When I asked about your #1 obstacle, you gave me:
2. Investment Knowledge
3. Lack of money
5. Lack of Budgeting Skills/Tools
One of things I discovered after travelling the world is that North America is HELLA overpriced! And especially since Canada now has the MOST expensive housing in the entire world, relative to salary:
So no wonder my friends keep complaining that they can’t get ahead unless they make a 6-figure salary. And even the people who happen to make that salary, complain it’s still not enough “to live the good life”.
But you know what? Only looking at salary, but ignoring expenses is like evaluating a company without looking at the cost of running it.
In reality, someone making $30K/year but lives in a country that costs $14/year is WAY better off financially than someone living in Toronto making $100K, but spends every penny of it. Especially if that country’s tax rate is only 3%, most of that person’s costs are covered by work.
Where does such a magical country exist, you ask? Well, today on the Millennial Revolution, we’re going to meet a fellow Revolutionary who’s going to tell us all about it.
Meet Colby Charles (who writes at That Charles Life), a Canadian who escaped his 9 to 5 and 30 years of corporate drudgery by moving to Gwangju, South Korea to become an English teacher.
As a result, he managed to save $20K/year by travelling. I know friends who make $100K/year but can’t save even $10K a year, and yet Colby makes only $30K/year but manages to save $19, 200! With only a 3% tax rate in South Korea, that’s a savings rate of 66%! Which means Colby is only 10-15 years away from retirement. Nice! So without further ado, take it away Colby!
How did you find out about this opportunity?
My cousin taught in Thailand for a few years, about four or five years ago. So I’ve known about this wild opportunity for a while. I also have a buddy in the city I’m located – Gwangju. He’s been here for about 7 months now, . He kept messaging me saying what a blast it is and how much I’d love it.
I just couldn’t hold off any longer!
So you quit your job, sold everything, said good-bye to all your friends and family and moved to South Korea?! Did you kill someone? How many and where are the bodies buried?
I’m gonna’ hold off answering that last part until I look into the Korean extradition laws, haha.
Something along those lines. No one believed me at first, then said I was crazy. I mean, it is kind of crazy but inside my mind nothing else made more sense. I needed to see the world, and the ability to save around $20,000 sounded too appealing.
I didn’t sell everything..
Before I came to Korea I was selling cars. And there was a time when I was sipping on the consumer Kool-aid…
I have a car financed. I am in the process of selling it, but will be losing money through interest, taxes, and fees. It really bugs me now that I bought that car. I owe more that what the car is worth. Live and learn.
I’m going to be making some posts on my blog in the future how buying new, or even pre owned cars – luckily, mine is pre owned. I was smart enough to know at the time buying new would be a horrible idea – can be detrimental to your wealth building.
Cars are arguably a bigger sink of money than houses
You’re right, cars are the worst. Especially white vans driven by impatient assholes trying to run you off the road. GRRR *shakes fist*…
….wait, what were we talking about again?
Uh…oh right. Korea.
So what’s the requirement to be an English teacher in Korea? Do you need certifications? Experience?
Korea has some stricter requirements than other countries, and even they don’t ask for much.
You need a university degree – of any variety. Not only education related. And a clean criminal record. No experience necessary.
It’s nice because it’s really quite easy to get into, but as someone who has a business education and knew very little about teaching prior to this, it’s been a shock. Some schools are about entertainment, others are about education and performance. My school demands the latter.
Did you hear that readers? If you didn’t end up forcing yourself into STEM like me, and the job prospects aren’t looking good for you, you still have a fighting chance! Especially if you manage to live on only $14,400/year in South Korea, like Colby.
How exactly is that possible?! People easily spend that much on Canada Goose jackets and double-doubles in Toronto! (And to our non-Canadian readers, that’s Canadian-lingo for “double condos, double car”. And no, I totally didn’t just make that up.)
That’s how much I’m aiming to save over the year – not including my severance pay and pension payment, which are each equal to an extra month’s pay. So, ~$4,800. Totalling near $20,000 over the year.
I aim to live on about $800 a month. That gives me a buffer to do some traveling while I’m out here, as well as the ability to save 20 g’s. I’m planning to spend New Years in Vietnam and hopefully get to see the Great Wall of China, or Japan – since I now know I don’t need to break the bank to visit Japan. Thanks to reading Millennial Revolution!
That’s just under $10,000. Even crazier!
This is possible because your rent is covered while teaching out here. As are your flights here and home, as long as you finish your year. Really my only costs are food, a gym membership, booze and bus tickets. I also pay my utilities but those are cheap. Like $50 a month.
Taxes are about 3% – as compared to the minimum 25% in Canada. So I save a ton there also.
I don’t have a cell plan out here because wifi is so prevalent. So no big monthly phone bill. Living without a fully connected phone has been an interesting experience.
I live conservatively, but I feel I live very well. I don’t have to budget my every move that’s for sure.
I estimate i’d need to make around $50,000 a year in Canada to live and save the way I am here in Korea.
3% Taxes?! Holy shit, somehow you’re getting all those sweet government services for free! Who knew there would be so much to like about Korea? Speaking of which, what do you like the most about living in Korea and what do you miss from home?
I’m from Winnipeg so I’m used to the prairies. Korea is 70% mountains, I love seeing mountains from every direction. The food is great, the people are awesome, and public drinking is all good here. So I can buy booze at any convenience store and walk down the street drinking it. That’s nice haha.
I miss seeing friends and family everyday, but with how connected we are via the Internet I can still talk to them daily. I also really miss western breakfasts. I’m a big Eggs Benedict fan.
Western breakfasts huh? Yeah, can’t say that I feel the same way. I’ve been slurping noodle soups for the past few months and I don’t miss eggs and bacon AT ALL. Or maybe it’s the western prices I don’t miss. Who knows?
So what advice do you have for readers who would like to follow in your footsteps?
My advice for someone that’s been thinking of doing something like this, is to do it. Take the plunge. I’ve only been gone for 2 months but the personal changes I’ve had so far are profound. Really happy I went forward with coming here, it’s an amazing experience.
Anyone who is serious can follow my blog for information or contact me directly through my blog. I’m working with a brilliant recruiter who helped me through the entire process of getting a visa and finding a job. Unlike many recruiters who just place you, get a commission and you never hear from again, this company has been following up with me and offering extra help. They are great and I’ll happily set anyone up with them.
Recruiters who are actually USEFUL? REALLY?!
So once your teaching contract is up, what’s your plan? Are you planning to stay in Korea or come back to North America?
That is the big question! I think it’s too soon to tell, but I could see myself spending more time out here. I would probably move to Seoul though, it’s an unreal city.
I’m writing this on a bus back from Seoul. A few friends and I spent the weekend doing some Halloween celebrating in Itaewon, the foreigner neighbourhood. Easily the best Halloween of my life.
Despite running some scenarios where I could easily retire early and become financially independent in 10-15 years doing this, I don’t think this is for me long term. I’d like to pursue an entrepreneurial path or potentially accounting. I really enjoy finances, and helping businesses or people with theirs would be rewarding.
We were in Seoul recently, and one of my favourite things about Korea are the Jimjilbangs (Korean Spa/bath house), but as a prude North American, it was really weird being naked in a room with all those people. What was your first impressions of Jimjilbangs?
Admittedly, I’ve yet to check out a Jimjilbang! I hear they are relaxing, and a cheap way to spend a night if you are only passing through a city. I plan to go soon. For me, I grew up playing hockey so showering with a bunch dudes doesn’t really weird me out.
I’m comfortable with myself!
Seriously dude, you have GOT to try the Jimjilbangs! For a measly $10, you get to spend a whole day at a spa! Why don’t we have such things back home?! WHY? WHY?!
Now that you’ve spent sometime living abroad, what’s the funniest or weirdest thing that’s ever happened?
Having such a culture shock from Korea I feel I don’t even know how to benchmark weird anymore. I think what I found most odd and funny is that I get stopped in the street lots and told I’m handsome by other men. Korea is a bit of a vain society and they’re very vocal about it. I’m not complaining, it’s a lovely little ego boost. I just wish more Korean women would tell me that!
That. Sounds. Weird. Hm…maybe Jimjilbangs aren’t such a good idea after all…
Okay, so what do you now know about teaching in South Korea that you wish you had known before you started?
Oh boy, where do I begin.
I wish I had known to use google maps my first day in Korea. Google Maps is a lifesaver, I don’t know how people travelled before this app. A lot more trial and error, I imagine.
I wish I had known to ask if there were any other foreign teachers at my school. I personally will never work at another school being the only foreign teacher. If I didn’t have my friend here in this city I would be having a tougher experience.
I wish I had dug deeper into my day to day responsibilities. I have to do a lot of desk warming and lesson planning. That’s actually a bit unusual for teachers to be doing the amount of lesson planning I do. Desk warming is fairly common. Desk warming is where you must stay at school even when you have no lessons. Since I have to lesson plan, it gives me time to do that though.
I also wish I had known not to buy that car.
Those are just a few of the things I wish I knew. I will be posting an article soon on what teaching is truly like and questions first timers can ask in their interviews with schools.
I’m also going to be coming out with a good piece on what living in Korea is like, in the next week or so.
Thanks for having me on guys, I love what you are doing on Millennial Revolution. If anyone wants to contact me about teaching abroad please don’t hesitate to contact me through my blog www.thatcharleslife.com.
And if you two ever return to Seoul let me know! We’ll meet up for some soju shots.
So there you have it guys! If you’re adventurous and want to travel around Asia while saving 20K/year, this gig is perfect for you.
If you want to read more about Colby’s adventures in Korea, check out his blog at www.thatcharleslife.com.
UPDATE: We checked back with Colby 2 years later and here’s his update.
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