You’re interested in becoming a teacher but keep hearing about low educator salaries.
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.
Other factors include standard of living, level of education, years of teaching experience, geographic location, type of school where the teacher is employed, family status, and saving habits.
Though teachers with a college degree generally earn less than their non-teacher college graduate counterparts, data from the National Education Association shows that in the school year 2019-2020, the average public school teacher’s salary was $63,645.
That varies by state, however.
While most teachers may not be able to live a luxurious lifestyle, they are able to live comfortably.
This post is dedicated to aspiring teachers who worry about the pay and ability to live comfortably on a teacher’s salary.
It provides insight from the perspective of a career educator.
*Disclaimer: This post represents my opinions/experiences and is for educational purposes only. I am not a financial advisor, and this post does not represent formal financial advice.
Your Comfort Level Determines If You’re Comfortable Living on a Teacher’s Salary
Understanding the relationship between teacher salary and living comfortably begins with taking a look at an individual’s mindset.
You must first ask yourself, “What’s comfortable for me?”
Are you okay with having just the “basics” in life (or maybe just a tad bit more)?
Or do you need frequent lavish vacations, a McMansion (or two), designer clothes, etc.?
Do you have a need to keep up with the Joneses?
We all have different standards for our lives.
Some people actually don’t mind living in a smaller apartment, starter home, or other humble abodes.
Others desire spacious quarters in order to feel comfortable.
If money and material things are highly important to you, then maybe a more lucrative profession better suits you.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. So be very honest with yourself.
Can a Single Teacher Even Buy a House?
According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), homeownership is the least affordable for those living in the Northeast and the West.
However, many banks help teachers acquire homeownership with a low down payment- some as low as 6%.
Though banks may do this, still consider investing at least 20% on the down payment in order to lower your monthly mortgage.
Additionally, research support options such as…
Other Factors That Contribute to Living Comfortably on a Teacher’s Salary
Private vs. Public Schools
Generally speaking, K-12 public school employees are paid more than private school employees.
However, there are prestigious college-preparatory schools that pay just as well as public schools.
Having a partner who also works contributes to living comfortably as a teacher; two incomes are often better than one.
Adding kids to the mix affects finances significantly.
So you’ll have to be more creative in making a comfortable lifestyle if you plan to raise a family on a teacher’s salary.
See how one family lives a good life on a small income.
How responsible are you with money?
If you have the discipline to buy only what you can afford and live within your means, you’ll be fine living comfortably on a teacher’s salary.
Do Teachers Make Enough Money to Live Comfortably? Look Around
Observe the teachers around you. How are they living?
They have cars, apartments, houses, and kids. Maybe they eat out or take a vacation every now and then.
If that sounds good enough to you, then living comfortably on a teacher’s salary shouldn’t be too much work.
If you have a rich palette and want the “finer” things in life on a regular basis, go another route.
You can always consider the teaching profession later in life.
7 Practical Solutions for Living Comfortably as a Teacher
Following are tips for how to live comfortably on a teacher’s salary.
1. Live Modestly.
If you’re really intent on being a teacher, then do it.
Just live modestly.
- Lease a smaller apartment or buy a starter home.
- Buy an affordable used car.
- Use clothes that are well-made but reasonably priced.
- Eat out only on special occasions.
2. Get Married.
There are potential financial benefits to marriage.
If you’re in a two-earner household, living on a teacher’s salary is not so hard.
Two teachers sharing a space can live as comfortably as one.
3. Start a Side Hustle.
Starting a side business can help you live more comfortably as a teacher. Ideas include tutoring and teaching English online.
Read about these 7 work-from-home jobs perfect for teachers.
4. Be Willing to Move.
Paychecks generally go further in places with lower costs of living.
To get the most bang for your buck, stick to major cities, as school districts in big cities tend to pay more.
As always, do your research.
5. Teach in International Schools Abroad.
Teaching in international schools abroad, especially in very low-cost countries, helps to stretch your teacher’s salary.
You may also be able to take advantage of the tax law that allows certain expats to exclude their foreign-earned income.
6. Stay In the Profession Long-Term.
As an educator, you’ll probably be paid according to a salary schedule. With time, you’ll move up in earnings on the pay scale.
In the meantime, see if your school or district gives stipends for in-demand certifications such as bilingual or special education.
Extra duties like coaching or sponsoring extracurricular activities often reward educators with supplemental pay, so research those too.
If you really want to earn more money and live comfortably as an educator, consider a master’s degree in leadership or another education-related field.
7. Learn the Basics of Financial Literacy.
Educate yourself about financial literacy, and discover ways to make your money plus time work for you.
Read key financial advice for teachers and learn how to live well (even thrive!) on a teacher’s salary.
Do Teachers Make Enough Money to Live Comfortably?
Are teachers happy with their salaries?
Like individuals in any profession, some teachers are happy with their salaries while others are unsatisfied with theirs.
In general, teachers who live in bigger cities earn higher salaries though the cost of living tends to balance that out.
Teachers receive good benefits such as a retirement plan (some pay into a pension), paid time off, health insurance, and summers off.
Do teachers have a good work-life balance?
In general, teachers do have a good work-life balance.
Those with small children can be off during vacation breaks when their kids are off. Summers off also mean that teachers can pursue hobbies or work an additional job.
While grading papers and other school-related tasks can extend to after-school hours, teachers do have control over their work-life balance.
Is it worth staying as a teacher?
It is worth staying as a teacher if you are interested in becoming vested in and taking full advantage of your school’s retirement or pension plan.
Furthermore, the more years a teacher has in the profession, the higher her teaching salary.
Do you make a lot of money as a teacher?
According to information from the National Education Association, the average U.S. public school teacher’s salary for the 2019-2020 school year was $63,645.
The Census Bureau reports that the median earnings of full-time men and women workers in 2019 were $57,456 and $47,299, respectively.
So it could be argued that teachers make a bit more than the average U.S. worker.
So, Do Teachers Make Enough Money to Live Comfortably?
Yes, educators absolutely do and can live well on a teacher’s salary. It’s all about what you value.
If after reading this post you feel that teaching is not the best career choice for you, that’s fine.
It’s good to know what you want vs. don’t want now compared to later when you’ll probably feel too invested in a career or lifestyle to make an exit.
Now you have some insight into the potential lifestyle offerings of a K-12 teacher.