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By: Sorcha Coyle

My name is Sorcha Coyle. I’ve been teaching in the Gulf for the past nine years. I also run the Empowering Expat Teachers community, whose mission is to empower future and current expat teachers to lead personally, professionally and financially rewarding lives. The expat teacher life has so many wonderful aspects – the high salary, the job security, the sun and the standard of living. However, it has one downside – it is unpredictable. Could you have ever imagined that we would start March 2020 living in a pandemic? This academic year 2020/21, full of COVID-19 restrictions, lockdowns, salary cuts and far too much screen time, has been such a challenging year for all of us, it has really been all about surviving, trying to stay happy and looking after our mental health and wellbeing.

During the lockdown, many of us got into the habit of spending a fortune shopping online. Once lockdown lifted, we treated ourselves to luxury staycations, which were well needed and deserved! Some of us suffered unexpected job losses or had to cope with salary cuts. If you were like me, lockdown made me reflect on and reevaluate my priorities and timeline in terms of moving back home. Whatever the effect, we want to have something to show for all our hard work as expat teachers.

Next academic year 2021/22, let’s look after our financial wellbeing- let’s save more, earn more, and retire with more! As a wise friend of mine always says, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” Start planning NOW to make 2021/22 your year of financial empowerment.

1. Decide what you will be saving for the next academic year

Ask yourself, “Where do I want to be this time in 10 years?” By starting with the ten-year time frame, you can 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. 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. You need to check if this financial goal is SMART, which means that it is:

Specific: Have a specific amount of money in mind.

Measurable: Break your goal down and set yourself weekly, monthly, half-year, and annual targets to chart your progress.

Usually, the “A” stands for Attainable/Achievable, but I am going to change it to Aspirational! When I first moved to Qatar at 25, I set myself a financial goal to save six figures by 30. It was definitely a high expectation to meet, but by planning, budgeting and doing extra jobs (tutoring, summer school, and shop work), I managed to fulfil it by 29. This opened my eyes to the power of high aspirations, visualisation and SMART goals. You may want to do this AFTER you have decided how you will earn more income in 2021/22 (keep reading).

Realistic: While working abroad, you have to enjoy your life too, by socialising, etc., so if your saving goal is completely unrealistic in a 2-year timeframe, rethink it!

Timed: If you plan to work abroad for two 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 two years is not enough to reach your financial goals, then perhaps extend your timeframe to 3 or 4 years of teaching abroad? Again, break it down into months and weeks to know how much to save each week, month, etc. Last year, I read the “12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, which opened my eyes to the power of viewing every 12 weeks as 12 months, so you aim to reach more financial goals annually.

2. Create another form of income for 2021/22

Right now, when so many expats are sadly losing jobs and facing salary cuts, it is more important than ever to never depend on one single income. Create at least two more streams of income. They do not have to be equal, but as long as they are consistent, they all add up. The ideal number is seven! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Become a tutor in the evenings.
  • Regularly declutter to sell unwanted gifts and used and unused items online, on second-hand Facebook groups.
  • In July/August, work for a summer school for 2+ weeks.
  • Publish a book and sell it.
  • Set up a blog or a YouTube channel and monetise it.

3. Save more of your rental allowance in 2021/22

If you get a rent allowance, try your best to save as much of it as you can because it is such an easy way to boost your savings! Join area-specific FB groups and communicate directly with landlords (to avoid paying a real estate agent commission) and negotiate! You can usually get the best deal if you pay upfront in one cheque. How about a studio, a hotel apartment or moving in with some friends in an apartment/ villa to save even more?

4. Decide how you will transfer your salary to your home bank the day you get paid

In 2021/22, challenge yourself to send more money home. Factor in enough money for your rent and bills and a weekly treat, and see if you can send 50%+ more, home each month. To transfer your money from your expat bank to your home bank, you can use an online currency exchange site or exchange it to your home currency at a currency exchange place and transfer it to your home bank. Whatever you do, do it each month straight after payday. “Pay yourself first” and live off the remainder.

5. Decide what your weekly inspiration will be

Consume at least one piece of content that will inspire and motivate you on your financial empowerment journey. Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  • The Wealth Chef by Ann Wilson
  • Millionaire Teacher and Millionaire Expat by Andrew Hallam (excellent saving and investment guides, written by a former expat teacher)
  • Bigger Pockets, ChooseFI, Millennial Money, Smart Passive Income, Side Hustle Nation, Mad Fentist and Mr Money Mustache blogs and podcasts

6. Set yourself some easy-to-follow rules for 2021/22

Here are some rules that I follow:

  • Don’t buy a takeaway coffee unless it is a social occasion.
  • Don’t impulse buy; give yourself 24 hours to think about a big purchase. I use the 6Rs to help me make a decision – Reflect – Reconsider – Rent (can I borrow it?) – Repair (can I get it fixed?) – Reuse (can I still use what I have?) – Reward (can I wait until a birthday/ special occasion for someone else to gift it to me?)
  • Keep staples at home so you’re not tempted to get a takeaway during the week.
  • Each week, have a no-spend day.

Here is to a financially empowering 2021/22 for all of us! Follow me on IG @sorchacoyle_eet where I share weekly job hunting, CV, cover letter, interview, and money-saving tips!

Sorcha Coyle has been teaching in the Gulf (Qatar and Dubai) for the past 9 years. She also runs the Empowering Expat Teachers community, whose mission is to empower future and current expat teachers to lead personally, professionally, and financially rewarding lives. In addition to being an experienced expat teacher, she is also a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and a member of the Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Career Coaches. Join the Empowering Expat Teachers FB group here, follow me on IG @sorchacoyle_eet and check out my blog at Last but not least, she provides CV and cover letter support to future and current expat teachers with my Teach Abroad Transformation service