Schools w/ Super High Savings Potential

Compare teaching in the trenches of some third-tier school in a country often considered a hardship post, to spending your days on the beautiful, well equipped campus of a tier-1 school. Obviously, they share one thing in common: The job requires the same dedication to quality teaching. Something they share in stark contrast: They yield vastly different salaries. If you’re going to give it your all, why not get paid for it?

It’s been argued by convincing school Directors that salaries considered meager by US or European standards could well be fantastic in terms of the economy in which their school is located. This may be true and you probably could “live like a king” in that country on $2K US a month. But IF you have an eye on compiling substantial savings, you need to compare apples to apples and evaluate salaries in terms of what your salary and potential savings are worth back in your home country economy.

There ARE schools offering the kind of financial remuneration that allow teachers to sock away yearly savings of $80- $100K US while living a comfortable life style overseas. While obviously, a teaching couple can more easily realize the highest savings potential (banking one complete salary and the better part of the other), single teachers, too, can pull down big money at the right school.

ISR asks: Which schools currently offer savings potential upwards of $80K US yearly? If your school fits into this category, ISR invites you to Name your School and share with colleagues a little about your school’s salary, perks, etc.

Please school down to participate in this ISR Discussion

63 thoughts on “Schools w/ Super High Savings Potential

  1. It’s interesting to see the disbelief high salaries precipitate in these comments. Just do a web search for ‘ESF salary scale’ (this is Hong Kong) and you will see the top of the scale classroom teacher (15 years experience) is 859 600 HKD basic p/a. Then there is a 20% gratuity = 1 031 520 HKD, plus 8050 HKD p/m housing (96 600 HKD p/a). That totals 1 128 120 HKD p/a, which is 144 897 USD p/a. Add to that a middle management allowance and you can be on 162 000 USD, no problem. With a marginal tax rate of roughly 12% (after personal allowance, government hand backs, etc) and you can take home 140 000 USD net. With Covid restricting travel and living sensibly (decent one bed apartment, good local food, etc) I saved precisely 95 698 USD in 2020. Do the search, it’s right there on their website.

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    1. Except that the cost of living in Hong Kong is extremely high, the house allowance would hardly cover a third of a tiny flat, probably far from the school, so you would have to add the commuting cost. The cost of living for a family, not counting the rent, would be of about 30 000 HKD per month, and if you have children, KG is not covered, and schooling only partially so. Not to say that even if you had 15 years of experience, you would not start on the top scale, and only very few people who have been there since the contracts and the cost of life were much more agreeable, are at that point, some of them even enjoying perks of a distant past. Hong Kong has not been the place to save money for a long time now.

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  2. There are 3 schools in Vietnam that pay really good money. Unis and Concordia in Hanoi and Saigon South in Ho Chi Minh City. Combined with a very low cost of living (especially Hanoi) and the salary being tax free (at UNIS and Concordia, partly tax free at SSIS), as a single teacher you are able to save at least 40.000 USD a year. If you are a teacher couple, that becomes more than double.

    Two schools in Jakarta, British School Jakarta and JIS pay huge amounts as well. Your salary per year is over a 100.000 USD because (at least the British one) pays 16 months of salary and has high monthly allowances.

    Some comments here about Hong Kong, where some might think it unbelievable to earn 125.000 USD a year, but this is true. The top schools (HKIS for example) pay those amounts as a classroom teacher. Hong Kong can be as expensive as you make it, so it really depends on your lifestyle but good savings are possible.

    No one has mentioned Korea, but the top schools pay good money as well (the salary for KIS and the benefits can be found on their website), and then you get one month of gratuity for every year you work at the school (Korean law) and a good pension fund, which most (if not all) Korean schools contribute to. Makes for good saving as well.

    Personally, out of these options, I think Vietnam would be the best, because the cost of living is ridiculously low and you get paid high salaries (at the top schools).

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    1. I worked for JIS for 10 years and no teacher ever made 100K. At 10 years + earning another degree during my tenure + taking on a stipend position + retirement I was in the upper 80s. If you take the value of my entire package- yes it is over 100K, however, that is not “cash in hand.” Furthermore you. need to ut 6% of. your monthly income into the government retirement. You. do get it back after 6 months of leaving- but that guarantee is on shifting sands as the government has proven to be very unreliable. Also- with the pandemic, much of the package has been reduced due to declining enrollment. At any school, you need to stay to work. your way up the salary scale.

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    2. Well. Let’s say you make 4800 a month. At BSJ thats paid 16 times a year. With an allowance of around 2400 a month, that takes you over a 100k a year in total. When I am calculating pay I do add the allowances. Does that make the crazy (and unrealistic) 80k in savings as the article suggests? No, but a good amount around 40k a year or higher should be pretty doable I would think, even if the package is being reduced here and there.

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  3. I really don’t know where these numbers come from. I’ve created a spreadsheet where, using Search info, I’ve input the data from all the schools that meet my criteria. I’ve had to reject schools that won’t employ single teachers with 1 dependent, those that serve primarily local students (leaving a school like that so only looking for more international schools), and schools that won’t employ me past 60. I’ve also rejected all schools in China as we are looking for a change. My need for a starting salary that is higher than my bills back home had me rejecting quite a few more schools.

    I’ve narrowed it down to about 90 schools that meet my initial criteria. For those schools, I’ve recorded quoted salaries (8 years +MA) + retirement – taxes (where they apply), and then using numbeo and expatisan I’ve calculated annual COL for the cities where each school is located, minus housing where it is provided, and the highest remaining salaries are in the 50K range. There is one outlier in the 60K range but the vast majority are well below that. In fact, about 50% have remaining salaries that would barely cover my bills back home and a retirement scheme I’m committed to meeting for the next few years, so no disposable income to speak of.

    There might be a few national schools that pay fairly well, a few more international schools that won’t take me at my age or with a dependent, but I doubt many of them would fall above the 60K range after taxes and COL anyway. The ones that would are unicorns.

    Now if you are a couple and could bank one of your salaries, you might save more than 60K, but I think you’d have to go to one of the schools at the top of my list.

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  4. Taiwan hasn’t been considered here. There are two main schools TAS (American) and TAS (Brit/French/German IB). I have heard the former had better package thank the latter but TES is very good in terms of savings.
    Check the school carefully though to see if it is for you and contact current staff.
    Salary for 10 years around 150 000 nt, plus very good housing, yearly flights, low cost health insurance and your 13th month. Excellent savings potential.

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  5. HK schools pay a hideous amount of money.
    The cost of living is higher, but I clear >10k USD per month and save about 5k of that. Tax is laughably low @ less than 15%.
    This isn’t even counting the 20% of your total contract salary as gratuity at the end of each two year contract.

    Having said all that, it is also very easy to spend a lot of money too. The difference in rent depending on where you live is huge.

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    1. Because rents in Hong Kong are as high as London and New York, and you will easily pay USD3,000/month and up for a tiny apartment. Some schools pay a housing allowance while others simply offer a higher salary. There are different arguments about what is more tax-efficient. ISF does not pay housing allowance so the salary is very high. ESF schools pay a token housing allowance which isn’t enough to cover rent. The big HK schools do in general pay very well. It’s an expensive city so costs in other areas can mount up quickly. For me the biggest perk of living there was having credit cards which earned a lot of points on HK spending.

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  6. I work at a decent school in Hong Kong and my (class teacher) salary is $125k USD. I have to pay my own apt from that but I find it much cheaper to live here than many other countries I’ve lived in. Lots of countries in Asia/ME are super expensive for western products, HK is not so much.

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    1. 125,000 USD sorry but you must be taking the piss. If these numbers were true why isn’t every man and his dog in Hong Kong training to be a teacher? If it is true then how do you justify that salary as a class teacher?

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    2. Responding to the ‘taking the p’ comment. The numbers are true and in the public domain (Search ESF Salary Scale, for example). Why isn’t everyone training to be a teacher? A very, very strange question. Top bankers in London earn millions per annum. Why isn’t everyone in London training to be a banker? Finally, the market justifies it, obviously. If you want to select from the very best teachers in a highly competitive international market, then you pay accordingly.

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    3. Because to become a banker earning ‘millions’ (which are only the ones you read about in the Guardian) you need to have earnt your way onto a highly competitive degree course at one of the very best universities to even be in with a chance, this cuts off most people at source, whereas to become a primary school teacher you need a degree in… anything followed a teacher training course – hardly a cut throat selection process. If people are working to make money (which according to this blog, they quite clearly are) then becoming a teacher in Hong Kong sounds like a no brainer which again begs the question why isn’t everyone doing it? – answer because it’s probably not true.

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    4. So you think ESF are lying about their salary scale advertised publicly on their website? That’s simply not credible.

      Why isn’t everyone doing it? Many try – a single job at a top school can attract thousands of applications – but only the best qualified with the best references and best experience have any chance whatsoever. And to get those people to apply, you pay the best rates. It absolutely is a cut throat process at that level. By analogy, you might as well claim that because everyone can learn to drive, Lewis Hamilton can’t be earning millions. The fallacy is self-evident.

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    5. The magnitude of difference between the skills, experience and aptitude required to drive a formula one car at competitive speeds around Monaco and that required to drive your hatchback to the supermarket is far greater than that required to teach primary school curriculum to a child in one ‘lower tier’ school and in another ‘top tier’ school, in fact the knowledge is exactly the same – the difference is on the strength of an interview, some references, possibly a lesson observation and the whims of whoever’s hiring, you don’t have to have been a champion in karting, formula 3, formula ford all the way up to F1 to make it. So sorry, like your banking analogy, the F1 example also doesn’t hold water. I’ve checked the published salaries myself and no they don’t match what people are suggesting on this forum, I don’t believe ESF or any other school are lying but I do believe that people like to inflate what they have and what they’ve done on the internet which at the end of the day gets none of us anywhere.

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    6. OK, well, you have a published salary (that you confusingly don’t think is a lie) which matches exactly what I’m saying and from which I saved 95000USD in 2020. My motive is not personal aggrandisement (I’m anonymous) but to show people what is possible if you develop the requisite skills, experience and have a hefty dose of pure luck. I think that helps anyone interested in getting to the top of their career, if that’s how they measure ‘top’. Something to aim for if that fits their life plan. I do think accurate (and verifiable) advice is better than sticking fingers in ears and shouting ‘it’s not possible’ when the evidence is publicly available.

      I also stand by my analogies. 😊

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    7. The problem is when you start posting how much money you save online (anonymously or not) you really need to have accurate and verifiable evidence to back it up, according to the school website’s published salary the maximum a teacher can earn is 859,600 + 96,600 (cash allowance) = 956,200 HKD per year before tax, that’s 157,732 in tax gone leaving you with 798,468 HKD after tax – 102,553 USD of which you spent 7,553 in the year. Either the published salaries aren’t true, you don’t work as an ordinary teacher which is a completely different payscale or you live in your classroom. I agree with you it would be nice to know exactly what the rewards are in different schools as a bit of a guide but data without details it’s no better than hearsay which is the entire issue with this blog really! If only we could all be in F1.

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    8. OK, it’s getting tedious. Read the document to the end. You, in your partial understanding, have now got to over 100 000 USD after tax (Net), so at least you’re getting there. Well done. Do you see how close you are? Vital, though, you omitted the 20% p/a gratuity which, again, is right there on the website and in the document you cited. That’s, *by your own calculations* 20000 USD net. And, yes, I (personally) have a moderate middle management allowance on top of that which means I was able to spend approx 40000 USD and still make the saving mentioned. Regardless of that allowance, the claim of 125000 USD p/a is absolutely evidenced by the website you yourself are looking at. How is this so difficult to see when it’s literally on the website as a published salary?

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    9. The most tedious part of this blog is reading people anonymously patting themselves on the back for money which they can’t prove that they’ve earnt. You’re correct someone might well earn 125,000 USD before tax according to the published figures before tax but this is very different to saving 100,000 USD. The reason you’ve been able to save that is because of your allowance and the fact that you’re including your gratuity in the calculation which isn’t annual salary. So no a teacher on the highest grade of the ESF payscale isn’t going to save 100,000 USD per year, a regular teacher isn’t going to save that amount of money anywhere. I’d also add that if I was a parent paying school fees there I’d be wondering whether my money was being well spent considering the kindergarten teachers are being paid the equivalent of heads elesewhere in the world, the free-market and all.

      A more usueful guide for prospective teachers would be a list of published school payscales such as the one being referred to above.

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    10. Two things before I give up.

      1) The thread is about savings. Obviously the whole package is relevant to that regardless of semantics about what constitutes salary.

      2) The sub thread (which I didn’t start) is about disbelief that a classroom teacher can have an income of £125000 USD. We’ve established that they can. Job done. It’s not ‘taking the p’.

      Honestly, you might consider reading with just a small dose of generosity so that your conclusions are better based upon the cast iron evidence in front of you, rather than questioning integrity and cynically deploying semantic loopholes to evade what to any reasonable person is easily verifiable. I would invite anyone reading to look for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

      Anyway, good luck – I’m in danger of repeating myself so will bow out.

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  7. the following schools in Singapore :SAS, UWC, Tanglin, Dulwich and SJII have attractive salaries and housing allowances to match, which if you do not mind flat sharing (quite common. here) eat at hawkers and limit yourself against alcoholic vices, and international travel (no choice these days), you can save 60000 usd a year. No capping, I currently pocket that after tax…

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    1. At which of those schools in Singapore do you think a teacher with a trailing spouse could save the most?
      And is the free tuition for kids taxed?

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    2. Either SAS if you have American Curriculum experience or UWC for IB experience, but be prepared to work for it!

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  8. A couple working at Chadwick International in South Korea could easily save $60,000 (saving one person’s salary). Beautiful apartments at no cost, insurance, phone subsidy and lots of monetary incentives like coaching, too. The only downside is the location if you like to party!

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  9. Headline is nonsensical for a single teacher. You won’t save (I mean net savings, in bank/pocket) almost ANYWHERE, outside of Saudi Aramco which is elementary/middle school that only accepts couples (and your workload is high/vacation almost nil). If you can save 25K USD a year, while having money for traveling vacations and a nice local lifestyle, you are basically doing very very well.

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    1. When I left, there were many singles (men and women) on staff. While professional expectations are high, the workload is not excessive. There is an emphasis on work/life balance. Lastly, while you don’t get the whole summer off, there is plenty of time for travel. There are also many days where you work but there are no students. These days are excellent for developing your lessons, reflection and reviewing your materials.

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    2. I am single in Singapore and saving over $50,000 per year. Directly into my bank account. Still living very well and great holidays pre Covid. Best paying schools here are UWC and SAS but some others not far behind.

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    3. Singles at a school like Jakarta IS, or similar (or even higher-paying) schools like Shanghai AS can eventually (after 5-7 years service) earn up to 80k a year incl. retirement. You can live well on 2k a month, so US50-60k savings is do-able. Not sure about the 100-120k numbers. I wish folks would be more specific about the schools. If not, there is no point to this blog post.

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  10. Saved 40k/year while working at Qatar Foundation, traveled during school breaks, did a few Doha brunches here and there. Did not own or rent a car and lived in the very nice, school provided housing lots.

    No spouse, no children. 10 years experience at the time.

    Currently in China saving the same amount since the salary is taxed and housing isn’t provided.

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  11. I work at a small Z-tier IB school in Eastern Europe on salary for $3500 a month with housing provided and flights. Z-tier meaning you deal with a lot of ineptitude because our owners are inexperienced and young. That being said they leave me alone to teach physics and give me the tools I need for success. There are little real PD opportunities, but I do get flights.

    I save more money here than I did in Hong Kong or Tokyo in an A-tier school with all the expected perks and annoyances that come with working at a type A school

    I can easily live off of less than $800 and do. And since there aren’t many travel opportunities at the moment, I don’t. As a middle aged divorcee on the ‘back nine’ I am also surrounded by the most beautiful women in the world, which is a nice perk and you cannot put a cash premium on that.

    Anything above 24k, or 2$k a month in savings, I would consider A-tier for package. Then you get in where you fit in. Some people want to show the world what great ‘educators’ they are. Others want to be left alone and help our kids across the line. The most important thing is balance and quality of life.

    Unfortunately there are entire regions like Latin America that I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole because of their pitiful packages. Salaries there are an embarrassment and I think teachers should boycott the entire market save for a few schools.

    Find a place you like to live and work where you can save 2$k + a month. And then count your lucky stars and have some gratitude. You are in a distinct minority of people on earth.

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    1. Well said! It’s quite rare to read this amongst the typical tide of selfish & entitled. We are indeed fortunate to have such oportunies. And yes, no need to live an extravagant lifestyle… Live, enjoy the culture and the genuine people you meet.

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    2. Agree, too many international teachers comparing themselves with those at schools with ‘better packages’ and perceived greater savings potential and not stopping to consider just how privileged we all are especially compared to the often struggling societies we live in. Also interesting to read how many supposedly millionaire teachers there are about which makes me wonder why I don’t see them driving about in Ferraris, flying business class everywhere and holidaying on their yachts. Fantasy and reality.

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    3. Like your thinking! I did work in Mexico and actually had a great lifestyle and saved a modest amount, too. I had a small housing allowance and a gratuity.
      It was so easy to eat out at local places, shop at markets and travel cheaply. There were also options for a bit more glitz, every now again, too.
      Sadly, I think schools have declined there, which is such a shame.
      When I got to my hard earned Tier 1 school I was totally disappointed. Great salary and perks but awful HR and lousy campus and resources.

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  12. In order to save USD80,000/year, that would mean saving USD6,600 per month.

    The *net* salary must be USD90-100,000 in that case.

    There can’t be many schools that pay that much!

    I would definitely be curious to know which they are.

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    1. I earned this in China in a head of subject role. Free accommodation and school fees too. It’s out there. Tier 1-2 British school

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    2. 100% agree. I know teachers working at some of the so-called uber schools. Taipei AS, Shanghai AS, Singapore AS, the ISBs, Jakarta IS. No classroom teacher is earning in excess of 100k. Getting close in some cases, when you count retirement. But to save that much, you’d need to be in the 110-120k range. Would love it if folks named the schools that were that generous:)

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    3. CIS, SAS and UWC in Singapore pay that. Base salary+housing allowance +annual bonus- Low taxes. (I pay $4000 in taxes annually because I contribute to the retirement fund which is tax deductible) For a teacher with over 8 years experience.

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  13. As someone who currently works at ISB, I would question some of the points. Yes, you receive roughly $80,000 USD taxed locally. You also have a very healthy Provident fund, annual flight allowance and $1,800 USD for PD each year. You are placed in teacher housing, but have the option to move out usually after your first or second year. It never takes two hours to get downtown. There are many teachers who live downtown and receive free, door-to-door transport by the school.

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  14. Saudi Aramco Expatriate Schools. VERY high salary, monthly expat bonus, defined benefit pension after 2 years, 9% matching 401k, housing and medical (plus many other perks). As a mid career educator who is serious about their craft and retiring well, there is no comparison. This is THE tip of the pyramid. If you are a teaching couple you won’t know what to do with the savings. I was there for 10 years with my wife and son and we all miss it each for our own reasons.

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    1. US curriculum. Only American and Canadian teaching licenses accepted. Also forgot to mention the yearly retention bonus and the yearly repatriation stipend.

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    2. Ty – can you state the actual salary or the salary range? Say – what would an experienced teacher be paid in their 1st year at the school … and maybe what would it rise to after 5 years of service? There’s surely nothing unethical about being more specific.

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  15. I have worked in a Middle Eastern school, a Mexican school and a German school. Here are the factors that do come into play:

    1) If the school is in a no-tax country like many Middle Eastern ones, and they pay a compensation package that is equal to or even just below your usual home package, you can put aside a decent savings amount. Obviously the more you have to pay out of pocket, the less you save.

    2) If you work in a poorly paid country like Mexico and some Latin american countries, you can still save a bit because the cost of living is very low and provided you don’t splurge, and IF the school provides housing or a decent allowance, you can come out ahead, but not as well as in the Middle East.

    3) European salaries are almost always taxed and most schools don’t give a housing allowance or provide housing BUT their compensation is so high that you can really still save a great deal.

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  16. My first school director said it was all about your choices. Especially in Asia. You WILL save, but if you go on long haul international holidays all the time you will save much less than you would if you traveled modestly and regionally. Some countries will suck it right out of you when it comes to leaving. Leaving Singapore to return to Europe, expect to part with the best part of $100,000. Other places not sure, would be interesting to know. Plan early and save, especially in these times.

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  17. Tier 1 International Schools in Hong Kong are some of the best paying and highest quality in the world with a lifestyle to match (before COVID). So long as you are comfortable living in tiny apartments, that is the only downside. But the lifestyle and savings potential is good.

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  18. I [single male, Australian] worked in Saudi Arabia 2004-2020 in the British International School Jeddah. Their Search Associates page said that USD20000 savings annually were possible. I found that to be true even with extensive travel. Tutoring was available if you wanted it and that was particularly rewarding financially. Indeed I lived on my tutoring money and my salary went to pay house mortgages at home.

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    1. I also worked in Saudi for years and was able to save $20,000-30,000 a year without tutoring as a single teacher, traveling internationally two to three times a year, but not spending tons on luxury vacations. The annual flights home help with travel expenses. I know many teachers who live on their tutoring income there and bank their salaries. Life can be very pleasant depending on the school and and the compound you live in, but you have to do your homework and talk to teachers currently there to know what you’re getting into. Ask about the size of the compound (bigger is better), if it’s all teachers, all expats, and what kind of amenities it has, like a pool, tennis, grocery store, etc. There are schools you definitely want to avoid, and a “good” school can change suddenly with a change in admin. There’s a lot of misinformation about the kingdom in the media and on ISR as well – talk to people there now! Things are changing in the country daily, mostly for the better, I’d say. Regarding drinking, it’s still a dry country (rumors that that will change soon are probably true, based on their sources), but loads of expats make their own inside the compounds (if you’re not picky about quality and hangovers), and those in the Eastern Province head to Bahrain to drink (covid restrictions are hampering that somewhat at the moment). The weather is great for six months of the year, more and more excellent cultural events are happening (again, covid is hampering that a bit), and it’s a country to watch and consider – but talk to people there first to know where to avoid.

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    1. You’re looking at a salary of about $80K (w/ masters + experience) taxed locally at +20%. You will be required to live in teacher housing (no cost) in the compound.It’s 45min-2hrs to central BKK depending on traffic.
      I understand that these “high savings rate” articles get a lot of clicks but always do your homework if you choose to follow the $$$.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Always take people’s comments about how much money they make or have with a pinch of salt, people love to gloat and without seeing their payslips or bank statements how are we to verify? You say you save $5,000 per month, that’s 166,000 Baht per month, the average international teacher salary before tax in Thailand is around 120,000 baht. Even at the famously well paid ISB this isn’t realistic, you would have to be the director and do literally nothing with your life. So yes if all you’re interested in is money then don’t follow anonymous comments online or you will almost certainly end up disappointed.

      Liked by 1 person

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