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How To Pay Off Student Loans While Traveling

A lot of people wonder how to pay off student loans while traveling. They usually think it’s something that can’t be done without an inheritance or deferring on your loans. Not so! You can travel while paying off your student loans. Read on to learn how.

A lot of people wonder how to pay off student loans while traveling. They usually think it’s something that can’t be done without an inheritance or deferring on your loans. Not so! You can travel while paying off your student loans.

The way you can do it? Working abroad.

This isn’t the first thought that pops into most people’s heads. Whenever people think about travel, they usually picture sitting on a beach, drinking a cold one, and basking in the rays of the sun. In the distance sits a 4-star swanky hotel where there are a hundred different settings for the bath tub.

That’s more of a relaxed vacation. Travel can mean lots of things. Many people would describe it as being an experience of seeing new places and being immersed in new cultures. It’s not all about sitting on a beach all day long sipping a margarita.

A lot of twenty-somethings with student loans dream of being able to travel and see new places. But they think their student loans prevent them from doing so. They look at travel as something expensive and not possible while paying off student loans.

That’s what I used to think. Before I moved abroad, the idea of traveling and visiting several places never crossed my mind. I had graduated university with $21,000 in student loans and was intent on paying them off as fast as possible. Travel was something that would happen years down the line.

A swift leap of faith involved me moving abroad to Thailand to teach English. In the past year of being here, I’ve gotten to explore lots of Thailand and visit places like Myanmar and China. During this time, progress on my knocking student loans never even had to slow down. I’ve worked like mad for the past several months to make more money but I’ve also gotten to travel quite a bit.

It does take some patience and persistence to stay focused on paying them off your loans while traveling. When I was paying off my student loans, there were times when I wanted to use the extra money I had for a weekend getaway or to go off to another country like Vietnam or Cambodia, but through commitment and utilizing and allocating for fun money, everything worked out.

Here’s how to pay off student loans while traveling

Find a job teaching English abroad

Teaching English is one of the top ways people fund their travels and work abroad. It’s for good reason. Teaching English abroad allows you to really immerse yourself in another culture and see how day to day life is.

Teaching positions are typical 40-hour per week jobs where you spend 20-25 hours each week teaching. The rest of the time outside of teaching is either for lesson planning, making materials, or free time!

Googling “teaching English abroad” will yield thousands of results. The top places to teach English are China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Asia is the most common place people go to teach English. There are English-teaching jobs all over the world but Asia is where the best-paying jobs are. When you’re focused on balancing student loan payments and traveling, having a good salary makes all the difference. The two best countries pay wise are China and South Korea.

South Korea is very popular because it’s a relatively easy place to transition into. Starting salaries for foreign English teachers range from 1.9-2.3 million won. Many jobs provide free housing, free school lunches, and reimbursed airfare cost for your travel to the country. South Korea positions have a lot of benefits!

A salary of 2.1 million won is around $1,850 USD. Many teachers are able to save around $700-1,000 per month. This can put toward extra student loan payments if you desire.

According to Forbes, the average class of 2016 student graduated with $37,172 in student loan debt. If you’re on the standard 10-year repayment plan, paying back loans with a 5.7% interest rate, your monthly payment would come out to $407. Saving $700-1,000 would allow you to pay extra towards your student loans every month.

The blog Great Big Scary World has tips and resources on teaching English in South Korea.

Private tutoring

In an effort to make more money for travel, many English teachers do private tutoring on the side of their full-time teaching job. They usually get private tutoring sessions through inquiries with parents or putting up fliers.

I taught several tutoring classes at a Thailand language center. It was fun and good way to make extra money.

Working Holiday Visa

Australia and New Zealand are two countries that offer one-year working holiday visas to people from several different countries. The visas allow you to work in the country for up to six months with one employer. 12 months in total.

From the countless articles I’ve read, the general gist is that Australia is the best for doing a working holiday. Australia and New Zealand have the same high cost of living, but backpacker/working holiday jobs are more plentiful and higher-paying in Australia.

Kate From The States saved 10,000 AUD in six months from her working holiday.


Now, when you’re wondering how to pay off student loans while traveling, the above options are good ways since they make you money. However saving money when you do travel is also important.

Below are some tips on cutting costs.



WWOOFing & Workaway

WWOOF stands for world wide opportunities on organic farms. Through the website, you can find volunteer positions where you get free room and board in exchange for work. Many long-term travelers do this. It’s a great way to reduce expenses while still being able to experience new things and places. You don’t even have to know anything about farming. Usually the jobs involve fruit picking, cleaning, and general landscape work.

Workaway is also another great option.

Couchsurfing

I used to think of couchsurfing as this weird thing to avoid…until I actually tried it. It’s great. I used it for the first time when I made a trip to San Diego for a conference. My host was fun to talk to and gave me great information on things to do in the city.

A few tips would be to make sure to go with someone who has lots of positive reviews and has a verified badge. Trust your gut. Always make sure you have the funds to book accommodation in case your host cancels or it doesn’t work out.


Basically, when you’re wanting to know how to pay off student loans while traveling, it comes down to working abroad and choosing budget-friendly options when you travel. Teaching English in good-earning places like China and South Korea where you are able to save up to $1,000 every month really helps.

Thailand (the place I’ve taught in) isn’t as great when it comes to making a good salary. However, I’ve made it work through getting a job at a school that offered higher pay and also doing tutoring sessions during the nights and weekends.

I paid off $21,000 in student loans in 18 months. 11 months of that was spent while abroad teaching English.

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How did you go about paying off your student loan debt? Do you like the idea of long term travel and working abroad? 

Not Another Emergency Fund

how to build an emergency fund

Can you ever have too many blog posts talking about emergency funds? Personally, I think so but others might disagree. The “blog post talking about an emergency fund” has been done over and over again in the personal finance world. And this post is about to be another one 🙂

When I first started reading personal finance blogs, I was a soon to be university grad who didn’t have a lot of money in savings. I read countless times about the importance of an emergency fund and why everyone needs one. It helps in case of unexpected expenses! Job loss! Your car breaking down! You need it!

I liken the experience of it to that of being told to eat my vegetables growing up. It should be something that happens but I still don’t listen to it all that often. I mean, you have to actually set aside money for some hypothetical event. When you have things constantly eyeing for your attention at the current moment, saving money for future emergencies can fall through the cracks.

However, I’ve always known of emergency funds. Even as a money newb who first started reading personal finance blogs, the concept of money set aside for emergencies was never foreign to me. I don’t think it’s foreign for most other people either.  

Even as a money newb who first started reading personal finance blogs, the concept of an emergency fund was never foreign to me. I don’t think it’s foreign for most other people either. 

People know unexpected expenses pop up. They know they should have money set aside for an emergency. The problem lies in people’s perception of an emergency fund. Many people don’t fully know how an emergency fund works (problem one) and they usually underestimate the amount they need in one (problem two). 

For the longest time, I thought an “emergency fund” was the small amount I had in my savings account. I also thought it was the leftover “buffer” amount I had in my checking account after I paid all of my bills. Most people think of emergency funds along this same line.

Having this way of thinking led me to dip into my savings account for not so critical reasons. I would take money out when I really wanted to buy some nice, but unnecessary, thing or when I would go on a vacation and need money for it.

Constantly seeing the money sitting in my bank account made me feel okay to spend it. Everything about my way of thinking of emergency funds was misguided.

An emergency fund is a dedicated account used only for real emergencies, like a job loss, medical bills, car repairs, and so forth. It’s not for when you really want to buy new clothes. It’s not the money that’s left over in your bank account after you pay your bills. That’s a buffer, not an emergency fund.

For the best chance of growing and keeping an emergency fund intact, people would be better off putting the money in a savings account at a bank different from where they do their day-to-day banking. Doing this helps when you’re someone who isn’t a natural saver.

Online banks come to the rescue with this. They’re best when it comes to holding an emergency fund. Ally Bank’s 1.00% APY for accounts blows past the traditional average 0.06% APY.

How much to keep in an emergency fund? There’s two common rule of thumbs: $1,000 in a starter emergency fund, then leveling up to 3-6 months of expenses stashed away.

Do what makes you feel most comfortable. From my senior year of high school all the way to after graduating university, I had the same old Ford Focus that I had bought on my own. Fully paying for my car at age 17 felt awesome but having to go through car repairs every year because the car was old was not so awesome.

My car situation and job situation were the two biggest things that influenced my emergency fund. It’s why I kept way more than $1,000 in an emergency fund while I was paying off my student loans.

Two big reasons I want to keep a good sized emergency fund now is because, one, I will be moving back to the states in the next year. That’s gonna entail moving around and getting a new job, a.k.a major money vacuums.

The second reason is because of an experience I’ve long fantasized about since I was a kid: buying a car with cash. I got a taste of this when I bought my first car at 17 and paid for it in full on my own. The current car I use, a Smart Fortwo, is completely off.

So, for the next few years, I won’t be buying a car with cash, but it’s still on my list. Walking into the dealership, they ask me how I’m going to finance the vehicle, I put on sunglasses and gaze into the distance and say “I’ll pay with cash.” Then they’ll look in shock as I put down the cash or write a check (<–do people still use those?).

I’ve been watching too many movies, but yeah, that’s kinda how I see it playing out.

Overall, I keep a good sized amount in my emergency fund because I’m aware of my own situation, spending habits, and priorities.

How much do you keep in an emergency fund?

Investing 101 For Millennials

When I first started learning about investing for millennials, it was overwhelming. All these different terms were thrown around like risk tolerance, bull market, mutual fund, and it was a lot to take in.

After reading through several blog posts, I headed to the nearest bookstore to learn more. There are a lot of beginner-friendly books on getting started with money management, investing for millennials, and getting yourself in good financial shape. The ones I read were great. They talked about budgeting, paying yourself first, automating your savings, and eliminating debt.

Reading up on the topics was great but it felt like something was missing. The books would usually devote a chapter or two talking about investing and the importance of it. Once I had gotten through several of the books and blog posts, the advice all centered on the same key things to remember when investing: pick low-fee index funds, consistently contribute to your brokerage accounts, and have a passive, hands-off approach to your investments (a.k.a don’t pull your money out when the media tells you the sky is falling).

The advice was good. Although I was never sure exactly who the advice was aimed at. It was for money management newbies for sure, but what age group? Millennials? Gen X-er’s who need to catch up on retirement contributions? I was never fully certain.

There are articles on the interwebz about investing for millennials, but the articles were short and would usually talk about one part of the investing equation: what to invest in, where to invest, setting up a brokerage account, and what the heck a “brokerage account” even was.

I didn’t find many resources putting all of the information together. A resource showing how investing doesn’t have to be scary and how to get started and set yourself up with a passive investment portfolio filled with low-fee index funds. The kind of portfolio many investors recommend, including billionaire Warren Buffet.

Talking with friends, acquaintances, and strangers, I noticed a common theme emerge. Millennials had a vague idea of the importance of investing but they were still reluctant and confused.

I know investing is important but I’m afraid of losing money and I don’t have a gigantic sum of money to get started. 

Well, I created a resource to help fellow millennials out.

The Investing 101 For Millennials course is a free 7-day email course that walks people through all the investing basics.

  • investing myths
  • compound interest
  • developing a mindset to not be worried when the stock market has a downfall
  • and more

The course even has videos to talk more about investing topics. If you’ve been wanting to learn more about investing but have been stuck in confusing lingo or scared to get started, click the image below to learn more about the course.

See you on the inside!

Investing 101 for Millennials


Investing For Millennials FREE 7-day email course. Pin for later.

Are you confused about the world of investing and want to learn more? Enroll in my free 7-day Investing 101 For Millennials email course.

Do You Have Your Best Interest In Mind?

Is it really you, though? I’ve found whenever you don’t have a set of values and plan in place, it can be really freaking easy to let others dictate what’s best for you. Lesson learned? People love to spend your money for you. Especially when you don’t have any sort of plan for it.

Many moons ago, I was very stressed for a very dumb reason. Okay, maybe not so dumb. Looking at it now, it feels dumb but back then I didn’t think so.

When I was a teenager, age 18, new to college, I had this idea of how I wanted my life to look. A swift move caused me to declare my major as public relations-mass communication. The move came after I had my initial sit down with an academic advisor. 

“You need to choose a major right away. You already have enough credits that you’re technically almost a college junior. Not a freshman” 

I don’t remember what I said. I might have just mumbled an ‘Oh’ and preceded to point to a major I vaguely had in mind. Public relations appealed to me because I liked finding ways to get the message out about something. Being able to improve my speaking skills (since I was super introverted) was also a plus.

My advisors in my program assured it was the best thing for me. They talked about how everyone improved their professional development so much through it. I went along with it because I thought they had my best interest in mind.

The media program at my university was a typical media one. It was a competitive fast-paced environment where people loved to be defined by their work. Getting an internship or job at a well-known company was how they defined success.

So, naturally, the best interest in mind appeared to be getting a job at a prestigious media company.

Unpaid internships were very common in the field. Following the best interest of the masses involved depleting your bank account and hastily working a low-wage job in addition to an unpaid internship. It was all about getting ahead. And this seemed like the only way.

Thrust into life after graduation, a whole lot of spendy things presented themselves. Everyone knows houses and weddings can be expensive but what about everything else? Buying furniture, getting actual kitchen supplies (rather than just eating Ramen), and the cost of attending other people’s weddings.

Since these expenses rarely get talked about, the money can have a tendency to part from your bank account without much notice.

 

A few years ago, on a sunny day, I made my way to a Mercedes Benz dealership. I was looking to get an extra key for my smart car. (Mercedes-Benz distributes the Smart Fortwo in the U.S.)

Before I could make my way to the parts desk for the new key, a snazzy car salesman started talking to me. He made a reasoning why I needed to ditch the Smart Car and opt for something more roomy and nicer. He went on and on about how I deserved it and could afford it.

Me? A person who was working an entry-level paying job affording a Mercedes Benz? LOL.

But for a moment, I thought he had my best interest in mind. He was very convincing in the way he talked and reasoned. My monthly car payment would provide me peace of mind and reliability, he said.

Remembering Chevy’s very convincing millennial-targeted car ads didn’t help. 

My dad even told me I should get a new car. They were new and reliable! He said. This was my dad. Surely he had my best interest in mind!

Luckily I never did listen to my dad about getting a new car. I kept my old one and continued to drive it. Since then, I’ve learned a car payment isn’t a common, necessary thing. I’ve also been slowly learning that my work doesn’t define my purpose or constitute the image of success. That has to come from me. No prestigious media company required.

So, who has your best interest in mind?

I wonder about this a lot. Not just for me, but for others. When you see something so much, it starts to seem normal. People finance new cars they can’t afford and way more house than they need. When you see people spending a lot of money on professional development and self-care (ugh) you start to feel like you’re doing something wrong if you’re not spending a lot on it.

I guess it’s easy to say ‘me’ when asked who has your best interest in mind. Is it really you, though? I’ve found whenever you don’t have a set of values and plan in place, it can be really easy to let others dictate what’s best for you.

People love to spend your money for you. Especially when you don’t have any sort of plan for it.


Who has your best interest in mind? 

How To Choose The Best Robo-Advisor For You

There’s a new kid on the block and it’s the kind of person you weren’t looking for but now totally want to know. (big statement to make, I know). Let’s talk about how to choose a robo-advisor.

Investing doesn't have to be complicated. You can have a passive, hands-off option that allows you to grow your wealth. Click through to read on how to choose a robo-advisor.

Not exactly a person, more like an automated service. These automated services walk you through what you want to do with your money and create a portfolio plan around it.

If you’re any more than an occasional reader of personal finance blogs, you are probably aware of the importance of investing. You’ve seen the charts showing how magical compound interest is, stood awkwardly while baby boomers told you retirement horror stories, and even saw the fake quote from Albert Einstein about how compound interest was the 8th wonder of the world.

You know investing is important but you don’t want to have to research what funds to pick, how to rebalance your portfolio, and do a bunch of other things that leave you puzzled.

You want a passive option that allows you to be investing while not having to get too involved with managing your investment portfolio. Let’s talk about how to choose a robo-advisor.

How I (finally) got started investing

Set out to do good for myself, I got enrolled in a 401k plan at my first full-time job and it came with an employer match. I contributed into the 401k but didn’t really know anything about investing. Scratch that, I knew *nothing* about investing. So the money just sat there in my account, for several months, not invested in anything.

A few months later, I opened up a Roth IRA with Fidelity (the same place where my 401k was). I was excited and ready to invest! But…most of Fidelity’s funds came with a $2,500 minimum to invest. I had nowhere near that.

After moving on from that first job, I rolled the 401k into my Roth IRA and started to look at how to invest.

I read several blog posts, listened to podcasts, and read a really great book called, The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be Complicated. The information, although all good, didn’t give me the desire to fully manage my hypothetical investment portfolio.

Mulling over options, I came across the idea of using robo-advisor services. I wondered how to choose a robo-advisor service that was best for me. The top two platforms, Betterment and Wealthfront, both offered a very nice appeal to a beginning investor like me. Both services offered automatic rebalancing and investment portfolios geared towards your risk tolerance and goals.

It came down to fees and situation. I chose Wealthfront, since you can get the first $10,000 in assets managed for free. The fees becomes a flat rate of 0.25% after $10,000.

Now I have a portfolio of low-cost ETFs and my investing is automated! I don’t have to check on it as often as a do-it-yourself type of approach. I like that.

How to choose a robo-advisor

I want to go through some ways to help you figure out how to choose a robo-advisor for you. Let’s get crackin’

1. Management fees

One of the big things to do when investing, besides the actual investing part, is to keep your fees as low as possible. Fees from the funds you’re invested in, advisor/management fees, trading costs, they can all add up.

As actor Billy Eichner says, Keep your fees, like your milk, under 1%. Keep them wayyyyy under 1%.

Betterment charges a 0.25% advising fee. Wealthfront is free, having no advising fee on the first $15,000 managed. It becomes 0.25% after that.

2. Investment Options

With many robo-advisors, including Betterment and Wealthfront, you don’t have a choice in which funds to invest your money. The investment decisions are made by the platform (usually via a computer algorithm). So it’s important to see what investment options there are when looking at how to choose a robo-advisor.

The money is often invested in low-cost ETF’s like a total stock fund, emerging markets, international, and some bond funds. What is unique is your asset allocation (the percentage you have in stocks and bonds) based on your risk tolerance, which is usually based on a short questionnaire you fill out.

3. Minimum Opening Deposit

When you have little money to invest, low or no account minimums can be *wonderful*. Betterment offers no account minimum ($0, yeah!) and Wealthfront has a $500 account minimum.

Don’t focus too much on getting one with the lowest account minimum. Keep in mind the full scope of features, interface, and fees each platform has to fit your needs.

4. Platform Interface and Features

One of the things surprisingly mentioned when looking at how to choose a robo-advisor is their online interface. Some of them have really great interfaces that help you visualize your long-term goals and figure out ways to do more.

This is so great at motivating you to save for retirement and your other goals.

Betterment offers a RetireGuide calculator that shows you how much your money will amount to over time and how much you need to save per month or year to reach your goals. It lets you customize your accounts to different types of goals you have (retirement, house down payment, etc.)

Wealthfront offers a similar thing with their Path tool, a visual interactive tool used to set and see your savings goals over time. You can also connect your accounts to monitor your spending with it.


Robo-advisors are a fresh face when it comes to the world of investing. It’s going to be interesting to see how they do in the years to come.

A lot of people, including seasoned investors, are critical of them due their new-ness and spot in the investing world. We all have to start somewhere, right? Robo-advisors can be a great way to get started investing or for people who know they should invest but don’t want to manage it too much. For me, when it came to how to choose a robo-advisor, it came down to three things: fees, investment options, and customer help/online tools.

I want to keep my fees as low as possible, while still being able to passively invest. Ultimately I went with Wealthfront.

For investment options, I wanted to make sure most of the pre-selected investment options were low-cost funds. Also, looks matter (sort of… :)). I wanted a platform that had an interface that made it easy to enable auto-deposits, give a snapshot of investment loss or growth, and show me how much to save based on my goals.

You’ll still find me reading over articles on investing and looking over different investment portfolios, but for now, using a robo-advisor service like Wealthfront works great for me.


Are you confused about the world of investing and want to learn more? Enroll in my free 7-day Investing 101 For Millennials email course.

Just two years ago, I knew nothing about investing and kept all my money in a savings account earning 0.05% interest. Once I learned more about investing and it’s power to build wealth, I got started with it. Investing doesn’t have to be overwhelming or scary!

The course will walk you through the basics of investing, why it’s important, why everyone should be doing it, and how to set up and get your first investing account ready to go.

Click the image below to learn more!

Investing 101 for Millennials


Have you ever considered using a robo advisor? How do you choose the best robo advisor? 

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