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Case Study: International teacher can retire in 10 years while traveling the world.

· Money,Travel

You wake up, well-rested, in a sunny, lofty apartment. No alarm. After a deep, satisfying stretch, you roll over, grab your phone from the nightstand and spend a few minutes lazily scrolling through travel photos on Instagram, before walking over to your balcony to soak up the view: way off into the distance on your left, a stunning beach and to the right, one of the newest, greenest, megacities in the world. You sigh contentedly. You have the privilege of living in a city amongst 10 million people from all over the world. That means you have your pick of any type of mouth-watering food, a melting pot of cultures, and the rare location where you don’t have to choose between the laid-back beach scene and a bustling metropolis. But wait — you’re not in LA. You’re in Shenzhen, China, which means you also get to learn a new language, culture, and take two-hour weekend trips to places like Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand, to name a few.

After a shower and a light workout, you eat breakfast leisurely and scan the exchanges before walking a few brisk blocks to work. You only work 10 hours a week, so you use your downtime to work on business development and writing.

You head out around 5pm — that gives you just enough time to meet a friend for dinner and drinks before heading to your salsa dancing lessons. You feel like a celebrity here — people are obsessed with everything from your accent to your appearance. It’s flattering, to say the least, and your style is better than ever, thanks to those seasonal shopping trips in Seoul.

Your job gives you three months vacation: two months in the Summer, and one month for Lunar New Year. You usually spend one month with family in the States, and spend the other months exploring another continent. Last year, it was Africa, but this year, you have your eye on Europe. You realized once you moved that flights were cheap everywhere but the US, so you travel to places like Tokyo or Bangkok one weekend per month for less than $100. Other weekends, you take advantage of the advanced train infrastructure to get to other cities.

Despite only working 10 hours a week, your job pays for your housing, health insurance and also pays you well over the US median income, on top of that, so you have no trouble spending on clothes, going out, and putting away over 50% for your financial independence fund.

Surely, this is the stuff of myths, right? Nope — this is a day in the life living in Shenzhen, China as an expat.

Shenzhen (actually, the entire country and most continents, but let’s focus on Shenzhen) is constantly seeking native English speakers with Bachelor degrees. Why? They have their own teachers that teach English grammar, literature and composition but they want native speakers to teach via games, music and activities so that their population speaks more conversationally.

Through conversations with tons of expats over the past couple of months and my own research, I’ve found that you can do this virtually anywhere in the world, but after analysis, I’m convinced Shenzhen offers the greatest value and quality of life. Why?

  • It’s across the street from Hong Kong, so there are tons of expats and you get amazing, direct flights for the low to any part of the world (no bullshit! $510 round-trip to the US which is about as far away as you can get)
  • It’s a newer city, so it’s modern, green and way less polluted than other cities
  • It’s a megacity of 10-15 million people so there is plenty to do (theme parks, beaches, festivals, sights) plus a large international community
  • It’s Southern China, so it has a California-type weather — it doesn’t get much colder than 60 degrees in the Winter plus like I said, beaches!

But let’s talk about the real perks outside of location (besides the fact that you live in a cool, thriving foreign country where you can jump to close-by countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore with super cheap flights in less than two hours)

  • They only want you to teach between 10-12 hours a week.
  • They offer 3 months vacation plus all public holidays.
  • They’re offering a full salary month on top of either free housing or a housing allowance to pick your own place or pool with a friend if you want. Because the cost of living is low, and health insurance is covered, food is your main/sole expense. In short: it’s the lifestyle equivalent of about $75k-$100k a year.

That makes this arguably the best quality of life available on a part-time schedule that gives you tons of free time for your own personal goals and hobbies, in addition to months off to travel. The public schools are offering this for K-12 teachers, and there are similar opportunities at the University level, and for business professionals / adults in you’d rather work evenings.

So how can you retire in 10 years?

Let's assume a specialty teacher's (like art or gym) salary of about $3,000 a month and you start with $10,000 in your brokerage accounts.

  • Housing: $450
  • Food: $200
  • Bills: $100
  • Entertainment: $250
  • Investments: $2,000+ a month

You'd have an investment portfolio of about $475,000, which, using the 4% rule generates about ~$20,000 a year, which is a perfectly acceptable baseline to live in a foreign country using geoarbitrage.

Not to mention, you've only worked 10 hours a week, 9 months a year for the past 10 years. You can easily find ways to make your money with all of your free time: starting a side hustle, freelancing, starting a small business, teaching online, etc. You could potentially be adding that income into your portfolio throughout the 10 years, and keep it going once you reach financial independence. If you found a way to earn $1,000 a month, you'd have closer to $700,000 in your account, which would generate closer to $30,000 a year.

Not a bad way to spend 10 years.

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