Teaching English in Asia isn’t something I knew I wanted to do. Just a few short years ago I was spinning my tires as a mediocre automobile salesperson near my hometown in Canada. I was days away from putting an offer in on some real estate that was sure to make me house poor. Life was steady, puttering away at a normal pace of retiring in my golden years.
Then the perfect storm occurred to shake my life up in a way I would have never imagined.
Teaching English in Asia
First, while slacking off at my desk in the new car showroom I came across a blog that literally rocked my world. Garth Turners’ GreaterFool.ca. Real estate isn’t always the golden ticket to freedom and wealth? Something called an ETF can put you miles ahead of heavily billed mutual funds?
I was hooked. I read articles dating years back (and Garth posts every day!). From there I found the blog of a young couple he had been advising who retired in their 30’s to travel the world living off their investment accounts – you may know them as Millennial Revolution.
Within a few days I had called my real estate agent and an adviser who was helping me at the time to cancel the plan for the house bid. I withdrew all the money that I had been investing over the past few years from a mutual fund and opened an account with an online brokerage. I bought way to many ETFs, and got taken for trade fees, but I was on the right track. Right?
A Twist of Fate
While this was happening, things began taking a turn for worse at my dealership. There was new management in place that I didn’t vibe with. My motivation had died out and a breakup was on the horizon.
Let’s take a moment to quickly review the scenario:
- I’ve abandoned real estate for the time being
- Become obsessed with growing an investment account
- Discovered Financial Independence & Early Retirement
- Am about to go through a job change
The straw that broke the camel’s back
Around this same time I had been contacted by a friend from university whom I also worked with together at our first big kid job selling commercial printers. He was in South Korea teaching English. Now teaching English is something I briefly looked at years ago in Thailand, but I completely wrote it off after finding out they paid about $1,000 CAD per month. Sure Thailand is cheap, but that is pennies. No thanks.
Well it turns out in South Korea they pay quite a bit more and the cost of living isn’t too much higher than Thailand. In Korea everything is paid for; flights, accommodations, pension plans and bonuses. I started running some numbers and calculated that I could probably save $20,000 over the year if I lived like a monk.
I’ve always wanted to travel the world, but never had the right opportunity to pull the trigger it seemed. Or I always came up with excuses to hold me back. Well at this point, I had literally nothing holding me back.
I was about to be jobless, I was looking for a house because I had to leave my previously living situation because my friend was getting serious with his girlfriend.
I was about to be an unemployed 25 year old living at home with my parents.
Teaching English in Asia
Two months later I was on a plane across the world to Asia.
I spent a year in South Korea. It was amazing. Not only was I now was I putting away more money than I ever had before, I was living abroad. The growth and life experience that comes along with that is worth more than any monetary investment.
Over the months I found lifestyle inflation creeping up on me. I booked a few trips and also had some unexpected surprises that affected my savings; breaking my ankle and needing surgery. I actually had to pay for surgery. As a Canadian, that was appalling. That statement probably appalls my American counterparts.
While I was sitting in my apartment broken and immobilized I came across teaching English online. I was now able to supercharge my savings and live even better. I started working part time online teaching English in the evenings and weekends for the second part of my year in Korea.
How much money can you save teaching English in South Korea?
In the end, I finished the year saving a little more than the planned $20,000. I felt on top of the world at the end of my term in Korea. Early retirement and financial freedom was looking like real option now!
Teaching in South Korea was more work and a little less exciting than I imagined, and I planned to never teach again after that year.
Well, the year was late 2017 and I was now an unemployed 26 year old about to be living in my parents basement again. The instant money making potential and travel bug was nipping at my ankles again. I started looking into teaching in China.
Pretty much as soon as I arrived in Korea, I began reading accounts of teaching in China being miles better than South Korea. Short hours, better pay, longer vacations and much more side work opportunity to teach private lessons.
I figured I would give it a shot. Hey, I’ve never been to China.
Asia my old friend, hello again
A few months later I was on another plane back over to Asia. I made a quick 6 week stop in South East Asia along the way this time. Sidenote; teaching in Vietnam looks incredibly lucrative as well.
I will admit, my plan was only to stay half my contracted term and dip back to Canada to go back to school for finance or accounting. Today I am just a few months in to my China adventure and my mind has completely changed.
First, I actually enjoy teaching here. I am at a public school, the kids and my colleagues are amazing. It is much more relaxed than in Korea. I have 2 months of semi-paid vacation, a free 18th floor apartment with a gigantic balcony and am making the same amount of money a month as in Korea but working literally half the amount.
I teach for 12 hours a week. I’m at the school 8:00am-5:30pm though. But I work on my blog and do other side projects while I’m not teaching. Or take advantage of the school gym and keep on top of my fitness.
That’s great, but what really has me sold here, is the earning potential through extra side work. Korea was strict about foreign teachers not doing side private classes. If your neighbors had a kid and they had you teach the child a few times a week you could be deported.
In China they welcome it. So teachers are constantly blasted with opportunities of making $30-60 dollars per hour teaching side classes. I’ve taught a few lessons where I was paid nearly $200 dollars for 1.5 hours to a group of students. It’s insane. And then there is the online teaching, from the comfort of your own home.
How much money can you make teaching English in China?
They say you should make hay while the sun shines. So I’m breaking my back getting after it. Currently I work 8:00am-5:30pm Monday through Friday. In the evenings I teach online or privately from 7:00pm-10:00pm all five week days. On weekends I am teaching online or privately 5-8 hours a day. There seems to be one 3 day national holiday each month, so I don’t work those days.
Many teachers here don’t do nearly the amount of work that I am doing, and they think I’m crazy for it. But by the numbers I’ve ran, I will be able to SAVE between $40,000 to $50,000 per year doing this. This is after all expenses such as food, small travel, occasional entertainment and going out. This is also budgeted to be made over 10-11 months.
If you’ll remember, I have nearly 2 months of semi-paid vacation which I WILL be using to travel. Even if I end up working a little online or privately while traveling I still get the best of both worlds: money and travel.
I am on track to reach the 7 figure club within 10-12 years if I keep this pace up. Which allows me to retire years before my 40th birthday.
Looking into the future.
Whether I will keep this pace, or even stay in this industry and position remains to be seen. Working 12 hours a day/7 days a week may not be sustainable for 10-12 years. But that doesn’t take into account raises and additional streams of income.
I never imagined I would be teaching English in Asia, even less did I think I might be able to retire early and become financially free while traveling the world. The days are long and children who speak a different language than you are straining on good days. But the thoughts of doubling my net worth this year, the flights I currently have booked to Canada, the Philippines and various places around China, make it all worth it.
If you’re interested in learning more about teaching English in Asia (or anywhere abroad) or online contact Charles and he’d be happy to help you get started.
Colby Charles writes about money, travel & life over at That Charles Life. He is an avid reader, obsessed with all things money, fitness and enjoys hiking and going to the beach in his spare time. He is currently located in China, working towards financial freedom via teaching ESL.