The Educator on FI/RE series features stories of educators from a variety of roles, all along the career spectrum, who are interested in taking charge of their finances. The stories range from those just starting out on a debt paydown journey, to others who have already reached financial independence.
Each one provides valuable insight and shows how we can make progress while still working in the career we love.
Today, I’m thrilled to feature the story of an early-career teacher who is taking charge of her finances from the start! She’s already debt free and starting to build wealth. I wish I’d had the knowledge and focus she does when I’d started out.
Learn about her story below, then make sure to check out her blog at Wrachel Writes (now called Teachers Talk Money.)
Tell us about you.
My name is Rachel Scott and I’m a high school English teacher in Maryland. I blog (mostly about personal finance and minimalism) at wrachelwrites.com. I’m passionate about learning and self improvement, and lately that passion has been focused toward becoming a more effective educator and building wealth.
What do/did you like most about working in education? What do/did you like least?
What I love most about teaching is watching my students grow as writers and as people, especially seeing them gain confidence and work hard.
As a field, education gives me the opportunity to continue my own learning and professional development outside of the classroom. I also LOVE that I have my summers, either to focus on other interests, take a mini-retirement, or make money in addition to my salary.
On the other hand, what I like least about my profession is that there are times when the work really piles up, and it’s not always work I can feel passionate about. For example, I am really really not passionate about grading essays. 🙂
What is your Why of Financial Independence? (Why are you learning about or seeking FI?)
I grew up house-poor with parents who were deeply in debt and made poor financial choices. My father lost his job when I was 14 and we ended up deeply below the poverty line, with six children, surviving only on welfare. Even when my parents started their small businesses and began making money years later, I never felt financially secure. We still relied on welfare for health care, and I specifically relied on the government to pay for most of my higher education. The rest of my college expenses were my own, and so I worked full-time every summer and had two part-time jobs during the school year. While it was undeniably tough to cover my rent, tuition, food, etc., I still felt blessed to be able to make my own money and, more importantly, have control over my own financial decisions. Coming from simply making ends meet, my current “low” teacher salary makes me feel incredibly wealthy. For that reason, I feel a huge responsibility and drive to become financially independent– to never end up like my parents did, and to capitalize on the gratitude I feel for my current wealth.
- 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 would consider myself somewhere between FI Curious and Future FI. My focus, for so long, was simply getting out of debt. Now that I’m completely debt free, I’ve bounced around on different FI and retirement calculators, but I haven’t dug deep enough to determine my numbers for myself. That being said, I’m laser focused on raising my income, saving, and investing. So while I don’t have a plan yet, I’ll soon make sure it’s inevitable.
Share any financial numbers you are comfortable sharing:
My income is $49,000 (this year, it will technically be $52,000 including my summer job). Next year, I’ll be taking on a stipend position that will increase my salary to $52,000
I just published my net worth at the end of April!
Tell us about your path to FI.
What are your successes/wins?
Becoming debt free was my biggest win. I paid off $11,500 during my first year teaching. Now, I’ll be finished building my Emergency Fund by the end of the summer. I have the ability to cash flow some travel now, too, which has felt amazing.
What are your challenges?
Right now I’m dealing with resisting lifestyle inflation. The biggest change that I’m 99% sure I’ll be making is moving to a more expensive apartment in July or August. I’m going to move into the city and split rent with only my boyfriend (in comparison to living outside the city and splitting with my two roommates). It’s tough for me to justify forking over so much extra cash each month, but with my increased salary and being debt free, it’s not the end of the world. It will, however, tighten my budget and slow down my FI progress.
What is your long-term goal? Do you have a FI target?
I actually don’t know my long-term goal, other than give myself freedom to develop and achieve one. I don’t yet have an FI target, either.
If you become financially independent will you:
- Retire early?
- Continue to work in education? (How/why?)
- Do something different?
If I become financially independent, I believe I will continue working in education. I would like to be able to retire before 50, but that’s just the idea I have floating around in my head right now– I am open to career changes or working past 50. Having freedom to make these choices is what I’m primarily seeking.
Tell us about a short-term goal you’re working towards.
I’ve been slowly putting aside money to replace my car, something I’ve been saving for even while I was becoming debt free. I currently drive a 2000 Toyota Camry that’s about to hit 150,000 miles. I’m planning to drive it to it’s grave, but trying to build up cash to pay for my next vehicle, which will likely be another used Camry, but at least 10 years newer and with fewer miles on it 🙂
Who/what inspires you?
I am most inspired by people who find gratitude in their situations and people who don’t care as much about comparing themselves to others as I sometimes do. For daily learning, I like to listen to podcasts or watch videos by people who practice extreme self-discipline. I especially love the Tim Ferriss Show, The Minimalists Podcast, and The School of Greatness.
What’s something you want to say to other educators about financial independence?
I want all of my fellow educators to know that it’s possible for us, especially new educators like myself. I know a lot of first-year teachers who feel like they’re drowning in debt or who live paycheck to paycheck, and I would like them to know that sacrifices in the short term can change the course of your financial health in the long term.
Is there anything you’d like to get feedback on from the community?
I would like advice on sources for determining my FI numbers. I’ve used a few calculators, but I seem to get wildly different results. I would also love to hear from educators living in high rent areas on how to manage pursuing FI while paying a lot in rent.
Where can readers reach you if they want to connect?
Read my blog at wrachelwrites.com
Connect with me on Twitter @wrachelwrites
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, Rachel. It’s great to see where you are so early in your career. Good luck with the fight against lifestyle inflation – I suspect you’ll win that battle. But, it’s okay to spend a little more as your teacher salary continues to rise!
Readers, if you have a FI target please share your favorite resource with Rachel.
And, don’t forget to check her out over at Wrachel Writes.
The previous entry in our Educator on FI/RE series tells the story of an immigrant raising a family on an educator salary: Educator on FI/RE 14: Small Budget Retirement. Check it out if you missed it.
Diana E Sung says
Thanks for highlighting one of my favorite new English-teacher-bloggers! Congrats again on your debt free hard work. You are setting yourself up so well for the future.
one cup of rice says
Congratulations on becoming debt free!
My family was also house-poor so I totally relate to the feeling of wealth a “low” teaching salary provides.
For my FI number, I use 25 x monthly expenses for the 4% rule. I figure I’ll adjust once I’m actually close to being FI haha.
I lived in London for 2 years and the rent ate 1/3 of my take-home pay. What worked for me was buying a bike and using Google maps to find a bikeable commute from home to school. This doubled as exercise so I didn’t need to pay gym fees. However, it might not work for you depending on where you live and if you’re close to other amenities. I think you’re already on the right track splitting rent with your boyfriend instead of getting a place for yourself! I also looked up all the free entertainment options near me like free museum nights, farmer’s markets, etc. and frequently invited people over for potlucks instead of going out. Get off social media as well! When I saw all the fun stuff other people are doing I feel more pressured to inflate my lifestyle as well – but I can’t be jealous of something I don’t know about 😉
Hope this helps!