It’s great to be back with a new Educator on FIOR interview. In this series I get a chance to share real stories of real educators taking control of their finances.
It’s been TOO LONG since I ran one of these. These interviews are one of my favorite things to share on the site.
So, I’m thrilled to jump back into the series with Shaun Morgan of Simply Know Money. Shaun is on the list of 25+ Educators Writing About Personal Finance. I hope you enjoy this interview and then pop over to check out his content too!
I keep my intros to these light, so we can right in. Enjoy!
Tell us about you.
My name is Shaun Morgan, I am a 27 year old who is married with two young boys. I have been teaching for 5 years now, 1 in Utah, 2 in Colorado, and 2 in Texas (I move a lot). I currently work as an academic interventionist through Title 1 funds available at my school. But I had spent 3 years in the classroom as a Social Studies teacher before moving into this role.
I have only ever taught in a Middle School. I realize that people put Middle School teachers up on a saintly pedestal, but seriously, the pressure is so much less in a Middle School setting compared to High School. It is way worth it.
On the financial side, I have been exploring FI for 4 ish years now. I discovered it right after buying the biggest house I could afford and getting a car payment as well as financing a home improvement project. Between those things it has been a slog to get to a place where I could start aggressively saving, especially since I am the sole breadwinner for my family.
Today, I am finally heading in the right direction with investments generating income that makes an impact on my life, but it took a while to get here.
What do/did you like most about working in education?
The thing I like most about working in education is the flexibility to create side income. Don’t get me wrong, helping students achieve at high levels is great, but the flexibility I have during summer and built-in breaks is really important to my overall financial and mental wellbeing.
In fact, I consider it to be kind of a superpower that teachers have. To be given time off without a decrease in income (yes, we aren’t paid well even considering the time off we have) is something that too many teachers underestimate or throw away on low paying jobs which probably cost more in childcare to do than you’re bringing in.
What do/did you like least?
The thing I like least about education is having to discipline children. I never walk away from disciplinary action due to a student’s misbehavior feeling better about myself. Mostly I’m just upset that they are throwing away their education by misbehaving. It is just a depressing feeling whenever I have to do it.
What is your Why of Financial Independence?
For me, I want to be able to spend more time with my family and eventually spend time giving back through my community and in religious service. Having the means to be able to do that full time while I’m still young and have the energy to do so will be incredibly worthwhile.
My wife wants to homeschool our young kids and I already feel like I’ve missed so much of their lives. So, the sooner I can become FI the sooner I can enjoy being with them, learning with them, and growing with them like she gets to do.
- FI Curious – Just learning and becoming interested in financial independence
- Future FI – On the path, but still learning. Destined for financial independence!
- FI Success – Financially independent!
I am Future FI. There is nothing that will stop me from becoming FI in the future, but I am definitely in the slog period. If you are in the slog period too, don’t give up! It isn’t fun, but neither is being in debt, experiencing burnout and working anyway, or retiring on only social security. It is worth it!
Share any financial numbers you are comfortable sharing.
At the moment, I bring in around $43,500 a year gross from my teaching income (which is substantially higher than it used to be). I also do notary work that brings in around $10,000 a year. I sell fireworks during the summer that has brought in an average of $7,000 per year. And I do various other things as well.
Basically, I’m doing what I can to ramp up my income to start investing.
As for investments, I believe adamantly that if a teacher wants to experience early financial freedom, the fastest way to do it is real estate. Real estate is able to bring in cash, grow in value over time, and it uses the power of leverage to your advantage. Without real estate, I would still be very behind on my financial journey.
I spent all of my “stimulus money” from COVID, as well as other disposable income, on real estate because I was fortunate enough as a teacher to keep my job during the pandemic. What I spent it on was building a tiny house on my land in Texas. That tiny house cost just over $20,000 is now listed on Airbnb and brings in about $600 every month which is almost equal to my mortgage.
I am currently working on fixing up another property to either rent or sell. If I sell it, I could get half of my teacher salary for a year in one sale. This is especially crazy because it only took 3 months of very part time work to do since I’m using a contractor. There is power in real estate.
Currently my net worth is very low because I am holding debt on my real estate property and the value of that property isn’t high enough yet to balance it out. But I would estimate that by the end of the year my net worth will be between $70,000 and $90,000 considering the equity in that property. It is hard to tell what my net worth is too because the amount of value the tiny house added to my property is unsure.
Tell us about your path to FI.
What are your successes/wins?
My biggest success on the path to FI has been taking myself from losing money every month to bringing in money every month by being conscious with my spending, tracking my spending, and increasing my income. Nothing else I’ve done would be possible without tracking my spending.
What are your challenges?
My biggest challenge is keeping money in my reserve fund. Every time an investment pops up I want to put all of my money into it. I justify it because, as a teacher, I have a very stable job. But I don’t recommend it! You should always keep a well-stocked emergency fund and only ever use it for real emergencies. My overzealous investing has gotten me into trouble. Don’t run faster than you have strength.
What is your long-term goal? Do you have a FI target?
My long-term goal is to be able to quit teaching in a traditional school setting to spend more time with my family. I do, however, want to stay involved in education, but mostly I want to focus on educating educators about money. I believe that one of the biggest problems in education (that educators actually have control over) is burned out teachers who only work for the paycheck.
If teachers could be empowered with their finances, they could retire when they are ready to stop teaching. I have seen countless teachers who know that they aren’t serving their students anymore, but they keep teaching because they need just one more year to retire. This hurts our students.
If I can help teachers prepare for early retirement, they can then choose to work as long as they’d like, and I think that would greatly improve teacher quality. Also, not having financial worries would improve teacher retention rate—even without increasing incomes dramatically.
As for a FI target, I want $4,000 a month in after tax cash flow. That will cover all of my expenses and allow me to pivot into whatever role I feel would be most beneficial to my community.
If you become financially independent will you:
- Retire early?
- Continue to work in education? (How/why?)
- Do something different?
I will retire early, but by that I mean do something different, such as teaching teachers about money and spending more time with my kids. Once my kids are grown I will also do more religious service, hopefully abroad. I think these are two ways that I can give back most effectively.
(Ed note: Answers like this are exactly why I changed the name of this series to Educators on FIOR – almost all our interviewees say they’ll retire but continue working in education in some form!)
Tell us about a short-term goal you’re working towards.
My current short-term goal is to get two rental properties in the next year. I am currently working on one, but I might sell it to get the capital I need to get two more. The faster I grow my rental portfolio, the faster I will reach my FI number.
My other short-term goal is to build a community of teachers who need support around getting out of debt, saving and investing, and growing their income. I want to start getting my life goals done now and not wait until I’ve reached FI.
Who/what inspires you?
My wife inspires me. She stays home with our two young kids all day, and sometimes all evening too while I’m working towards my goals. Young kids are tough to deal with and she does a great job. I appreciate how supportive she is of what I want to do.
I am also inspired by teachers who sacrifice everything to help kids. That’s what makes me want to help them in return because if those selfless teachers are better off financially they will only continue to make a larger impact on the world.
What’s something you want to say to other educators about financial independence?
Wherever you are in your career, start pursuing FI. Even if you love your job now and can’t imagine life without teaching, having a strong financial footing will make your quality of life that much better. It will let you teach more freely without caring about a low salary, and it will let you step away from teaching if you ever become burned out. That’s why I like the term FIOR. It gives you options, and that is something that every person deserves to have.
Is there anything you’d like to get feedback on from the community?
I would love some diverse feedback from teachers about what they are struggling with on a day to day basis when it comes to money. Do you think mindset is a big problem? Controlling spending? Dealing with student debt? What do you feel like the number one money pain point is for teachers. Thanks!
Where can readers reach you if they want to connect?
I can be found at www.simplyknowmoney.com and @simplyknowmoney on Instagram and Tiktok. I post the same video to both feeds, so you can follow me one whichever you prefer. I’m also @simplyknowmoney on twitter, but I’m not super active there.
If you have a specific question for me, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you or help out in any way that I can.
Shaun is a great example of teachers using their advantages and getting started early, despite modest starting incomes. I can’t wait to follow his journey and see him reach his goals. I sure wish I’d had the same information and drive in my 20s!
Don’t forget to check out more about Shaun on Simply Know Money.
And please, if you work in education and want to share your story – reach out to me. I’d love to share more stories. For other examples, check out the whole series, which includes support staff, teachers, counselors, and administrators among others.