How We Saved $100k in 2 Years on Teacher Salaries (2023)

In 2012, a year before taking my first “real job” as a public school teacher, my heart and mind were focused on earning a Ph.D. in particle physics from the University of California, Irvine. As I worked toward that goal, I found that the most fun part of the experience was teaching undergrads, not learning more physics. Burned out from my own coursework, an email in my inbox caught my eye: The University of Central Florida was offering a free master’s degree in science education to STEM majors who would agree to teach at a local high school for at least a year while enrolled in the program.

How We Saved $100k in 2 Years on Teacher Salaries (1)

Making a full-time salary doing something I already knew I liked while earning a master’s degree along the way sounded like a good deal, but I also experienced guilt about the idea of giving up on my Ph.D. Ultimately, my heart wasn’t in it any more though, so after a healthy amount of emotional conflict and arguing with my dad on the phone, I finally enrolled at UCF, and Lauren and I moved across the country — again.

Right around my 23rd birthday, I eagerly accepted a full-time job as a high school physics teacher at a public school near Orlando, Florida. This might not sound like the beginning of a financial success story, but strangely enough, it was the moment our wealth first began to experience explosive growth. Two years later, we would be over $100,000 richer.

Making the Most of Mediocre Salaries

My starting salary was $38,500 per year — not exactly a titanic income. Nevertheless, it was more than either of us had ever made before, and it honestly kinda felt like a lottery jackpot to a couple of recent college graduates.

Meanwhile, Lauren took a job doing marketing for a small financial firm and negotiated a salary just a little lower than my glamorous public school job, so it was official: We were real adults.

How We Saved $100k in 2 Years on Teacher Salaries (2)

Aside from earning money at our full-time jobs, we found ways to supplement our income. By running a photography business as a side gig, we were able to bring in another $5-10k per year just shooting a wedding or portrait session once every couple of months. Lauren continued to manage the social media accounts of the company she left back in California, and I also bought and sold stuff on eBay and tutored a couple of college physics students here and there. Our jobs were still our main source of cash, but these little things did add up.

Since my short graduate program at UCF ended before my second year of teaching began, I was able to get a $4,000 annual pay bump in year two of teaching for having a master’s degree, bringing my salary to $42,500 per year. In addition to that, I had been participating in the Florida Retirement System’s investment plan (similar to a 401k), so I squeezed another few percent out of my salary via employer contribution matching.

While we put in significant effort to earn most of our money, we also cashed in on a couple thousand dollars of very easy money via credit card sign-up bonuses during this time. There are dozens of these offers out there. For example, when you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and meet the initial spending requirement, you earn a gigantic cash bonus. After collecting your bonus and paying the (much smaller) annual fee once, you can just cancel the card. It’s a pretty effortless way to make several hundred dollars, and if you use our link to sign up, you’ll be supporting charity.

Before leaving California in the first place, we made our very first investments into stocks and bonds. Over the course of the two years we spent in Orlando, those investments grew, and we added to them regularly. While we didn’t have some huge portfolio, an upward-trending stock market definitely helped out — to the tune of over $10k across both years combined.

The Magic of a Lean Household

Hustling to make more money is great, but the only thing that matters in the long run is how much of it you keep. That’s why we highly recommend diligently tracking your net worth every month to check your progress.

The biggest boon to our success during this period of our lives (and beyond) was learning to make a happy life on less money. Luckily for us, living just about anywhere would be a reduction in expenses compared to graduate school in Orange County, California, but we were still very deliberate about choosing housing that put more back in our pockets, and when we furnished our new one-bedroom apartment, we did it almost exclusively with IKEA sale items.

How We Saved $100k in 2 Years on Teacher Salaries (3)

We continued to share one used Honda Civic (valued around $3-4k at the time) between the two of us. I chose to work at a school within biking distance of home, so my daily commute cost me nothing but calories. We never paid for cable TV.

And, as always, we bought food and household supplies at Walmart and Costco, rarely visiting traditional grocery stores like Florida’s darling, Publix, where food can cost anywhere from 10% to 100% more per unit (though we did take advantage of the occasional BOGO sale there). We also ate out sparingly, mostly at fast casual places rather than sit-down restaurants.

Regardless of my modest salary, one great thing about teaching public school is that it typically comes with an excellent health insurance plan. Our healthcare costs were very close to zero during this period of our lives (which isn’t something I can say any more, unfortunately).

Altogether, our annual budget for two was around $22,000 total (including rent and everything!), meaning we didn’t even need to spend one person’s salary to pay for all of our combined expenses. Every dollar beyond that was invested.

A Foundation that Changed Our Lives

From June 2013 to June 2015, our net worth increased by $106,407 (to a total of $153k, including prior savings). By that time, we were recently married, and that cushion of cash gave us the confidence we needed to take a 6-month honeymoon in Hawaii, something we never would have dreamed of without it. Because we were able to engineer that honeymoon to cost us nothing, we came back to Florida again afterward with enough money to buy our home in cash.

Sometimes I think about what our lives might be like if we had spent those two years in Orlando living just within our means, getting by but only saving 0-10% of our incomes. I think the most likely case is that we’d have missed out on six months of fun in Hawaii, and we’d both still be at those same jobs, because we wouldn’t have had the courage to leave.

Taking the break we did actually forced us to job hop, which ended up significantly increasing our incomes afterward. Also, if we hadn’t saved that $100k, we wouldn’t have been able to tap it to pay for our house, so we’d either be paying rent or making mortgage payments to this day. It’s pretty amazing to think about how much those two years propelled us into a completely different timeline.

Some Footnotes

The elephant in the room (which I think would naturally be in the back of anyone’s mind) is that this story only ended the way it did because we graduated from college completely debt-free. Rather than gloss over that fact, I’d rather be completely transparent about it and think about how things might be different for others.

If you’re wondering how we did that in the first place, we both had Florida Bright Futures scholarships to help with tuition. The remainder of my undergraduate tuition and living expenses were paid for by my parents (admittedly not an impressive story at all), while Lauren paid her own way, mostly by waitressing at Chili’s while tackling a full load of coursework (very impressive; she is way more of a badass than I am).

How We Saved $100k in 2 Years on Teacher Salaries (4)

We’ll be the first to admit that not every college graduate has that same advantage out of the gate, but we also want to really encourage you to think hard about this story even if you carry a lot of debt. Consider that even if we had graduated with no assets and $100k in combined student loan debt, we could be completely debt-free in about two years by living the same lifestyle and just paying down debt rather than investing. That’s pretty empowering.

Another thing to consider is that we were able to work together as a team, but this strategy can be adapted for a single person too (for example, by finding a roommate or two to split costs with). It should also be noted that if you can score a salary significantly higher than my $38k starting pay (while keeping expenses low), you’ll be able to blaze through even faster! Truthfully, these two years were actually the slowest saving years of our full-time careers, since we were able to earn more later.

Anyway, comparing yourself against others is others is a total waste of time and energy. We’re just telling our story to make you think and give you one perspective to consider. There are a million other ways to success (and a million successes much greater than ours).

We hope our story can have a positive impact on people of all ages, but take it from us — these ideas can have the biggest impact when implemented early. If you’re eighteen to twentysomething, you may soon find yourself (or have already found yourself) face-to-face with your first “adult income.” When you’re used to living a pretty simple lifestyle (like in college), it’s easier to continue onward that way as your income increases. If you get in the habit of spending more money early on, it can be tough to revert back. Just think about it.

And if you feel like your friends might be into this idea, consider hitting one of the share buttons below. Thanks for hearing us out.

— Steven

This article describes Step 3 of our six-step Financial Roadmap — a money plan that can take you from zero dollars to early retirement in as little as ten years.

To put this story in better context, and to see where we went from here, check out how we reached our first quarter-million dollars.


How can I save money on my teacher's salary? ›

How to Survive on a Teacher's Salary
  1. Cut Back on Unnecessary Expenses. ...
  2. Cook at Home. ...
  3. Ask About Teacher Discounts. ...
  4. Buy a Reliable Car, and Keep It for Years. ...
  5. Consider Home Loans for Teachers. ...
  6. Work in a School District with Higher Pay. ...
  7. Start a Side Business. ...
  8. Participate in Your District's Cafeteria Plan.

Can you make 100k a year as a teacher? ›

Yes, you can make $100k working as a teacher. While most teachers in the U.S. make around $60,000 a year, some teachers can acquire paychecks of $100,000 or more. A teacher's salary can depend on the school district, level of education, experience, and the teaching job.

How can I save 100k in 3 years? ›

How to save $100k in 3 years: My key tips
  1. I contributed to my retirement via a 401k offered by my employer. ...
  2. I kept my expenses low. ...
  3. I focused on saving 40% to 50% of each paycheck and anything extra. ...
  4. I started a side hustle. ...
  5. I spent money on credit but I was smart about it.
5 days ago

How much should you save on a 100k salary? ›

It's a good idea to begin saving a small percentage of your salary as soon as possible. It's a simple way to ensure you're prepared for retirement. As a rule of thumb, most financial advisors suggest you save 10% to 15% of your earnings.

How much should a teacher have in savings? ›

Save a set amount of your income every month for retirement.

Set a goal that is reasonable for you. Saving 10% of your monthly income could be a good place to start. Look into ways to grow your money so that your savings will stretch farther.

What do teachers spend the most money on? ›

Key Takeaways. Well over 90 percent of teachers spend their own money on school supplies and other items their students need to succeed.

What teacher makes $1 million in 3 years? ›

Teacher Turned OnlyFans Model Says She Made $1 Million in 3 Years. Phoenix-based Courtney Tillia is going viral after she quit her job as an educator to pursue content creation on the platform.

How to make 6 figures as a teacher? ›

How to make more money as a teacher
  1. Find opportunities to earn supplemental money at your school. ...
  2. Do research on your location's pay rates. ...
  3. Earn an advanced degree. ...
  4. Take advantage of professional development opportunities. ...
  5. Transition to an administrative career. ...
  6. Offer tutoring options.
Jan 19, 2023

How can I save 100K fast? ›

  1. The Right Mindset.
  2. Keep Costs Low.
  3. Reduce Your Interest Burden.
  4. Invest in Savvy Vehicles and Products.
  5. Maximize Employee Benefits.
  6. Create Short-Term Saving Goals.
  7. Generate Additional Income.
  8. The Bottom Line.

What age do people save 100K? ›

1 in 6 millennials have $100,000 saved—here's how much you should have at every age. According to a new Bank of America survey, 16 percent of millennials — which BoA defined as those between age 23 and 37 — now have $100,000 or more in savings.

Is it hard to save 100K? ›

It takes 7.84 years to save up your first $100K when earning 7% per year, but if you earn 10% per year, it only changes it by about half a year, 7.27 years.

Is saving $1,500 a month good? ›

Saving $1,500 a month is an excellent goal to have. It can help you build up your savings and put you in a better financial position for the future. Having this amount of money saved each month can give you more flexibility when it comes to making decisions about spending or investing.

Is 100K saved by 35 good? ›

Fidelity, the nation's largest retirement-plan provider, recommends having the equivalent of twice your annual salary saved. That means, if you earn $50,000 per year, by your 35th birthday, you should have around $100,000 socked away.

How common is 100K salary? ›

In the US, 18% of individual Americans and 34.4% of households make $100k per year or more. This number has increased by 2.97% in the past five years and has nearly doubled since 1980. However, that doesn't mean all $100k+ earners are evenly spread.

Is a teacher pension better than a 401k? ›

The main reason why it would cost more to fund a typical teacher's retirement through a 401(k) is that a pooled pension is simply more efficient than individual investment accounts as a means of financing retirement for a large, multi-generational workforce—as a multitude of studies have shown.

How much is a good teacher worth? ›

Economist Eric Hanushek has been researching education and the economy for four decades. In a recent study, he tried to put a monetary value on good teaching. Hanushek says a good teacher's contribution to the economy could be as much as a half a million dollars per year.

What is a 401k for teachers? ›

Many teachers have access to a 403(b) plan, which is very similar to a 401(k) plan. This can be a very useful retirement tool as many teachers do not pay into Social Security, so they cannot rely on those benefits when they retire.

What is the average teacher gift? ›

How much should you spend on a teacher gift? A range is appreciated, but gifts of about $25 are common. "Teachers don't typically expect gifts from students. In the past, I've received gifts from $5 up to $100.

Where pays the most for teachers? ›

Highest pay for teachers by state
States 1-12Teacher SalaryStates 13-25
New York$87,738Illinois
District of Columbia$80,659Michigan
9 more rows
Mar 16, 2023

How long do teachers live on average? ›

Nationwide, Teachers have the longest average lifespan of any public employee, according to the Society of Actuaries. Men who teach live on average until nearly 88 years old, while women who teach live on average to be 90, according to a Society of Actuaries study.

Are there any millionaire teachers? ›

Andrew Hallam became a millionaire at 36 years old. By 40, his savings had grown even more, granting him financial independence. A middle and high school teacher, Hallam didn't inherit wealth and never won the lottery. So how did he become a millionaire on a teacher's salary?

What 20 year old makes $1 million in 8 minutes? ›

20-Year-Old Beauty Entrepreneur Says Her Skincare Line Made Over $1 Million in 8 Minutes. Mariee Revere, the 20-year-old CEO and founder of MoonXCosmetics, a handmade vegan skincare line, says she generated $1 million in sales in minutes.

What state needs the most teachers? ›

According to U.S. Department of Education data from the 2022-2023 school year, Maine is experiencing the most teacher vacancies in special education, math, science, language arts, early childhood, elementary core subjects, art and music, and career and technical education.

Can you make a living off of teaching? ›

And so you wonder, do teachers make enough money to live comfortably? Yes, in general, K-12 teachers in the U.S. make enough money to live comfortably depending on how they are accustomed to living.

Is a master's degree worth it for teachers? ›

Will it pay you back in the long run? The short answer is: Almost certainly yes. But, it depends in large part where you're planning to teach–and for how long. While you should consider getting a master's degree, a lot of other factors come into play when it comes to your income and return on investment (ROI).

What state has the lowest teacher salary? ›

Mississippi has the lowest average teacher salary of $47,162, followed by South Dakota with $49,761. These are the only states with average teacher salaries under $50,000 a year. Other states with lower average teacher salaries are West Virginia, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas.

What makes more money than a teacher? ›

1. Bartenders. Although most bartenders don't receive health benefits, when their wages are broken down by the hour and compared with a teachers' hourly wage, many bartenders come out on top.

What is the highest paying school district in the United States? ›

#1. Scarsdale Public Schools, Scarsdale, NY ($107,100)

This small district recognizes the value of their teachers which is evidenced by the average salaries landing at the top of any district in the country.

Is it possible to save $100,000 in 5 years? ›

If you can afford to put away $1,400 per month, you could potentially save your first $100k in just 5 years. If that's too much, aim for even half that (or whatever you can). Thanks to compound interest, just $700 per month could become $100k in 9 years.

How to save $50 000 in 2 years? ›

Here are five steps that I took to save $50k in 2 years and completely change my outlook on money.
  1. Save for a Rainy Day. Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash. ...
  2. Track Your Dollars. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash. ...
  3. Get Out of Debt. Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash. ...
  4. Pay Yourself First. ...
  5. Create Multiple Emergency Funds.
Apr 25, 2020

How to save $5000 in 100 days? ›

How To Save $5,000 in 100 Days
  1. Get 100 empty envelopes. ...
  2. Number each envelope from 1 to 100. ...
  3. Store your envelopes in a container. ...
  4. Shuffle the envelopes in random order. ...
  5. Pick an envelope at random each day. ...
  6. Insert the day's money amount in the envelope. ...
  7. Put the filled envelope aside. ...
  8. Track your savings progress.

How many Americans have $100,000 in bank? ›

Most Americans are not saving enough for retirement. According to the survey, only 14% of Americans have $100,000 or more saved in their retirement accounts. In fact, about 78% of Americans have $50,000 or less saved for retirement.

Can I retire at 50 with 100k? ›

According to the 4% rule, if you retired with $100,000 in savings, you could withdraw just about $4,000 per year in retirement. It's nearly impossible for anyone to survive on $4,000 per year, but the majority of retirees will also be entitled to Social Security benefits.

How much should I have in my 401k at 55? ›

Experts say to have at least seven times your salary saved at age 55. That means if you make $55,000 a year, you should have at least $385,000 saved for retirement.

How long does it take 100k to double? ›

Years it Takes to Double

So, to use this formula for the $100,000 investment mentioned above, with a 6% rate of return, you can determine that your money will double in 11.9 years, which is close to the 12 years you'd get if you simply divided 72 by 6.

How much do 40 year olds have saved? ›

As you can see, the average savings by 40 is higher than $48,000 but likely lower than $148,000. However, it's worth noting that just because that's the average, that amount may not be what you might want to consider having saved.

How to invest $100 000 to make $1 million? ›

There are two approaches you could take. The first is increasing the amount you invest monthly. Bumping up your monthly contributions to $200 would put you over the $1 million mark. The other option would be to try to exceed a 7% annual return with your investments.

How much savings should I have at 35? ›

So to answer the question, we believe having one to one-and-a-half times your income saved for retirement by age 35 is a reasonable target. By age 50, you would be considered on track if you have three to six times your preretirement gross income saved.

How much per week to save $5,000 in a year? ›

Trying to save $5,000 in one year is near impossible if you wait until the last few of the 52 weeks to actually start saving. If you take advantage of the whole 52 weeks, however, you can do it by just saving $416.67 a month, $192.31 biweekly, $96.16 a week, or $13.70 a day.

How much is $50 a week for a year if I save? ›

$50 weekly is how much per year? If you make $50 per week, your Yearly salary would be $2,600.

How much should I have in 401k at 40? ›

Fidelity says by age 40, aim to have a multiple of three times your salary saved up. That means if you're earning $75,000, your retirement account balance should be around $225,000 when you turn 40. If your employer offers both a traditional and Roth 401(k), you might want to divide your savings between the two.

How much should I have in my 401k at 45? ›

By age 40, you should have three times your annual salary already saved. By age 50, you should have six times your salary in an account. By age 60, you should have eight times your salary working for you. By age 67, your total savings total goal is 10 times the amount of your current annual salary.

At what age do most people make six figures? ›

Some workers begin earning six figures in their twenties and thirties. Economists nickname them HENRYs, for “high earners, not rich yet.” But for most people, their “peak earning years” are from age 35 to 54. The majority of people who make six figures will do so in their 30s.

How many people making 100k are living paycheck to paycheck? ›

About 48% of Americans who earn over $100,000 were living paycheck to paycheck — up 1% from the previous month. There are financial consequences up ahead for the millions of Americans who barely have enough cash to meet their basic expenses.

Can you live comfortably with 100k salary? ›

In almost every case, yes. It's well above the poverty line as well as the American median income for both individuals and smaller families. Even in the face of rising inflation, a $100,000 annual income can typically afford a comfortable lifestyle and financial stability.

Can I live comfortably making 100k a year? ›

Yes, 100k a year is considered a good salary or income in most parts of the country. It is above the median household income in the United States, providing a comfortable lifestyle and financial security.

Is teachers pay teachers a good way to make money? ›

Whether you're a brand new teacher this school year looking to start a shop or an experienced teacher looking to grow your income, the TpT platform is a viable and lucrative option.

Is there a way to get paid for student teaching? ›

Find a Paid Student-Teaching Position

It is sometimes possible to get paid for your student teaching. Some schools may be willing to hire you on before you actually graduate. In cases like this, your job can double as your student teaching, if your university permits it.

Are teachers happy with their salary? ›

A higher percentage of teachers who were dissatisfied with their salary agreed, “The stress and disappointments involved in teaching at this school aren't really worth it” (30 percent), “If I could get a higher paying job I'd leave teaching as soon as possible” (45 percent),“I think about transferring to another school ...

How can I make more money as a teacher? ›

For teachers who do have additional hours to give outside of school, coaching sports, leading after school activities, chaperoning school dances or teaching remedial classes can increase their paychecks. No matter how many new skills you acquire or extra jobs you take, experience is the greatest salary booster of all.

Can you make a living from teachers pay teachers? ›

The first question everyone asks is: “can I really make money selling on Teachers Pay Teachers?” The answer is YES. It is a great way to start up a small business and earn extra income for teachers. I won't sugarcoat it though, you will have to put a lot of hard work into it.

Is being a teacher worth it money? ›

Teaching can be an advantageous and influential career choice for those passionate about education and willing to work hard. While the profession does present some challenges, it also offers many potential benefits and opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Why teachers should be paid the most? ›

Raising teacher salaries can help to improve the interest in the industry overall and improve the quality of the workforce. It can also help to keep teachers in the classrooms. Many teachers have reported being dissatisfied with their jobs because they have to work multiple side jobs to pay their bills.

Can you work while student teaching? ›

California requires 600 hours of student teaching, nearly double the requirement of other states. Student teachers are not paid and student teaching typically lasts for an entire academic year. Thus, most teacher candidates cannot work and student teach at the same time (or it is very difficult to do so).

Can I get paid to teach online? ›

Yes, you can make money teaching online and it can be profitable. The best part about an online course is that it's a digital product that doesn't have to be remade when you sell to different people.

How many hours do teachers work in California? ›

During the school year, her calculations show that teachers work 39.8 hours per week while nonteachers work 41.5 hours. During the summer, teachers do work noticeably fewer hours.
Professor of Economics - University of California, Santa Barbara.
1 more row
Jun 12, 2019

Do teachers have good work life balance? ›

Almost three-quarters of teachers (73 percent) report they often find work stressful. As a result, they're more likely to leave work physically and emotionally exhausted and to bring work home. A teacher who fails to strike a balance between work and private life risks becoming burned out.

Is being a teacher a stressful job? ›

Teachers work longer hours than many other positions, which often leads to burnout and stress.

Do teachers have good job security? ›

According to the National Education Association, the teaching profession is one of the most secure professions, with a job security rating of 4.4 out of 5.


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