Reader Case Update: The South Korean English Teacher Returns



The Wanderer retired from his engineering job at a major Silicon Valley semiconductor company at the age of 33. He now travels the world, seeking out knowledge from other wealthy people, so that he can teach people how to become Financially Independent themselves.


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On this blog, we have a lot of fun. We make a bunch of dick jokes, we make fun of home boners, we do a WHOLE lot of MATHING SHIT UP, and, occasionally, we change people’s lives. Hopefully for the better.

But as much as I’d like to take as much credit for these cases as I can, the truth is the only thing we can do here is trivially minor. We do some analysis, we provided a few insights, maybe suggest a few changes people could make, and that’s pretty much it. A blog post by itself does nothing. You have to actually go out there and do some with it.

And what continuously amazes me about the people we feature on this site is that they’re such smart, capable, and motivated people that they don’t just read books, get ideas, and just sit there doing nothing. They go on to actually make big changes in their lives, and the results have been amazing. We are truly humbled to have played even a small part in these people’s lives, and today I’d like to introduce one of those people.

We first met Colby Charles two years ago in this post HOW TO BECOME FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT BY TRAVELLING. At the time, Colby was just starting off on his journey to FI in a rather roundabout way. Instead of trying to hack it in a big expensive city, he moved to Gwangju, South Korea to teach English, and because many of his living costs were covered by his employer, and the income tax rate in South Korea is so low (3%, bitches!) he immediately went from struggling to stay afloat to a 66% savings rate, and 10-15 years from retirement.

But, he admitted at the time, he wasn’t sure if staying in South Korea and teaching English was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. So what’s he up to now? Well, why don’t we check in with him to find out!

What’s up Millennial Revolution?  Over 2 years ago I wrote a guest post on your website (SEE HERE) about how I pulled a crazy by moving to South Korea to teach English abroad, narrowly dodging homeownership, and started aggressively investing.  I thought you and many of your readers might be interested to see where I am now after continued reading of your blog and following much of the advice you promote here regarding FIRE.

Where am I, and what am I doing now?

Despite my attitude towards teaching in my original guest post I am still teaching ESL, but now I am in China!  A very different situation from where I thought I might be today based on predictions from the last post. I originally thought I’d never teach again, would move back to Canada and maybe be able to hit fire by 50 if I was lucky.

Well, I “Math’d some $#!7 up!”, took a chance and the results turned out even better than I could have imagined.  After looking into the working conditions in China and other various opportunities I learned that I could make much more money than in South Korea, keep my costs pretty much the same – if not reduce them – and have a better life simultaneously; less working hours and more vacation.  Previous to arriving in China, I still wasn’t sure I was interested in teaching but thought I would give it a try.  Once I got to China, and started working in a public school environment I realized I actually enjoy this style of teaching.

And it turns out I was able to make much, much more money.  I’m currently able to save 2-3x more money than I was in South Korea.  I was able to save about $20,000 CAD after my year in Korea.. Do the math.

And that better lifestyle I mentioned.. Jobwise, I teach about 12 hours of work a week in my China versus 30 teaching hours in South Korea. Though the reason I am able to save so much more is because I spend nearly all my free time doing side work on the evenings and weekend days.  And I get about 2-3 months vacation to travel every year.

Related: Everything you need to know about teaching English abroad in China

So now early retirement is on the table.

Last time we spoke, I was planning to move back to Canada and pursue accounting and a CPA designation.  After some more quick maths, I realized I would need to go back to school and then go through the designation process which would all take about 4-5 years, while making $30,000-40,000 a year.  After my professional designation I would start at about $50,000. And after 5 year I may be making $70,000-$80,000.

So I figure, I can work my ass off to have an office job that pays $80k by the time I’m almost 40. Or I can keep teaching, traveling 2-3 months a year and reach FIRE / 7 figures by that time. As I am currently able to SAVE the starting of a CPA professional, today.

Oh baby, thinking outside the box and taking the path less traveled.

Related: You may already have everything you want

What have I learned since we spoke last?

I’ve had the opportunity to travel to a bunch more countries since we last spoke, which has opened my eyes, humbled me and made me grateful for what I’ve been given in life.  I’ve continued to write about personal finance, study it further and read deeper into the FIRE movement.

I’ve realized it’s not necessarily about retiring as soon as possible – don’t get me wrong I am completely, and utterly jealous of your lives.  But more about building a life of your design, getting educated and being smart with your money when it comes to personal finance.  I’m still just on the beginning stages of my financial freedom journey, but I have a system in place that will help me reach my goals soon.  And I can enjoy the process because I’ve built a system that still allows me to live a good life; lots of travel, pursuing side hobbies and doing the things that make me happy when I have some free time.

I would also like to make a side note that if any of your readers have an interest in teaching abroad I am always more than happy to answer questions.  And I can help anyone that is serious about it find work teaching in Asia.

Related: Gain valuable life skills teaching ESL


That last point is especially interesting, because apparently after that last post two years ago, two of our readers ended up contacting him and Colby actually helped them find jobs doing what he’s doing! One of them is with him in Shenzen right now!

Colby, hats off to you buddy. We are so glad to hear you’re doing so well, and not only kicking ass at life, but helping other people do it too. Nothing makes us happier than when we can help someone turn their life around, and it sounds like you’re the same way too.

Colby writes on his site That Charles Life, so if you’re at all interested in teaching English in Asia as a way to become FI, check him out there.

So what do you guys/gals think? Would you be willing to travel to Asia and teach English if it meant you could retire decades sooner? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Want free money to go travelling? Check out how we get credit card and banking sign-up bonuses here!

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