This is my 30th interview with educators taking charge of their financial lives. You can build wealth while doing work that matters, and they are the proof! I’d love to share more, so please drop me a line if you’re willing to share your story.
Today’s interview features an educator on the verge of a career transition at a pivotal point in his life. He’s got a plan, and I look forward to seeing how it all works out! Take it away, Gerald.
(Note: Gerald submitted this in mid-March and didn’t mention anything about the Covid-19 situation in his state. At the time of publication most states have closed schools.)
Tell us about you.
Hello. I’m Gerald, a 34 year old, recently divorced, teacher who is about to become a school principal. The last three years have been tough in a lot of ways. My wife of 8 years and I divorced last year for a lot of reasons I won’t go into. We sold all of our shared assets and split the money that was left. After paying off our shared debts, I got just enough to pay off the last of my student loans.
I’m 34 now and starting from scratch. But, I’m debt free, at a good point in my career, and know what I want. It isn’t a perfect situation but being debt-free at 34 is okay.
What do/did you like most about working in education?
I’m one of those annoying people that has always wanted to be a teacher. My third grade teacher, Ms. Guttierez, really changed my life. I couldn’t read and was acting out in school because of it. She helped me unlock reading and kept the other kids from bullying me. I went from hating school to loving it.
I try to be that teacher for every one of my kids. I think most teachers teach because school was easy for them and they always loved it. Remembering how I struggled helps me have patience and keeps me from ever thinking any kid wants to be bad.
What do/did you like least?
I’m lucky and like everything about my job. I give all of my time to it and volunteer to teach after-school, coach, and serve as the teacher representative on the PTA.
I guess I should say that all the time it takes isn’t good for everyone. One of the reasons my wife and I didn’t work out is she felt she came second to my career. It’s not the only problem we had, but I understand her perspective.
What is your Why of Financial Independence? (Why are you learning about or seeking FI?)
I’ve got the opportunity to do it right from the start now. I’ve been in education for 12 years and have nothing to show for it. Money was a real stress in my 20s. We bought a big house, expensive cars, and threw parties. It seemed like what we were supposed to do.
I want to be more purposeful from here. I want to do it right and make my money choices intentionally.
- 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 think I’m probably mostly FI Curious. I found this site while Googling for interview questions for a principal job. I’ve read about 50 posts but there is still so much to learn!
Related Post: How to Craft a Principal Resume
Share any financial numbers you are comfortable sharing:
My numbers right now are pretty simple. I have 0 debt, and 0 assets. I’m renting an apartment for $900 a month.
I’m making just over $56,000 from my job teaching 6th-grade this year and will earn about $3500 from extra duty.
The biggest news is I just accepted a school principal job for next year at another school in my district. I’ll have to work 35 more days a year, but my salary will go up to $101,500.
Tell us about your path to FI.
I graduated college with about $30,000 in debt. I got married at 25 and we bought new cars and a house. We accumulated almost $20,000 in credit card debt and didn’t save anything. It didn’t work out, but our house sold for enough that we wiped out the debt.
I consider now a first-step on the path to financial independence. I have a new job that will pay me a lot more and no debt. My car still runs fine. My expenses are low, so I plan to start investing all of the new income. I think I can maybe save $45,000 a year.
This year I invested in a Roth IRA with Fidelity for the very first time. Now that I know about 403b and 457 I hope to max those all out next year.
What are your successes/wins?
Being debt free and having a new higher income. I feel really lucky to be making six figures doing something I enjoy.
What are your challenges?
I guess just starting all over at 34. I don’t mind the apartment, but I hope to find someone right and get married again someday. Not now – too soon!
I still need to decide if I want to buy a house again or rent. It seems weird to me to rent for the rest of my life but I know people argue it’s better.
There is still a lot I don’t understand about finances. If I do find someone, they’ll need to be on the same page financially.
What is your long-term goal? Do you have a FI target?
My expenses right now are just over $30,000 a year. I know the rule of 25 says I’d need only $750,000 saved to be financially independent. That sounds too low. I’d like to have about twice to feel secure and have choices.
It’s not a hard goal, but for now I’m working to have $1.5 million.
If you become financially independent will you:
- Retire early?
- Continue to work in education? (How/why?)
- Do something different?
I honestly can’t see retiring early. I think I’ll like being a principal but if I don’t I’d go back to teaching. I know I like that. I also enjoy coaching kids and working with student groups. Maybe when I do retire I’ll volunteer doing those things.
Tell us about a short-term goal you’re working towards.
Right now, I’m working on getting an emergency fund saved up. I have about one month of expenses saved up. My plan is to get three saved up and then start investing. I should have used my $6000 Roth IRA for that but I wanted to get something invested. I spent too long doing nothing.
My short-term goal is $5000 more in an emergency fund.
Who/what inspires you?
I saved this instead of revealing it earlier just for this question: Ms. Guittierez inspires me. I teach in the same building as her right now. I almost didn’t take the principal job because it means leaving this building. We’ll stay in touch though and she is probably retiring soon and wouldn’t be in the building anyway.
She helped me as a kid and we stayed in touch throughout high school. My first two years of teaching I taught somewhere else but then got a job here. It was the best thing I ever did. We’ve changed principals three times and it hasn’t mattered because she’s the leader. I love how she brings passion and realness every day. She doesn’t put up with any of us giving less than the best.
I see so many people get disillusioned with their heroes when they meet them or after learning they aren’t real. Mine just got better the longer I was around her.
What’s something you want to say to other educators about financial independence?
I’m so new, I don’t think I have anything to say about it yet. It just makes sense and I wish we all thought more about our money this way.
Is there anything you’d like to get feedback on from the community?
I’m really interested in the house debate. I understand the money part of it, but owning a house seems like roots in a community. For people that rent how do you feel grounded?
What a story, Gerald! You’ve faced some major life changes recently. Starting out fresh at 34 isn’t easy, but being debt free and having a new income will make a big difference! Congratulations on becoming a school principal. I hope you love the work. You’ve got a great financial plan, and I can’t wait to hear how it all turns out.