become a millionaire teaching esl

Can you become a millionaire teaching ESL abroad?


“…and that makes me, a millionaire”

Chris Stapleton

“You don’t have to be a millionaire, to live like one”

Tim Ferriss

Live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, teaching English in China and South Korea

Being a country music lover in Asia can be tough at times; with the lack of country bars in the music scene here whatsoever.  Please don’t hold my music tastes against me, or let it influence you continuing reading this article.  As I am about to relay some very interesting and – if I do say so myself – important information on how teaching English abroad in Asia can potentially change your life.

Recently I was speaking to a friend interested in teaching ESL in China, and they were blown away by the idea someone could become a millionaire teaching ESL in China and South Korea.  Most people’s jaw drops when they learn how much money you can make over here.  I’ve personally got plans to retire with 7 figures within a decade myself, all from teaching ESL. So I figure it’s due that I write an article outlining how attainable it is for anyone that qualifies for this position. 

But the more I think about it, you really don’t need to slave 70 hours a week, 7 days a week like myself teaching English to ACTUALLY reach 7 figures.  And most people don’t want to do anything close to that.  The lifestyle that teaching ESL provides and the compensation – no matter how hard you work – allows you to live like those sappy Instagram travel couples.

Can you make a lot of money teaching ESL?

In this article I will touch on how you can become a millionaire teaching ESL, working your tail off to save tens of thousands of dollars a year or more.  And how being able to save so much of that allows you to reach a millie real quick.  I will also discuss how you don’t really need to work that much, because with a mix of lower tax rates, and cost of living allows you to live incredibly well while teaching ESL in China or South Korea.  Thousands of dollars of disposable income each month, months per year to travel the world.. All from playing with children a few hours a week.  Intrigued yet?

RELATED: Why I love teaching English in China

How to make a million dollars teaching English.

What a preposterous idea; that you could become a millionaire teaching ESL.  Teaching ESL is a gig widely considered something travelers do for extra cash.  Well in Southeast Asia, it might be, but in China and South Korea, teaching is a real job.  It’s respected, and professional.  And it’s paid accordingly.

With most salaries starting around $1,800 USD and rising up towards $4,000 USD per month or more, you can save between 50-75% of your salary if you are smart with your money.  Don’t be ignorant to assume it would be easy to save this much, and there will be many sacrifices, like skipping weekend trips or going out for food and drinks multiple times a week.  But if you want it, it’s possible

Side hustles for TEFL workers

Besides your primary salary, there are incredible amounts of side work such as private lessons in your city, teaching online, or even model work or other various paid side jobs.  Especially in China, the opportunities are endless.  Private lessons pay between $50-$80 USD per hour, teaching online pays around $20-$30 USD per hour.  Do the math for how much you’d like to work.  A note; most of these positions are untaxed, be aware of local and international tax laws for your personal situation, complications and potential consequences.

The Millionaire English teacher.

Seeing is believing. So here is a fictional scenario to prove how much someone might have to work and save to become a millionaire teaching ESL.  This teacher works at a public school in China, it is their second year and they make 15,000 RMB, the also get a housing allowance which covers rent.  They spend 8,000 RMB a month on food, living and bills / tax.  They do 6 hours a week teaching private classes (7,000 rmb) and 15 hours a week of online teaching (7,000 rmb).

RELATED: Teaching in Canada Vs. teaching in China

Monthly breakdown

Salary:                                                                        $2,200 USD (15,000 rmb)

Expenses:                  $1,200USD (8,000rmb)

Savings:                                                                    $1,000 USD (7,000 rmb)

Side work:                                                                  $2,000 USD (14,000 rmb)

Total Savings                                                            $3,000 USD Monthly.

Personal finance for ESL teachers

You are saving $36,000 USD per year.  Ever imagined that possible for yourself?  8,000 rmb is plenty of money to go out on the weekend, take some trips about the country and buy clothing or material objects.  You won’t feel living frugal on that.  Spend even less or work more to generate even more money.  There are people making and saving much more. 

Now, you can save that $36,000 USD a year for 15 years and that would be half a million dollars.  But if you had invested that money in a ETF index fund, that on average over 15 years gives a 7% return, that money would be almost a million dollars.  If you are interested in learning more about investing, read here.

Live your best life teaching ESL abroad

My current game plan is the above; work none stop now and enjoy the fruits of my labor sooner than most.  I’ve already been teaching for a few years, and I’ve seen many countries along the way.  I haven’t always been working this way, and for many of my colleagues working this much isn’t of interest.  They would rather spend their money seeing more of the world, or enjoying all the activities that these countries they teach in have to offer.  And that’s fine.

The quote above from Tim Ferriss, more or less a paraphase from one of his bestselling books; the four hour work week.  It brings up an excellent point, you don’t need to have or even wait for a million dollars to live well.  Why do people want to be rich?  To buy things that make them happy, to do meaningful work or little work at all, to see the wonders of the world, and to travel whenever they please.  Well teaching English in China and South Korea deliver all those things without the blood sweat and tears of acquiring the millions most think they need to live well.

Make money, or follow your passion

Most teachers only teach about 12-15 hours per week at their main school job. Leaving plenty of time to pursue passions.  Public school teachers get nearly 3 months of holidays each year. And flights to some of the most exotic countries in the world are cheap and only a few hours each direction.  Cost of living in these countries are cheap – MADE IN CHINA, anyone?  And teaching children can be extremely rewarding and exciting if you let yourself open up to it.

Since I’ve started teaching I have pretty much zero worries, abundance of time and money, and have learned/experienced so much.  I truly feel like a millionaire already.

Make stacks, see the world, and create an impact.  What are you waiting for? If you are serious about learning more regarding teaching English in China please don’t hesitate to contact me. I can assist with answering most questions, get you set up with schools and visa’s. I’ve already helped handfuls of people get overseas to start living this wild lifestyle and am equipped to help you as well!

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  • Currently located in China, teaching English and working towards Financial Freedom. I write about money, travel, personal development and more!

BlogESL teaching abroad


  • Shane Levine

    What’s up Charles, I’m digging your blog. One concern I have about pursuing FIRE in China is that isn’t it technically illegal to do side work? Aren’t you only allowed to work for the school that provides you with a work permit?

    PS I decided to go to China to pursue FIRE on Dec 4 2019, a few weeks before covid was internally identified within China. My work permit expired on August 8th 🙁

    • Charles

      Hey Shane, thanks for the kind words! There has been some legislation changes recently that can allow you to take on additional work if you clear it with your visa issuing company and pay taxes.

      As for the Visa, depending where you are from teachers are beginning to be able to get back into China! Send me an email if you’d like support finding another job. There is a serious demand with inflated wages at the moment!

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