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  • Writer's pictureJ. Mallais

How I achieved FIRE at 49

You may have heard of FIRE: Financially Independent and Retire Early. For me, it started with becoming debt-free in my late 20s, while teaching abroad, earning a tax-free salary, and paying off all my student loans and debts back home.

Being a teacher overseas, I knew the following financial facts:

1) I could no longer contribute to my Teachers' Pension Plan back home, nor depend on it after only 3 years of contributions, thus making my retirement plan a big question mark;

2) But, thanks to my international teaching contract, a lot of my living expenses were paid for (see this article I wrote about the Top 10 Benefits of an International Teaching package for more information); and

3) I knew I needed to purposely and proactively put aside money for my retirement.

So the question became where do I sock away my savings to allow them to grow to a healthy amount for when I wanted to stop teaching and retire in a low-cost country? I had heard about the importance of diversifying my investment portfolio, using compounded interest to my advantage by making consistent contributions, and that there was a big difference between the cost of having managed mutual funds and purchasing ETFs. But I was no expert on any of this whatsoever. Fortunately, I learned of two people who were.

Let me introduce them:

Andrew Hallam is a personal finance journalist and the author of the international bestseller Millionaire Teacher, who more recently wrote Millionaire Expat and Balance. A fellow Canadian and former international teacher, Andrew now travels the world with his wife Pele, speaking at international schools and investment conferences on how to save and invest money for your future. He also has a popular Facebook group with over 11,000 members, dedicated to expats and international school educators who need financial advice. Andrew’s common-sense approach spoke directly to me the two times I got to hear him speak in the Middle East back in 2017, and I credit him with starting me on this money-saving journey to financial freedom.

Mark Zoril is the founder of PlanVision, a financial planner & adviser based in the USA, but has expat clients from all over the world. His affordable fees, accessibility, and concise yet thorough advice has kept me a client for the last six years, and allowed me to grow my online investments to the point where I could financially sponsor myself for residence here in Mexico. His clients have access to his services, a wealth of informative videos, and most importantly his encouragement to make regular investments - over these last 6 years, every now and then I’d get a quick email from Mark, reminding me if I hadn’t made an investment recently. This was the personal touch that I needed to help me invest some of those tax-free salaries I was earning over the years.

PlanVision also has a Podcast where Mark offers snippets of financial advice in easy-to-understand language. In one of his episodes, he makes recommendations for a number of books, a blog, and a YouTube channel, all to learn more about investing. Here’s his list from that episode in May 2022, if you care to learn more about where to invest your savings:

  • Any book by Andrew Hallam, including Balance: How to Invest and Spend for Happiness, Health, and Wealth

  • Any book by John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, including The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns (Little Books. Big Profits)

  • JL Collins’ book - The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life

  • Larry Swedroe’s book - The Quest for Alpha: The Holy Grail of Investing

  • Mike Piper’s blog - The Oblivious Investor

  • Rob Berger’s YouTube channel

It’s my hope that you may learn from these well-respected, financial experts and start saving for your future as well. Despite living a frugal life throughout my tax-free-salary-earning years, I came to online investing quite late in my career.

Fortunately I learned: it’s never too late to start saving.

Interested in how you too could earn a tax-free salary while teaching and exploring the world? Or are you already overseas and thinking of recruiting this school year for a new teaching or school leadership position? Either way, this is a great time to get me working for you, helping you get prepared for when new jobs are posted this fall. As well as improving and creating a new CV and cover letter for you, I'll meet with you in a video-call to help with your job search. I am in your corner and with you every step of the way. Take a look at how I can help you:

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