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Is it Possible to Live on a Teacher's Salary?

Is it Possible to Live on a Teacher's Salary?

Madison Paine |

Dear Madison,

I just finished my first year of college. I’m an undecided major, but I’ve always thought about teaching. I love kids and think I’d be really good at it. With the economy the way it is though I’m not sure I should be a teacher. I won’t make enough money to make a good living. I’m thinking about becoming a pharmaceutical rep. It makes a lot more money, but obviously is a totally different career. Do you have any advice for me? How could I become a teacher and get past the money issue? Did you consider this before teaching? Any advice you could offer would be awesome.



Dear Jenny,

Before I launch into my reply, let me make sure I take the time to answer your last three questions directly. Yes. I would be honored to you offer you advice. Second, you do not have to overlook anything regarding a teacher’s salary. In fact, stare long and hard at it. When you answer the call to become an educator, continue to expect pay that is worthy of our noble profession. Teachers are worth more and we need to continue to ask for it. Third, I absolutely wrestled with how in the world I was going to make it on a teacher’s salary before I signed my first contract. You are a wise young lady to do so and I am impressed with your forethought.

Jenny, your dilemma is powerful and forces me to do some deep soul searching before I just state my gut feeling. Everything in me wants to tell you to just throw caution to the wind and pick up the chalk! I am not going to do that though. You deserve better than that, so I am going to walk you through this as if you were a member of my own family. We are just going to talk money; not all the philosophical and emotionally rewarding aspects of teaching.

Therefore, I want you to ponder these two questions.

Question #1: How have you grown accustomed to living?

Questions #2: How well do you manage money?

As human beings it is normal for us to become creatures of habit. If we are use to traveling by plane, putting water in the milk jug to make it last longer, visiting the hair salon weekly, or lining windows with foil to improve insulation, then it becomes a part of our social norm. It signals the type of social class we identify with the most. We tend to want to maintain our current lifestyle or improve upon it. Few will steer away from that plan unless they feel a calling or strong desire to serve. For example military service, the Peace Corp, fire fighter, police officers…teachers.

Only you truly know your financial comfort zone. Just make sure the material desires fulfill the deep sense of purpose you seem to be drawn to having in your life.

The second question is critical because it cuts to the heart of the matter. Can you hold on to money when you earn it? Are you wise with your resources or wasteful? I have known people making six figures that have filed for bankruptcy and lost their home. I have known people living on one income of less than $30,000 become home owners.

When it comes to salaries, it is often more about the financial choices made than starting figures. Teachers can afford to buy cars, homes, travel the world, and buy Christmas presents. The fiscal quality of life in today’s economy is greatly affected by credit card debt so be careful with those offers flying your way. Keep your credit clean.

When you come out of college, avoid the temptation to have it all now. Buy what you can afford and accumulate over time. Live within your means and you will find you stress over money less. The less we stress over money, the more realistic our personal ambitions become.

My final words of encouragement to you and every student in your situation are to “know thyself and to thyself be true”. If indeed you find yourself thinking about teaching more than pharmaceuticals, then I truly believe my dear, you are one of us.

Your Future Colleague,


Related articles:
10 Ways to Make Extra Summer Income for Educators
What to Do if You Can’t Pay Your Bills
The ABCs of Managing Money

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