Until the end of this last school year, my little sister was a teacher in Portland. She taught elementary school for four years before she got restless.
Teaching is a funny profession because unlike a lot of other career paths, year one of teaching looks a heck of a lot like year 20. So, my sister naturally wondered,
“Is this all I want to do in my life?”
After a lot of conversations (both with friends and family, and within her own head), she realized her answer: maybe teaching is something she can go back to later in life, but for now, she’d like to try something else.
Plus, Portland was getting to her. She was tired of being made fun of at the grocery stand when she asked for iceberg lettuce. She didn’t want another IPA, thankyouverymuch, she thought the compost bin was a disgusting place, and she felt a burning desire to start her own adventure.
Have you felt that?
I have. I followed that feeling to Washington, DC, and four years later, I followed it back to Portland. I’m starting to feel it again, but I’m not yet sure where it will take me. Plus, this story isn’t about me. It’s about how my sister realized she could change her profession and her location and come out ahead financially.
Swapping Teaching for Corporate America
This is not news, but teachers do not get paid well. Teachers in Portland get paid especially poorly. When my sister got hired in Portland, she was paid $29,000 a year for her efforts. Her school was a public charter school, which gets even less money in the state of Oregon than traditional public schools, which meant her salary was lower than her peers at regular Portland Public Schools. She did get her summers off, which she loved, though. There’s something to be said for time off.
Plus, the cost of living in Portland city is high, especially compared to income. She watched as her friends bought houses, while she had a hard time saving any money at the end of the month.
Did she complain about it? Sure, but she also did something about it. She knew that working somewhere else, in a new field, any other field, would give her a bump in pay. But she also knew that if she followed her need for adventure to a state where the cost of living was lower, she’d be able to afford a lifestyle with a few more fun things.
Career Switch: Teaching to Sales
She works for a textbook company, and now she supports the sales team for science curriculum. They offered her $40,000, which is a 37% raise. That’s right, America. We pay our teachers so little that when they switch into entry level careers elsewhere, they’ve already given themselves a huge raise.
Swapping Hipster Portland for the Middle of the Country
My sister has always felt that she didn’t belong in Portland, which is funny because we grew up in “baby Portland” (Olympia, Washington) and she LOVED that. But every time she left Portland to visit somewhere else, she felt like maybe she should try living elsewhere.
Plus, she’s always had a thing for southern gentlemen.
So, she switched things up! She packed up her car and drove south. Way south. To San Antonio.
Location Change: Portland to San Antonio
Everything is cheaper in San Antonio! According to this cost of living calculator at CNN, my sister would have to make $54,000 in Portland to match her $40,000 salary in San Antonio.
So, effectively, she’s being rewarded in two major ways:
1. Reward for leaving the teaching field = $11,000
2. Reward for swapping expensive Portland for moderate San Antonio = $8,000
So, by switching her career field (knowing full well she can go back to teaching if she wants!) and moving a thousand plus miles inland, she’s effectively given herself a $19,000 raise.
Which, for you mathematicians playing along at home, means she increased her salary by 86%.
I’m not saying we should all move to San Antonio (though I bet she’d love that!), but I am saying that we always have a choice. People who live in the most expensive cities in the country (and yeah, I’m not going to throw stones here, because this glass house has so many windows!) have the option to leave.
It’s not always a good option, but moving is always an option.