How Do You Plan for Retirement While Teaching Overseas?

Spending a career in international schools can be incredibly fulfilling. You get to be the teacher that you want to be — students are enthusiastic, keen — you have the resources and the time to prep properly. My concern is, how can I manage my finances so that I can retire comfortably? I would like to hear from other international teachers about how they are managing their finances for their post-65 lives!

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22 thoughts on “How Do You Plan for Retirement While Teaching Overseas?

  1. Some friends who worked in the Caribbean had the right idea. They finished their extended contract, saved as much as they could, and sold everything they could, and bought a big ‘ole sailboat and left for adventures beyond. With daughters now grown, and no debt, sounds fantastic, eh?

    I’m sure they have packed away investments and collect money while on their travels, but what a way to go!!


  2. £20,000 won’t buy you anything much bigger than a dog kennel in the UK, but for that money in Bulgaria we bought a 5-bedroomed house in the mountains, about 60 km from Sofia. As Bulgaria is now part of the EU, I can retire there and I am actually looking forward to learning Bulgarian. Bulgarian property taxes are a joke, compared to Council Tax in the UK.


    1. You are the second person I know of who smartly invested in Bulgaria–my friend bought a lovely condo-type place right on the Black Sea resort area, for a fraction of what you’d think.

      Also, for those of us who kinda need a ‘home base’ in the US for family/friend proximity, consider the Mid-West states like Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas. Being a California girl, I would’ve never, in a million years, thought that I’d live smack-dab at the belly button of the ‘bible belt’. However, being able to pay cash for acreage and a big, comfortable home, OR a sweet condo that I can lock up and fly back to CA for visits on a whim, is very nice. The home prices are waaaay low in these states, and being centrally USA located has its definite benefits, no matter where I want to vacation and travel.


  3. I sold my house and car. I put things I did not want to part with into storage. I invested the money in a retirement account and added the local teacher retirements from the US to that account. I also make sure to send money back to that account every year – I take jobs where I will have some leftover money that I will not need for living. I’ve really downsized my life, since I no longer pay mortgages and car payments, taxes, etc. I also don’t spend money on anything but entertainment and travel, really – I don’t need to.


  4. We’re considering investing in an Isle of Man offshore managed fund but I’m a little uncertain due to the recent world financial events. Our other option would be to add to home mortgages or get an international property. What do others think, have you had any recent experience with Isle of Man funds?


    1. Do be careful about investing in the Isle of Man, there are a number of large reputable looking companies, but with fees and conditions that make it very difficult for an investment to grow. There have been some comparative studies done on offshore pension plans, and a company called vista came out tops over all the rest. I have a pension plan with Hansard, but it has been a big disappointment, and I am very thankful that I only put a small part of my savings there. I have invested the rest of my savings in property (2 houses which provide a good rental income), equities and bonds, and fixed interest accounts.


    2. Are you American? Don’t open an offshore account! The financial advisers come and go through revolving doors (you build a relationship and then they scram). You gain nothing in comparison to accounts in the US and you usually can’t get out of the accounts when you want to cash them in – and also you when you cash them in – you’ll have to pay US taxes (or take the consequences from US Govt. – not advisable) – so why bother? Stay esp. clear of SKANDIA. Don’t do it don’t do it don’t do it!!!


  5. I bought a home in Costa Rica in 1986 when I was working there. It was the best investment I’ve ever made. However, I also agree with aclick. I lost all funds that I invested with a “reputable company” in an offshore account. Through the years, I’ve sunk extra cash into certificates of deposit at banks. It’s a sure bet. I’m approaching the big six O, and I’ve never paid a credit card company interest and when I buy a car or any other large purchase, I pay cash. The best advice I could give to young teachers would be to use a credit card for convenience not credit.


  6. I utilized David Wisdom for tax preparation, whose contact information is located on the Search Associates website; he handled my mildly unusual return promptly, and I think he sees a lot of international school teachers.


    1. Is David Wisdom in the US? What are his rates? Does he also give advice on IRA’s?


  7. Are there teachers out there from Ontario, who plan to retire after teaching internationally? Any insight on retirement plans? I am also looking for someone to help me with my taxes.


  8. I also invested money in real estate, in Eastern Europe. I bought the apartment in 1997 and the value has more than quadrupled according to “for sale” prices for the same neighborhood and similar size apartment. I could not afford to buy it in present times. I have had a perfect place to call my own for summer vacations and Christmas holidays. I enjoy returning to this magical wonderful place. I have one more year before retirement. Thankfully, before going into international teaching, I made sure to qualify for a vested retirement (21 years) in my home state so the benefits from this will contribute to the retirement years, (plus investments in a providential fund at my present school, plus the modest social security benefits.Health insurance comes with teacher retirement in the state of North Carolina.)

    I won’t live like royalty, but the future looks doable, financially. I just have to decide where I want to spend those years!I think overall, that I feel fortunate to have taught overseas during the last 15 years of a long career. No credit card debt, no debt of any kind, which spells a certain freedom. I don’t think I would be in a position to say this had I not decided to take the risk of teaching and living in the international communities.


  9. NOW is the time to invest in stocks as the prices tend to be low and they will go up.

    However, spread out your investments as both of you have done buying both established homes and land lots when you can. Also think of doing this on two continents so that you can hop when you retire/have 2/3 months of vacation without the heavy expenses AND you will likely have one property doing well at least as it is in another part of the world while the other may be in an area going through a depression. Property does tend to appreciate but not always–think of bad city planning, change in local demographics etc.


  10. I agree with ‘YoYoMe’, property investment is the way to go. I bought a piece of property in Europe where I was working and had to borrow 100% from the bank to get it. As a single mother and an expat, it was a bit of a risk at first. However, in the seven years since buying the place, the value has already doubled. I plan to buy an additional property soon, this time in the USA to have as my retirement property and home base. Stocks can be risky but property is a good solid investment that can benefit you and your children in the future.


  11. Everyone knows that now is certainly NOT the time to invest in stocks, or most financial institutions, for that matter. We’re at the point that we don’t trust anybody with our money–and we think that’s wise.
    But, for us, the best thing we EVER did was to plunk our money down on a home; and then, when we had more money saved up, buy another small investment property in the same area.

    Not only did this provide us a safe investment for our extra income savings (land never depreciates), but gave us a welcomed ‘home base’ whenever we had time away from our international jobs. Additionally, when we decided to take a year or two off from working internationally, we could nearly live off of the rent (received from the income property, a duplex) and live in our house (while improving it as desired), all the while watching the value of both grow consistently.

    For home security (during employment out of the country) we could be generous enough to allow friends or our adult children live in the house rent-free in exchange for keeping up the maintenance.
    We made sure:

    1. Our furniture and personal items were left in place so we did not have to store our household items. This allowed us to come and go as we wished, but also saved us the costs of renting a storage unit for our autos and household.
    2. We communicated that we would be back for summer and/or holidays and expected to occupy at least part of our house. We kept in regular contact with those people living in our house, so there were no surprises for anyone.
    3. We communicated our exact expectations of how the house would be maintained in our absence (lawn mowed, repairs made, etc.). This worked sometimes to our expectations, and sometimes didn’t; but over the years no real damage was done and no enemies were made, and everyone was happy in the end. One couple even used the years to accumulate their own money to buy a home for their growing family, so there is also the satisfaction of helping out another family!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand that investing in a house in the States is a good idea. However, I have come up against a brick wall trying to get a loan while working and living abroad. I also heard that Americans can’t invest in mutual funds and such while living abroad, nor can they open an IRA. Can someone please help me to find ways to invest. You all sound like you’ve figured it out. I never had an IRA in the States so I can’t add to one.


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