Schools w/ Highest Savings Potential, 2020

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High salaries don’t always mean high savings potential. What could sound like a high-dollar job offer based on where you currently live, might, in fact, turn out to be bare subsistence living in another part of the world.

I learned this lesson when I came onboard at the American School of Kinshasa, DR Congo.  The year was 2002. Food, gasoline, and everything in-between was triple the price I was accustomed to paying. I’d been duped by a sly-talking school Director. Hidden taxes and cost-of-living expenses quickly turned what appeared to be a wonderful salary, into peanuts. ‘Buyer’ beware! 

Speaking rhetorically, does anyone enter the teaching profession to become rich? We all, however, want to live a comfortable lifestyle and sock away some coin for the future. With that in mind, it’s highly suspect when International Schools neglect to make salaries readily known. And, what of schools that stall right up to the night before a Recruiting Fair to make pay scales available? You can be sure they’re not waiting to wow you with a spectacular salary!

ISR asks:  Which schools, in your experience, provide salaries that allow for a lifestyle we’d all like to become accustomed to while also saving for the future? Which schools pay enough to kinda enjoy life but not enough to save a cent? Which schools keep you just above the poverty level?

Please scroll down. Name your School. Then, tell colleagues about the standard-of-living and savings potential inherent in the salary at your school.



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31 thoughts on “Schools w/ Highest Savings Potential, 2020

  1. Taipei European School – good saving potential. Housing covered with a good stipend, child fees covered, health insurance is paid by the teacher but low cost, taxes are covered. Flight allowance for a whole family yearly. Cheap local food, expensive for any other cuisine. Able to save around 60 000 nt of the salary per month, however am at far end of pay scale. Conversely, Primary management is not what is was and rapidly declining as is the morale of the staff at the school.

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  2. Overseas family School Singapore. Couple no kids with us. Easily save a whole salary per year incl lots of travel (120,000 Sg$) mang SG schools pay well
    Oman- ABA easily saved $50,000USD with 2 kids and heaps of travel

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  3. Top of the scale, due to age and experience, plus middle management allowance in Hong Kong with a major provider. Been here 14 months on my own. First year I saved the equivalent of 82000 USD including gratuity of 20%. This year I’m on course for saving 95000 USD equivalent. Covid means I haven’t travelled as planned. Each month I spend on average 4000 USD including 2200 USD on rent which is easily the biggest expense. I could halve that if I wanted to, but like a decent place with one bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, concierge, gym and swimming pool. Utilities are very cheap, I eat local (cheap), take public transport (absurdly cheap) and pay tax of approx. 11% by maximising pension and government freebies. My quality of life is very good indeed. I’m naturally frugal so don’t feel I’m missing out on anything except the travel.

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  4. Karachi American School in Karachi, Pakistan. MA + 10 years of experience puts you at right around $58k on the scale (yes, they have a scale) with the 15% cash retirement. You can easily save $30k-$40k of that as a single even if you travel every break. Cost of living is incredibly low since the school covers all bills but food and high speed internet.

    That said, you will want to travel every break because you are pretty locked in the rest of the time. It’s not for everyone.

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  5. GEC schools in Jeju, South Korea.
    Can save $20-30k per year based on lifestyle.
    Free housing, although these have some issues.
    Free lunch in school each day.
    Great medical care.
    Outdoors lifestyle, semi-rural setting, which I guess is rare for international schools.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m easily able to save at least 50,000 USD at the International School of Beijing. I travel a lot (pre Covid) and I’m able to enjoy the city.

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  7. International School of Kazan. Beautiful facility that compares to an American Junior College. Nice sleepy place to live if that’s what you like. Mostly local kids. Full IB. I am a single with no dependents and can save 20k a year with traveling. Some people save more. If you aren’t spending all your free time in bars it’s easy to do well here and Russia is a great place to live for the right type of person who can make their own fun and doesn’t mind the snow. You get free housing and food at the cafeteria. I have virtually no expenses until weekends and the cost of living is low.

    In Costa Rica I found it difficult to save much of anything, but it was a glorious place to live with access to two oceans and some of the most beautiful mountains in the world.

    SEA was quite easy in Saigon. 20k+ and I think that applies to most of the well-known schools there. Also a great place to live with a huge expat community and plenty to do.

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  8. Two teachers no kids : saved well in São Paulo but didn’t like the place, poorly in Lusaka, Zambia but loved the place, ok in San Jose, Costa Rica, adored the place and pretty well in Almaty Kazakhstan. We saved the most in Switzerland but only by living in France as Switzerland really is eye wateringly expensive and soulless. So, swings and roundabouts like life!

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  9. My wife and I are at the top of the scale at Shanghai American School and we save 130-150,000 dollars a year. We take holidays, travel home for Christmas and eat out 1-2 a week. The school covers our taxes and our housing benefit is generous. Shanghai can be expensive but it doesn’t need to be if you make the right choices.

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  10. AVOID The International School of Tanganyika (IST) in Tanzania. Salary looks high but extremely expensive place to live. Everything is a major ripoff from taxes, to utilities to household furnishings to food to buying a car. I am an extremely thrifty person so please understand I know ways to save money. Housing is also expensive if you chose to take a housing allowance. People end up adding a lot of their own money to it to get a decent place to live. The school housing is in very poor condition. Teachers can get malaria which can relapse in the future at any time and cost a lot of money in treatment when you return to your home country.

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  11. My wife and I worked at Garden International School, Kuala Lumpur for 6 years. They had an excellent savings scheme. Our family was well provided for the day-to-day, we travelled all over Asia and left with enough savings to pay off our small mortgage and have a bit left over afterwards. I would highly recommend this school for its contract.

    I am currently working in St. Catherine’s, Greece where we are struggling against one income and high Greek tax rates. If we were both working here, I think we would have a different contract experience.

    Earlier in my career I worked at Pembroke House, Kenya and Victoria, Mexico. They both paid me in sunshine, but as a young and single this didn’t matter so much. I lived and travelled well in both places, by staying at backpacker/campsite lodgings and eating from street vendors, which is actually where a lot of the best food is anyway….

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  12. Of the schools you mentioned I would also include Bangkok Prep and St. Andrews 71 for decent packages. We are a family of 5 and live on one paycheck saving the other easily. We travel every holiday (usually by train in Thailand) or plane in the summers. One of us gets a generous housing allowance, which helps. We eat at home mostly, since we have a few kids but go out too. We are not a spendy family so we’re able to save heaps.

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  13. Lived in Kuwait for 7 years and worked at one of the top schools. Had 50% school fees to pay and other sundry costs. Accommodation wasn’t great for families, no dependent flights or medical and the cost of living was not too bad if you didn’t go mad and eat mainly Western foods. The salary was huge though and we saved enough for a house in the UK as well as travelling extensively. It’s not the nicest of places to live though and I was glad to leave.

    Now in Qatar at a good school that pays well. There’s more to do here but going out isn’t cheap. You can easily spend US$100 a night on just drinking. Benefits from school are better here though with no school fees and dependent flights – the allowance is always massive. No medical for the family though but it’s not too bad. Families get nice villas. We don’t save as much here but it’s a nicer place to be compared to Kuwait.

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  14. NIS in Kazakhstan pays very well, provides reasonably spacious free accommodation, medical insurance and return flights.
    Everything there is very inexpensive – maybe Astana is not so much as it has been Americanised with western trappings.
    If you get into local food and events, you can save heaps.
    Not worth getting a car as local transport is a pittance, and not practical to drive to next town – usually hundreds of miles away.
    Great way of saving for a couple of years.

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  15. Taught in Hong Kong for 9 years at 3 schools and saved over 150,000 US on one salary while still enjoying an expat lifestyle with wife and teenage son. Apart from rent HK is cheap if you eat and drink at home or go to local restaurants. A great lifestyle. Also 3 years in Norway 2 years tax free and 12 years in Philippines. Saved enough during this time with three dependents to purchase and nice unit in Brisbane for cash plus a substancial term deposit. Also bought 2 properties in Philippines for cash. I am not kidding!

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  16. It’s hard to beat the International School of Macao. Good salaries, extremely low taxes (~3%), and affordable living. The only major cost to living in Macao is housing, but it’s still much cheaper than HK. I’ve known a few teachers able to retire after roughly just 10 years of work at the school, and it wasn’t terribly difficult to do so. Teaching couples can easily save an entire paycheck and still live an extremely comfortable lifestyle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with this post-The International School of Macao has high salaries and basically no tax. My spouse and I easily saved over 100,000 USD a year when we were there and both teaching. Without traveling you can save bucketloads.

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  17. It is absolutely essential to do your due diligence well before signing on the bottom line. Here are a few suggestions:

    1) contact someone who has or is working at that school and ask pertinent financial questions.amopng others.
    2) review the country’s tax and levy policies before agreeing to go there.
    3) refuse to discuss further issues until you have received a payscale and benefits/compensation data.
    4) Check the country’s cost of living index,readily available over the internet.
    5) check travel websites that detail how expensive a country might be for foriegners or expats.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Agree with the above about HK, Korea, and Bangkok. I worked in all of those three places. HK has low taxes with high salaries. If you’re American, Korea offers two years of tax-free salary. Bangkok has lower cost of living, but the taxes are higher.

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  19. I have been able to save an large amount of money working at International School Manila.

    For a foreign hire, they cover housing, insurance, utilities (except internet and cable), you get a travel allowance every year, an extra month’s salary every year, automatic raise each year, PD allowance, money towards a master’s degree, paid for unused sick days, a signing bonus for each contract you sign, tuition for 2 children, and some extra money at the end of the year (I forget what it is for).

    Most live close to the school, so you can easily walk. You really only need to pay for food and additional travel and activities that you do. Cost of living can be very low if you avoided Western items and shop around the more local areas.

    Many teachers that have come here are able to pay off loans and get out of debt rather quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Top Hong Kong International Schools provide very good salaries and a great lifestyle. Apartment size is always the critical factor here. If you are happy to live in small apartments and not live a crazy lifestyle spending at expensive bars and 5 star restaurants Hong Kong has good savings potential and a great life.

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  21. I worked at Seoul International School and owing to the competitive salary, additional stipends, provided housing (rent free), and short walking distance to school (no real need to own a car), the savings potential was extremely high.

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  22. Having worked for many years at one of the big schools in Bangkok, I can say that we lived comfortably, traveled well and even saved, on the salary package provided.

    We were a family with two of us working; housing and medical are provided; a flight home every two years was provided; school fees heavily discounted; annual gratuity.

    However, there are MANY schools in Bangkok that do not pay as well or have the benefits we had.

    The ones that pay well (and having only worked at one of these, I am guessing the others a bit) would be: ISB, NIST, Harrow; Shrewsbury and Patana. I would call these the “big 5” among the probably 100 or more “international” schools in the city.

    Cost of living is low (as long as you don’t insist on living the high life or only eating expensive western food!); electricity/phone/internet/other utilities are cheap; healthcare is excellent and this is even true at the mid range (more local) hospitals; petrol is cheap; public transport and taxis are dirt cheap; tax rates are relatively low; staying in 5-star hotels on weekends is relatively cheap – even for my whole family.

    Liked by 1 person

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