Why Becoming A Teacher Was One Of The Best Things Of My Life

The Hacker @ Dagobert, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, taken on the 22nd of June 2006 with a Sony Cybershot DSC-P93 5.1 MP camera.

Reflecting on the last few months, I have to agree with my wife that being a teacher in Taiwan was one of the best things in my life. I have been a financial planner for the last four years. I have worked for myself and different companies. In this post, I will compare the two professions. Naturally, I have only been a financial planner in Canada and a full-time teacher in Taiwan, but my wife, who is a certified high-school teacher, assures me that the job that we are doing in our bilingual school is equivalent to any teaching job in Canada.

One thing is for sure; if you don’t like kids, don’t become a teacher. I always used to say that I would hate teaching. My wife has long suspected that I would make a good teacher, but I have always dismissed the idea because it would involve getting another degree. I like kids. I have a bossy way of being sometimes that works well with children. I used to be a manager before, so I am adept at handling adults. The same principles work pretty well with kids.

I am also a dog owner and I raised and trained my own dog. One of the reasons I bought my dog was to train me and my wife to be responsible for something else than ourselves. It worked out pretty well, because my dog is well trained and obeys me quite well.

I am not saying that kids are like dogs, but similar attitudes are used. Kids are a lot more complex. It is always a problem if the kids know that they can do whatever they want without consequences. That doesn’t work in my classrooms.

Perks of being a teacher

  1. Permanent job, meaning that you do not have to worry about where the next paycheck is coming from. You work full-time and earn full-time salary.
  2. Always changing. Since you are teaching kids, and kids always change, your job is everchanging. If you like this sort of thing, this is a good way of dealing with that.
  3. Making a difference. Not all kids will remember you but you do help them out in their lives and schooling. Kids will remember a good teacher. I do.
  4. Time to yourself. During the day, when you are not teaching, you have time to relax and prepare. You can do whatever you want. Maybe you have to do marking, but making time for yourself isn’t hard when you are a teacher. Teachers need that because students can be very demanding. A nice cup of coffee or tea and sitting and thinking about things is always nice.
  5. Benefits. Well, that doesn’t really mean much in Taiwan. But in Canada, most teachers have great benefits.

* * * * *

Being a financial planner is hard work. Most of the time, you will be self-employed. Just like a doctor or a lawyer, you need to develop your own practice. There are ways to shortciruit this by buying clients from older retiring planners, but this normally necessitates capital, from 20000 to 100000 CAD. But once this money is invested, you are almost assured to have a return on your investment within a few years.

If you work for a company like Industrial Alliance, Primamerica, Clarica, you are bound by aggreements with them. You can not always broker and offer the best deals to your clients. Also, you pay is lower than if you are an independent broker. However, in brokerage, payment of commissions will take some time. It could as long as a few months. I have spent as a broker almost 4 to 5 months without pay, while still making sales. If you work for such a company, your pay will be coming a lot faster. It is not unheard of to receive pay the week after making a sale.

The really bad thing about such jobs is that you do not cost anything for the company. Your pay is generated by the sales that your have. So if you don’t have any sales, you don’t have any pay. Such a job might work well for people who are motivated, but as I know, even if you are motivated, you will have ups and downs. My best year, I had over 100000$ in annualized life premiums. If I would have been a broker, I would have made more than 100000$. But when you work for a company, your paycheck is significantly reduced.

Another one of the really bad things of these types of sales jobs is that they change you. I learned how to manipulate people, how to find softpoints in their psychological make-up and find entry points for my products. Once you start doing this, you will have a hard time not doing it at home and in all of your interactions with the people you know. As much as the people who you work for insist on you trying to sell things to your acquantainces and friends, do not do so. Business and friendship rarely mix well. There is always conflict or problems that will arise of this. I have lost friendships because of my job. Not that these friendships couldn’t be repaired, but once your friend looses trust in you because he talked with another financial planner or your ex-coworkers, is the frienship really worth salvaging?

Naturally, these friends are nothing more than acquaintences. Very close friends are always hard to loose. Especially if you have known them for a number of years. As I write about this, I can give one piece of advice. Do not invest in the stock market. My best advice as a financial planner is for anybody wanting to save money, to buy a house and put all their savings into their mortgage, because every dollar you put into your mortgage, is a dollar on which you do not have to pay any interest. And try taking out a mortgage credit line instead of a traditional mortgage. That way, if you have any spare money, just dump it into the mortgage.

This works well for expats as well. We plan on buying a home in Vancouver in few years, taking a mortgage credit line out instead of a normal mortgage (like Manulife One) and putting all of our savings of each month into it. Things get even better if you have a rental property. In Canada, you do not pay any capital gains tax on your main home. If it is sold, it is tax free. It is a great way to plan your retirement and your future.

* * * * *

I still believe that Taiwan is the land of opportunity. So many jobs, so many things to check out. Life is good here and the fruits are so delicious. Do I miss what I had in Canada? Nope. I had debts, a mortgage, a job I didn’t like, a car that was too expensive and other stuff that I do not have to think about anymore. Since foreigners can not get credit, we live with our paychecks and pay everything in cash. I love that. Once our debts are paid off, which will be in a few months, we will be free to save and to enjoy our money. I have heard some foreigners say that after a while, you can not spend all of your money, you just have money left over, even if you try to spend it all. I kind of like hearing that.

Finding the right school can take a few weeks. I suggest that if you want to teach in Taiwan, you just come over with a few thousand USD. 2000 USD would be enough to help you out until you find a job. Do not try to use agencies. Agencies are bad news. Even though it seems easier, finding a teaching position in Taiwan is quite easy. Set up interviews from your home country, try setting up phone interviews, some employers will hire from afar if they receive your credentials and a photograph.

* * * * *

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21 responses to “Why Becoming A Teacher Was One Of The Best Things Of My Life”

  1. Mike Avatar

    You summarized my sentiments exactly. I worked as a pharmaceutical rep in the US, and found my values shifting in the 4 years that I did it. I found myself getting caught up in silly consumer items that never meant anything to me before. So, after saving a nice nest egg, I set of to travel the world… I am in month 9. I will be visiting relatives in Taipei in a couple of months and will be there for Chinese New Year. I have given some thought to becoming a teacher there as well. Thanks for your great comments.

  2. range Avatar

    Hello Mike and welcome to The Memoirs.

    Well, sales suck the soul out of you, especially when you are good at them. It almost broke up my marriage. I’m glad it didn’t and she stuck by me.

    I think that everybody should travel. Not forever and not all over the place, just see the world, live in another country and experience new things. It makes you feel alive!

    It makes you appreciate what you have back home. Right now, life is pretty good in Taiwan. There are job woes, but we know that we will always have jobs as teachers in Taiwan, which is great.

    My wife and I aren’t world travelers. And I have always believed that to know a place, you have to live there. We came here to work, to study, to do knew things, to learn new stuff.

    It has definitely helped me out.

    And I am happy to share it with you and others.

    Thanks for your point of view and appreciative comments as well.

  3. Mark Avatar

    Teaching is far better than I ever imagined it would be either. Out of curiosity, why do you advise against the stock market? I don’t know that much about real estate, but at the current prices, I’d be a little afraid to buy any back home (unless I were living in it).

  4. andres Avatar

    personally, i would still rather live in canada, but yes, taiwan does have more opportunities in terms of career and $$$

  5. range Avatar

    Rates of return on the stock market are never guaranteed, even if they are in mutual funds. Past results are never a guarantee for future results. Also, the load ratio is quite high, the more managed the portfolio is.

    I suggest that you consider buying real estate in the US or Canada or the place that you will call home when you retire. I do not think that the Asian market is a good investment. For example, we plan on living in Vancouver, Canada in 10 to 15 years, so we plan on buying a home or rental property there in a few years.

    The stock market is more volatile than the real estate market. Every time you make a transaction, companies and advisers take their cut. You might think that bonds are a good idea, but they are not. Most of the time, the bonds do not even mimic the yearly inflation.

    Structures notes can be interesting because they offer compound interest through complicated maneuvers and guarantee your capital, which is untrue of most stocks, bonds and etc.

    Think about it. You need a house at some point in your life. Buy it right now, and each dollar that you put into it, all of your savings, will save you daily compound interest. The rates for these mortgages are variable and last I checked about 5.75% in Canada. Rarely will you save 5.75 compound interest daily.

    And to top it off, you can take the money out of your equity at any time with these mortgages, when the need arises. I recommend against that though. The best way to go is to take out most of the equity and reinvest it into another home or rental property, that way your money is always making more money.

    Once you do this, you start creating wealth for yourself and it will take about 5-7 years before you can actually consider yourself somewhat independent. This way of doing is called the Smith Manoeuvre and enables people to pay off their mortgages within a few years, because they concentrate all of their spare money and income into the mortgages.

    Mark, you have parents or very close friends back home? Well, then buy a rental property near your parents place and rent it out. The cost of the mortgage will be largely taken care of the renters. In most cases, you will be making a few hundred dollars more a month that most people keep for upkeep and municipal taxes. Any extra money you have, after the downpayment, just push it into the mortgage and pay it off as much as you can.

    If you are shrewd, you will invest your equity safely until you can purchase another rental property. This is how the wealthy manage their money. They create debt, but good debt. Good debt is debt on which you can deduct the interest rate on your income tax. Bad debt is credit cards, car loans and all the other stuff.

  6. momina Avatar

    i want to know that why would you like to become a teacher and how is it like PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TELL ME i want to know pleasssssssssssseeeeeeeEEEsss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! reply back love you byeeeeeeee

  7. range Avatar

    Teaching is a great profession in Asia for foreigners. We make good money, almost no income tax and it is fun to be with a lot of different kids. Sure there are discipline problems in the public and private day schools, but it’s a great way to learn new skills.

    One of the best ways of making money here is to open your own school or run your own classes. A lot of owners of school retire comfortably to the Pacific.

  8. Elliott Avatar

    If you plan on being a teacher back in Canada when and if you return then you made an excellent decision for yourself. But if you plan on doing almost anything else it will be a mistake. I have known hundreds of people that returned home and found themselves in the same situation as when they left years before. Maybe it will be different for you.

    You need to remember to that if you work for a legitimate school and organization you do pay taxes. Much lower than Canada obviously and you do get benefits like CNY bonuses and paid vacations. If you aren’t paying taxes you are working illegally which isn’t that a big a deal but I have known many people who have been caught and deported. It seemes to go in waves depending on the gov’t.

    You are correct that running your own classes is a great way to make money. Good luck opening a school though. I did and did fairly well but I am married to a Tawianese. I have never seen a legal foreign run buxiban or business where the foreigner isn’t married to a local. T

  9. range Avatar

    Most probably I will be a teacher back in Canada when I return. I do work for a legitimate school, but all grade school and junior high school teachers are exempt from income tax, in Hsinchu that is. I have seen a document from the city verifying this. When I move to Taipei, I will be paying 13% income tax, I believe.

    I know what you mean about the schools. Most foreign owners that I have met are married to a Taiwanese. But I think that I have read a few things about this on forumosa, though I am unsure and since this is a few years in the future, it doesn’t bother me that much.

  10. Elliott Avatar

    BTW: I f you ever make it to Taizhong send me an e-mail and we can go for a beer. Cheers.

  11. range Avatar

    Sure mate, I just moved from Hsinchu to Taipei. And I have a lot more free time.

    (said goodbye to the day school and started working for a small foreigned owned school)

  12. Toni Avatar

    I found this blog while I was searching for reasons to become a teacher. I found it very helpful, thanks.

  13. range Avatar

    Thanks! I’m still a teacher and I still like it!

  14. Lisa Avatar

    I also found this blog when searching for reasons to become a teacher, and really enjoyed your point of view. I have a degree in public relations and a love of photography. For the past few years my ultimate goal has been to start a photo business and make a living doing that. I’m a pretty motivated person, but for some reason I just couldn’t put my all into starting up a business. Something was wrong. I think it is because I love photography, and having to earn a living at it would ruin what I love. I like photographing for myself, not to please others. And that’s not the kind of attitude I should have if I were to start a business.

    And I finally realized I would love to teach art including photography. And so I’m headed back to school in a few weeks to start a degree in Education.

    Thanks for your words on teaching!

  15. […] A blogger shares his thoughts upon his mid life career change, and all the good things about being surrounded by children all day! Range tells you Why Becoming A Teacher was one of the best things in his life. […]

  16. Charmaine Avatar

    what’s wrong w/ working as a financial advisor?
    I’m thinking of becoming one but don’t know if the job is worth it.

    I think one has to be a native speaker to teach English in foreign country. Can a nonnative speaker do the same thing? thanks

  17. range Avatar

    Hi Charmaine,
    Not everyone is like this and not a lot of people will tell you the truth about being a financial adviser, but it involves a lot of lying. If this makes you uncomfortable, then it’s not your job. That doesn’t mean that all advisers lie. Still, it’s a fact that I know after having spent 4 years in the field.

    In order to teach ESL in other countries, you only need to speak English and have a degree. This is for Taiwan. Some other countries are more strict, but Asia is pretty easy.

    As for nonnative speakers, it depends if you are fluent, as in bilingual, trilingual or polylingual. This means that you are fluent enough that you don’t have a discernible accent from your native tongue in English. If that is the case, it’s fine.

    I’ve known quite a few teachers here and one was from Russia. He wasn’t a native speaker and he was fluent like a native speaker, but he was a teacher here nonetheless.

  18. Sashaank Mamidana Avatar
    Sashaank Mamidana


    I have some queries regarding becoming a teacher.. It would be really helpful of you if you can give me your email id. My mail id is sashaank.mamidana@gmail.com.

    1. range Avatar

      You check the contact info for my email. djrange at gmail dot com. Cheers.

  19. Trevor Avatar

    I’ve been teaching for the past 8 years in Korea, for the past three years at the University level. My wife and I are thinking of making the move to Canada sometime soon. I’m weighing what I’ll do back home, get the Bachelor of Education and teach high school in back home is one option.

    I’m interested in the advice you gave about buying real estate as investment property as we were considering that. We were a bit worried about problems happening with a property living so far away, like the heater tanks or something. Anyway, figure between my Korean pension which I can cash in if I move home and what my wife has saved we’ll have roughly $60-70 grand, but going back to school will cost if I don’t work.

    Wondering if it’s still better to try to get the mortgage credit line before going back to study and spending cash since I’d have a bigger downpayment then or waiting till I get certified which would be an extra year or two and start working. Might not even qualify for a mortgage if I’m not working even if I’ve got a downpayment ready. That’s why the thought crossed my mind of taking one more two year contract here and applying for a mortgage back in Canada while I’m still employed and renting it out, something like a duplex. If I did that I couldn’t get my 15 grand or so pension till I left, and the other 40 grand is tied up in our apartment and stuff here. To do the stay here but invest in Canada thing we’d have to get rid of our nice big apartment and get our 40 grand our of deposit and take a very small place supplied by the university and sell furniture / send some stuff back to Canada. Being kind of strange going back to living in a small one room studio type place after being used to a huge three bedroom apartment, but perhaps a livable temporary situation if it helps make a better future.

    Of course not %100 sure which province I’d work in, so that’s another thing to consider. All in all it’s a hard decision, or at least a big one. Oh, and my wife might not come back immediately to Canada, might spend some quality time with her family before moving and start the process of applying for permanent residence for her. That apparently takes about 6 months to be processed. This might be kind of hard, but hell military people do that kind of thing for work, and it would be a one time thing. I could either live with my parents while I study if I do in in my hometown, or a small cheap one room in another town if I study somewhere else. This is a very recent decision. Found out two weeks ago was losing my job due to downsizing, and a change in regulations that made me not qualified since I hadn’t had two years uni level work before this contract (only had one). We were planning on more like 3-5 years more here, but this kind of made me decide perhaps it’s better to go home and try to build a new career before I’m too old rather than finding another job over here. I’ll be 40 next year : )

    Then to make things weird, after pretty much deciding to go home, I’m told last week, that they reconsidered, or the restrictions were relaxed, and that my 3 years teaching public high school here would qualify me. Well, I’d already made the emotional jump to I’m going home.

    Anyway, I’m getting quite rambly. Just wanted to say, I enjoyed your post, and gave me food for thought.

    1. range Avatar

      Our long-term plan has changed significantly since this post was published. My wife moved to the US to pursue a PhD in Education in Illinois. We bought a duplex there and until I arrive next year, she’s got a roommate. The house was pretty cheap, a fixer upper, but in a university town. We qualified for a mortgage because of a large downpayment (30%) and the income the duplex generates.

      I’m currently finishing a Masters in Pure Mathematics here in Taiwan. When I move to the US, I’ll be pursuing a PhD in mathematics. I went back as a student in 2008-2009. It wasn’t easy. It’s a lot better when you’re a grad student.

      Personally, I’d stay away from single-family homes. They are more of a gamble than duplexes or triplexes. The big thing is also choosing the right city.

      When you leave, I’d suggest cashing everything out and buying a multi-family home. I wouldn’t buy remotely, as they can be things that you’d want to see for yourself. Even then, we’ve had problems with our house. The roof needed to be changed, and other things that were unforeseen, even after a house inspection.

      If I teach, it will be at the university level. I’m interested in researching mathematics.


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