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The Wealthy Teacher: An Interview with Jackie Bolen


The expat community in Ulsan is very diverse but a large portion of the population are English teachers. While the money is decent for young single people, it may not be the best job in the long run. So how do you become wealthy as an English teacher here in South Korea? Better yet, how do you make sure that you are covered for the future. This is a concept that many teachers fail to think about until it is too late.

Canadian teacher and author, Jackie Bolen helps guide teachers through the process of becoming financially independent  in her new book “The Wealthy English Teacher” This topic is probably not a popular one among the new teachers but as Jackie points out, the earlier you start, the better off you will be.

With that being said, Ulsan Online decided to interview Jackie to shed some light on her new book and how it can help teachers or pretty much any expat living here in Korea.

UO: Could you give a short introduction about who you are?

JB: I’m a Canadian who has been living in Korea for the past decade, teaching mostly at universities. I lived in the rice fields near Cheonan in Chungcheongnam-Do for 7 years but made the move to Busan a few years ago. I’ve been blogging and writing about teaching and living in Korea for years. When I’m not teaching or writing, I love to be outside and you can most often find me biking, hiking, surfing or running. I also love to explore this beautiful country by road-tripping around on any long weekend.

UO: How did you get started with personal finance?

JB: I’ve always been interested in money and I can even remember when I was in middle and high school, I used to read my parent’s books and magazines about investing. My mom helped me buy my first mutual funds when I was still in high school with money I had saved through working part-time at McDonalds. In the years since then, I’ve continued reading and researching about personal finance and maybe the most exciting thing for me about getting my first full-time job was that I would have serious money to invest! These days, I’m most interested in sharing this knowledge I have with other teachers who often aren’t that knowledgeable about how to handle their finances as an expat.

UO: What do you think is the most important thing teachers here should know?

JB: The thing that teachers need to know is that your 20s and 30s are the years that you should be investing the most money. If you wait until you’re 40 or 50, it’s going to be really, really difficult to catch up. Even a modest amount of money invested in some decent dividend paying stocks or broad market ETFs in your 20s can make you a millionaire by the time you retire.

UO: What do you think of teachers who live for their vacations and bank on their bonus and final pay to get them start back home?

JB: I think that this is a tough way to live. Living paycheck to paycheck is stressful. Like what happens if there’s an emergency and you have a 5 million won medical bill. Or, someone in your family back home gets sick and you need to get a plane ticket for the next day. I personally would hate the feeling of not being able to deal with these unforeseen circumstances. If you can get to the place where you’ve paid off your debt and have at least a few thousand dollars in the bank, you can feel confident about your future and also sleep more easily at night.

UO: What advice would have for them?

JB: The best advice would be to pay off debts, especially consumer debt or credit cards as quickly as possible. Once you pay them off, this will free up more money to build an emergency fund and then you can begin to invest in the stock market to secure your financial future. When you have debt and pay it off slowly, you are losing so much money on interest payments that it can be really hard to get ahead. Make your money work for now, not some credit card company!

UO: What do you think the biggest mistake teachers make with regards to money is?

JB: The biggest mistakes that teachers make with regards to money is living only for the now. Sure, you might die tomorrow and then the money you have in the bank would do you no good. But, the statistics show that if you make it to 25 years old, your chances of making it to 65 are really, really high and health care keeps getting better and better! Most of you reading this will indeed make it to retirement so it’s unwise to assume that you won’t. Plan for your financial future—even a little bit of sacrifice now can pay off huge dividends later.

More on Jackie Bolen. Click here to visit her website.

UO: With regards to your book, how can an English teacher become wealthy?

JB: In the book I mention 10 simple steps you can follow, but it all basically boils down to this: never spend more than you make and use the difference wisely either by paying off debt, or investing in the stock market.

To be more concrete, you can become wealthy by paying off debts as quickly as possible (through frugal living and increasing your income), building an emergency fund, investing in the stock market, and building some passive income streams.

UO: What are the biggest risks?

JB: The biggest risk is inaction. By leaving your money in a bank account, you’re actually losing money due to inflation. By not paying off debt, you’re just pushing the problem further down the road when it will actually be worse due to the interest that has been building up.

Of course, there is a risk to investing in the stock market. You can lose money. However, over the long-term (if the past is any indication of the future!) the stock market returns an average of around 10% per year. The key is to leave your money in for the LONG-TERM. By long-term, I mean 10, 20 or 50 years. I don’t recommend investing in stocks for less than 10 years because the prices can fluctuate wildly from year to year. I’m totally confident though that you will see great returns over a longer period of time though. For some sample portfolios and how to actually invest from abroad, check out my book, “The Wealthy English Teacher.”

UO: What do you think sets your book apart from the other investment and personal finance resources out there?

JB: This is the first and only book about personal finance specifically for English teachers abroad. It’s simple, straight-forward and follows a conservative approach to investing.

Find Jackie’s book on Amazon. Click Here!

Jackie Bolen is a Canadian expat living in Busan who has been blogging about teaching English and personal finance for years. You can find her lots of places around the Internet, but the best place to start is . Check out her book about personal finance for English teachers: “The Wealthy English Teacher: Teach, Travel and Secure your Financial Future.”