy in the profession, they sure is heck had better make it count financially. All the physical, mental and emotional energy that teachers burn should result in some degree of financial stability, and eventual financial independence. (Yes, I’m a dreamer!)

      If you ever want to teach again, just remember that it is easy to jump back in and work your plan. I advise against taking a 30-year view of the profession, and instead recommend doing a few years at a time. We’re not working this year nor next, but if we ever wanted to teach again, we could certainly find two jobs in a small town with all the retirement plans we need. The end result would be at least $100,000 of savings in our various accounts. Knowing that we could use of 100% saving “trick” to dramatically grow our net worth makes even difficult jobs seem appealing.

      If you would, please send some of my posts to your teacher friends. Tell them they don’t have to be as “hardcore” as we are to improve their finances. I’d love to hear more success stories from teachers. Thanks for visiting and the comment. Ed

    • Welcome Casey,
      Thanks for your encouraging words. I totally hear you on the work-life balance issues. As all teachers know, teaching bleeds over into all facets of our lives, and it’s often impossible to shut it off. My hope is that if teachers are going expend so much life energy in the profession, they sure as heck had better make it count financially. All the physical, mental and emotional energy that teachers burn should result in some degree of financial stability, and eventual financial independence. (Yes, I’m a dreamer!)

      If you ever want to teach again, just remember that it is easy to jump back in and work your plan. I advise against taking a 30-year view of the profession, and instead recommend doing a few years at a time. We’re not working this year nor next, but if we ever wanted to teach again, we could certainly find two jobs in a small town with all the retirement plans we need. The end result would be at least $100,000 of savings in our various accounts. Knowing that we could use of 100% saving “trick” to dramatically grow our net worth makes even difficult jobs seem appealing.

      If you would, please send some of my posts to your teacher friends. Tell them they don’t have to be as “hardcore” as we are to improve their finances. I’d love to hear more success stories from teachers. Thanks for visiting and the comment. Ed

  4. Chris

    Hey Ed… Chris here again! Love your stuff. I am also over from Rockstar. We have several things in common. We are both passionate about finance, both teachers (I teach shop) and love to travel and meet new people. If you and your family ever visit the Northwest would love to show you around The Gorge, hang out have a beer and talk finance.

    Thx again!

  5. Alaska49

    Picture – Mount Alice,
    Seward, Alaska

    Love your posts too. For over half of my career I bought into the traditional 30 years till pension time. Then I saw the light and will be able to cut out the last 5 years. I missed the ER boat, but will be FI and under 54 when the last school bell rings.

    • Alaska 49, thanks for the photo, it looks great on the post. I also had a long-term view on teaching, but I realized that I would never be able to pull it off. Many people talk about teaching as if they were riding out a prison sentence. “I’ve only got 12 more years until I can retire.” That is no way to live, and I don’t want to be taught by a teacher in such a mental state. Your extra five years of “non-work” will be true freedom…enjoy them. Ed

      • Alaska49

        Hey, I submitted my resignation last week and let my staff know as well. These next four months till Freedom may go sloooow. Less than 100 school days. Woot woot! Out at 52, Pension, 403b, and Roth IRA. Fund those IRA’s and 403b’s folks.

        • Alaska 49,
          Beautiful! You’ll probably find the job more enjoyable now that you don’t need it. Be ready for lots of questions on how you did it on “only a teacher’s salary.” Congrats!

  6. ElleX

    While I’m not a teacher, I have learned new concepts and have been encouraged by your website to increase my savings and decrease my taxes. This year I am on track to save 55% of my salary. This year is the first year ever that I have fully funded my 401k. I thank you!!!!!

    Ps: I found your website early last year and last year I was able to save 43% of my gross income. Up from around 20%. THANK YOU!!!!!!

    • ElleX,
      Now that’s what I like to hear! Congrats to you on working your plan; many people see the financial light but fail to follow through. Not you! Your savings rate is awesome, keep it up. Thanks for making a great morning even better, Ed

    • Chris,
      That’s the easiest question I’ve had in a while: Travel Miles 101. Brad and Alexi do an awesome job walking a newbie through the Byzantine world of travel hacking. Their free course is delivered via email and consists of a daily article and video over 20 days. It’s amazing how much you’ll learn in 3 weeks. You can’t go wrong with this course. Ed

  7. Steve

    As a private sector worker, it always annoyed me how supposedly underpaid public sector workers trivialized the value of their pensions. But an equivalent commercial annuity costs hundreds of thousands, possibly a million (especially at today’s interest rates). Not to mention a great hedge against conventional investing.

    • Yes, our pension is a valuable part of retirement. I should get about $24,000 a year when I turn 60. My wife will get $18,000. Not a ton, but enough to cover a lot of our expenses. Many teachers do not understand how good they have it when it comes to their pension.

  8. Steve

    Hope you blog about homeschooling. I keep reading anecdotes about homeschooled kids being better prepared academically and well adjusted overall. Coincidence?

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