Reader Case: To Worldschool or Not to Worldschool?

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Remember Worldschooling? The thing that was seen as alternative education for weirdos before the pandemic? Well, that has changed ever since schools were forced to close and parents realized for the first time how much worse the quality of education has gotten and all the safety issues that come with it.

In fact, Worldschooling has exploded so much in popularity since 2020 that the US Census Bureau reported the number of homeschooling doubled in just one school year. And not only that, diversity in home schoolers has gone up, with respondents who identified as Black or African American increasing from 3.3% (April 23-May 5) to 16.1% in the fall (Sept. 30-Oct. 12).

You can now read countless articles about Worldschooling in major news outlets like Yahoo News, CNN, and CNBC and today, I’m going to share with you a reader case involving a family of 5 who would like to do just that.

Let’s get to it!

Dear Firecracker and Wanderer,

Hello, we live in the UK and have 3 kids. We enjoyed reading your blog for many years. We always wanted to send you our situation as a case study, but felt worried as it is not a typical FI story, and we are not chasing early retirement. Basically, we want to check if we can do our long dream – worldschooling with our 3 kids, or that would be a disaster for our finances. I remember Wanderer’s great interview and article about WorldSchooling, so maybe you will get interested in someone trying to do it. 

This is our situation – We live in the UK, but we are both migrants and never felt rooted in the country. Dad is early 40s and Mum is mid 30s. We have 3 kids, all under 10. 

We never bought a house, we have no debt. 

Dad is earning £52,000 gross (that is around £39,000 net in UK) and Mum works part-time and earns £22,000 gross (19,000 net). 

Our monthly family budget is £4,800. We are spending around £3,800 and putting £1,000 into savings. 

Our expenses in the UK are getting bigger and bigger and we are not enjoying life here. Our families and friends are far away. We have some savings and want to go on a worldschooling adventure for 2 years, and if we manage to start earning on the road with our online jobs, we could possibly stay longer. 

What scares us is that we will spend all the money and never catch up on our pensions and house situation. We are happy that we have no debts, but also feel very behind compared to our friends who bought houses a long time ago and made significant pension contributions. On the other hand, kids are small now, we want to show them the world and we have no idea in which country we might settle. Can you look into our numbers and tell us what actions can we make to feel more secure? Even if we are on the road, how much money should we save to have enough for our pensions at age 65? Or should we just stay in the UK and suck it up? 

I am sending two scenarios – staying in the UK and working normal jobs OR travelling the world and working as self-employed. 

Current situation:

Debts: 0

Assets: car £3,000 
Cash: £25,000

Help2Buy ISA: £21,500 (this is saving for a house deposit)

Bonds: £51,900

Index fund: £22,450

Pension Dad: £22,700

Pension Mum: £11,800

scenario1 – staying in the UK

Monthly income: £4,800

Monthly expenses: £3,800

Housing: £1500 (rent, bills, council tax)

Food: £400

Childcare: £1000 (for the next 3 years, then it will drop to £200)

Fun, activities, eating out: £300

Clothes, personal items like technology etc: £100 

Travel: £500 (yes, this is a lot, but we have to visit our families who live far away)

Scenario2 – worldschooling (sometime we will be in more expensive, sometimes less expensive countries, but we calculated this as average)

Monthly income: £3,000

Monthly expenses: £2,700

Housing: £1,200

Food: £500

Childcare: 0

Fun, activities, eating out: £500

Clothes, personal items like technology etc: £100 

Travel: £400 We will be travelling slowly, moving in one direction every 2 months 

If you need any more information to “math that shit up” please let us know 🙂 

with very best greetings, 

Worldschooling Mum and Dad

One of the biggest advantages to worldschooling is the ability to travel and lower your costs to avoid the trappings of a traditional North American consumerist, indebted, mortgage-based life. Many worldschoolers get the same flack that FIRE people do—you’re not a contributing member of society and your kids are going to be all weird from not having stability, even though actual stability comes from loving parents with a strong partnership, not from a mortgage or from settling down in one location.

Given that this non-traditional family already “doesn’t feel rooted” in their adoptive country (the UK), joining the worldschooling community could be the right fit for them. That being said, with 3 kids in tow, making impulsive decisions without getting their financial shit together would be a huge mistake. So, let’s see if worldschooling is in their future by Math That Shit Up!

Income£55k + £22k = £77k gross, £58k net
Expenses£3,800 per month, £45,600 per year
Investable Assets£21,500 (ISA) + £51,900 (bonds) + £22,450 (investments) + £22,700 (pension 1) + £11,800 (pension 2) = £130,350

In order for WSMD to become FI, they will need £45,600 x 25 = £1,140,000. They have a savings rate of £58,000 – £45,600 = £12,400, or 21% and their investible assets of £130,350. Plug these into our handy-dandy projection table, and we can predict they will reach FI in…

YearBalanceContributionsROI (6%)Total

Slightly under 24 years.

So yeah, WSMD is right in that they will reach FI at the normal retirement rather than early retirement. Given their high expenses in the UK and 3 kids, this is not surprising. And given that UK is expected to have the highest inflation rate of all advanced economies this year, it will only get worse.  I think this is why, of the expats and digital nomads we met in Thailand and Cambodia, most came from the UK.

That being said, when we look at the WSMD’s expenses, a big chunk of it is childcare, sitting at a whopping £1000/month. That is an insane £12,000/year or more than quarter of their spending. They did mention that this amount will drop down to £200 in 3 years, presumably for after-school care, but they’re not going to need this expense forever, so it’s not necessary to include this in calculating their FIRE target. If we model this child care expense dropping to £200 in 3 years, and then being eliminated completely in 10 years, their retirement spending drops to £45,600 – £12,000 = £33,600 per year. Multiply that by 25 as per the 4% rule, and we get a new FI target of £33,600 x 25 = £840,000.

Now let’s see how modelling this affects their savings rate. For the first 3 years, their expenses, and therefore savings, remain the same. After 3 years, their childcare costs drop from £1000 a month to £200 a month, so their overall expenses drop from £3800 a month to £3800 – £1000 + £200 = £3000 a month, or £36,000 a year. That makes their savings rate $£58,000 (net earnings) – £36,000 = £22,000, or 38%.

After year 10, childcare should completely drop off, which causes their monthly expenses to drop to £3800 – £1000 = £2800, or £33,600 a year. That changes their savings rate to £58,000 (net earnings) – £33,600 = £24,400, or 42%.

Here is what their FIRE projection looks like now…

YearBalanceContributionsROI (6%)Total

Slightly over 16 years!

Which is probably a more accurate number since childcare costs aren’t forever. So, all is not lost for this family. Even with 3 kids, they can still retire before the traditional retirement age based on their current numbers.

If they were to adapt worldschooling and reduce their expenses by travelling, they estimate their costs to drop to £2,700, but their earnings would also drop down to £3,000. This means their savings rate would drop down to £3,000 – £2,700 = £300 a month, or £3600 a year. Their FI number would become £2700 (monthly expenses) x 12 x 25 = £810,000. Their time to FI would become:

YearBalanceContributionsROI (6%)Total

…About 27 years.

So, the worldschooling plan they’ve put together actually puts them at a disadvantage financially, unless they can find a way to made extra money on the road or reduce their expenses significantly by staying longer in inexpensive places. But is reducing their expense even possible?

Well, according to this Worldschooling Family of 4, spending $100 USD per day for a family of 4 is reasonable. So, based on this estimate and the current exchange rate of $0.79 USD to 1 £, and multiplying by 1.25 to account for a family of 5 instead of 4, we get…

$100 USD/day = 0.79£/1 USD * 100 USD/day = £79/day.

For a family of 5 instead of 4, we take that rate and multiple it by 5/4 = 1.25, so £79/day x 1.25 = £98.75/day. Over the year, that should cost 365 * £98.75/day = £36,043.75.

So, their estimate cost of £32,400/year is a bit on the low side but still within the same ball park, which means decreasing the cost is unlikely.


On the surface, it seems that world schooling would be a losing proposition since our reader’s income is dropping by about as much as their expenses. However, this is one of those situations where the math doesn’t tell the full story (I know, GASP). World schooling isn’t always a money-saving strategy unless the family’s income is already location independent. So staying in the UK and cutting the expenses might seem to be the winning choice, but the point of world schooling in this situation is not to get them to FIRE sooner, it’s to allow them to start travelling as a family while the kids are still young.

Would you rather stay where you are and power-save towards retirement in 16 years, or would you rather explore the world with your young family now even if that means delaying your journey to “full” retirement?

Personally, the old me would’ve picked power saving towards FIRE, but as I get older and deal with more and more family health issues with my parents, I’m realizing the value of experiences while you are young and physically capable is so much more than numbers in a spreadsheet. Climbing Machu Picchu mountain is easy when you’re in your 30s and 40s, not so when you wait until the normal retirement age. And in the case of families, your kids will grow up, became independent, and you will have missed those years of travelling the world with them. This is something you will never get back.

If I were them, I would go traveling, but first I would suggest WSMD try to negotiate a sabbatical from their employers first. It’s amazing what leverage you suddenly have when your employer realizes you’re serious about leaving.

What do you think? Should WSMD take the leap? Or keep working until they reach FI? Let’s hear it in the comments below.

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21 thoughts on “Reader Case: To Worldschool or Not to Worldschool?”

  1. We did lots of home exchanges every summer when our daughter was age 11-18, she did experience a bit what living in Ireland, France, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Israel, was like.
    Very affordable and you often get to know the family in your apartment/house if it is a simultaneous exchange. We are a Pacific NW USA family.

    1. That’s amazing, ronp! I also love Home Exchange and all the wonderful people we’ve met through it. What a great way for your daughter to travel and experience the world.

  2. Children grow so fast and these years will never be bought back. And it’s great to think about not paying those high child care costs but as they grow, they eat more and clothing is more expensive (mom of 5 adult/teens here:). If you can go then do it. The connections made while worldschooling and spending deeper time with our children are priceless.
    I’d say try to find ways to increase the online/remote income so the earnings can be increased. Push that up and try to then stay in cheaper countries while you are doing so. Life is too short to stay in the UK cold and worrying about money:)

    1. “Life is too short to stay in the UK cold and worrying about money:)”

      Agreed. The older I get the more I realize how precious time with family is.

  3. I don’t have kids yet but worldschooling is extremely appealing to me. My ideal plan is to slow travel for approx half the year, and spend the other half in a home base closer to our parents/family. However my partner is not on board. He thinks the kids wouldn’t be happy as they wouldn’t be able to form long friendships and would hate moving around. I’ve shown him blogs and examples of families who do worldschooling happily but he doesn’t seem swayed. Any insights or advice from those who worldschool their kids?

    1. Just providing an honest answer. If you’ve shown your partner what you would like and they’re not on board, it’s either find a partner who is or stick it out with your current partner because other aspects that they bring to the relationship outweigh this current item you disagree on. Sounds like you made your pitch and got your response from them. Decide.

  4. A million years ago in grad school, I did an Independent Study researching the Mexican education system (long story EXTREMELY short). One place I visited was (exact name not recalled) a migrant education office in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco. Way before Al Gore’s Internet had matured to today’s levels, this office would furnish government-approved education materials (hard copy textbooks) to migrant Mexican families so that their kids wouldn’t lost out on their K-12 education while the family followed crops and picking seasons all over the USA.
    This wasn’t exactly Worldschooling as written about here, but it’s the closest thing that I have any personal knowledge of. It seems to have worked fine: migrant kids traveled to diverse locales with their parents’ work while doing a blend of local US schooling and what was furnished by the migrant education office back in Mexico.
    IMHO, not a bad deal if you can plan and execute it well.
    Dan V
    Nantou (not Taipei at the moment! I’m helping teach Business Writing to Taiwanese civil servants in a special summer program), Taiwan

    1. Very interesting, Dan! Thanks for sharing.

      What’s Nantou like? I’ve only been to Taipei and Tainan. Would love to go back to Taiwan to visit more places soon.

      1. Beautiful but somewhat rural and isolated–conveniences like the nearest Family Mart convenience store are quite some distance away. This campus is the training facility for Taiwanese civil servants and it’s very impressive as far as the training it offers. Uncle Sam–and the private sector and many more entities–could learn from the Taiwanese!

        Dan V

    2. OOPS: lose out–not lost out! Fire the copyeditor (speaking of FIRE)!

      Dan V

  5. You should definitely do it! The older the kids get, the harder it is to travel (needing extra space/rooms and the like) and the kids get more and more attached (ie, not wanting to leave) their peers. Can you find any type of work program to improve finances while traveling? teaching english or….? Go do it!

    1. Oh yeah, teaching English is an option that a lot of digital nomads use to make money on the road. Good tip.

  6. Teaching ESL is a good option for supplementing travels … a fun listening topic for your students is the the David Grusch interview on YouTube on aliens on earth and also this follow up discussion by the reporter who interviewed him … Senator Rubio’s comments are enlightening …

  7. I lived in the UK then Canada and then USA. I am never going back to either UK or Canada. Don’t take it wrong. Canada is my home. And I am Canadian by adoption. I do own real estate in Canada and USA and other countries. But I find myself with more opportunities and lower cost of living in the US. No big secret here. My suggestion is not to move to the US, but capitalize on your work experience, increase your income, stop spending on fantasies and shiny things. Be a whore and move where they pay you more and spend less. Suck it up till you are FIRE. Then go for your dream.

  8. The freedom to travel and cut your expenses to avoid the shackles of a regular North American consumerist, indebted, mortgage-based life is one of the main benefits of worldschooling.

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