I Retired Years Ago, And Didn't Even Know It!
For International teachers, this is what I call "tutoring season." The first assignments are starting to be graded, and parents are starting to panic. New students are struggling to adjust to new schools and new teachers, and just need a little extra help on the side. Or perhaps the students have ingrown habits of laziness and inattentiveness that have left them deficient in prerequisite skills, and their parents don't know what to do to help rectify that particular stubborn situation.
Often, these parents first turn to other teachers that are in their child's school, or ones they have previous relationships with, and request private tuition on the side. For those teachers, this can be a remarkably remunerative situation. One of my friends more than doubles his salary by tutoring for one family. I know, I used to do it myself, years ago.
This year I've already been approached by three families. Taking them up on it would be financially rewarding. But, you know what? I turned them down flat. Didn't even consider it.
This sort of financial blasphemy would seem strange to many people. Who turns down $50-$70 per hour of work?
I do, because I'm already retired.
See, I tutored for three years when I moved to Bahrain, years ago. It helped me pay off my student loans and buy a ton of photography gear and travel the globe. But I didn't enjoy tutoring. I tutored mostly for a teenage boy who wanted to do literally anything else than his homework, or pay attention in class. His family had a ton of money, and he didn't see the value in his own education, because he knew he would never need to earn anything in his life. He also enjoyed causing others pain, like the time he went after me with an illegal taser.
As soon as I paid off my last student loan, I retired from tutoring. Sure, I kept my other side hustles of a photography business and playing in the Bahrain Orchestra, and I kept my day job as well, but the tutoring was a vast and regular amount of money (at least to a teacher), and my time was simply worth more than the hassle of tutoring now that I was debt free.
In the financial independence movement, people often look at financial independence as a yes or no proposition. You either are or aren't set for life, never needing to work again, as your investment income covers your expenses or you hit the 4% rule. This perspective overlooks the serious and life changing benefits that other milestones bring. In this case, being debt free and having a few bucks in the bank allowed me to stop a part of my life that I really did not enjoy.
The more assets you have, and the less debt you owe, the more you can employ the strategic "no" and the enthusiastic "yes". Since I dug myself out of the hole of my student loans through tutoring and slightly frugal living, I knew that I was only going to say yes to things I really wanted. Everything else got the strategic "no" and not another second of my mental energy. I doubt I would have had the time or space to start writing if I'd still been pulling 15-16 hour days with tutoring all the time. I doubt I'd be able to play in bands or do corporate head shots for photography. My life would be so much more unpleasantly complicated.
That's why when people get themselves into more debt through bad financial decisions, it hurts to look at it. I have seen the remarkable and life-changing power of progressing along the journey to Financial Independence. For people who have never experienced that, they don't even know what they're giving up. Wouldn't you like to only do the parts of your job you enjoy? Wouldn't you like to tell un-wanted "obligations" in your life to go jump in a lake? I'll bet you would, because I know how much joy it brings me.
That's why when the three families approached me this year and tried to ply me with money, all I said was, "Sorry, I'm retired."
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