It's hard to believe another terrible snowstorm is bearing down on the east coast this week (has been compared to Hurricane Juan which devastated Nova Scotia in 2003!!) as I look out onto the back patio where the snow is receding, the sun is shining, buds are on the trees and many birds are flitting about. But then snow is in our forecast too so I better not get used to this!
Where was I? I went on quite a tear yesterday detailing the number of jobs I've had over the years. Everyone thinks teachers are highly paid and well off but that's not always the case. I didn't begin my teaching career until I was 36 years old and for 7 years I made just an hourly wage as an "occasional teacher." I started off at $30 an hour which was twice as much as the highest salary I received working for the Royal Bank. HOWEVER at the bank I was paid for a 37.5 hour week, at the Adult Education Centre I was paid for 25 hours a week. They paid only for teaching time, no pay for prep work or marking. That was still WAY more than I had ever earned before!
There were lots of days that I wasn't paid for. If I stayed home sick or if I stayed home with my sick daughter I didn't get paid. So I found a nursing service that cost $15 per hour. When Kazi was ill I had peace of mind knowing a nurse was caring for her and I still cleared $15 per hour which was better than nothing. Holidays were not paid for and the days in between 10 week contracts were also unpaid. I was able to get some unemployment during the down times @ 60% of my hourly wage. And of course there were no benefits. I didn't go to a dentist for 7 years. Because we were connected to the Ministry of Community and Social Services Kazi's dental and medical needs were covered. We also received a subsidy on daycare which really helped. I have to say that the "safety net" was there for us and I appreciated it sooooo much!
At this point in my life I had never yet owned a home. Every weekend I would scour the real estate ads and dream. I didn't think it was possible for me to get a mortgage. Then I read "The Wealthy Barber" by David Chilton. What I learned from that book helped me to get approved for a mortgage. I didn't know you could take money from an RSP to use as a down payment without a penalty - and you were given 17 years to pay it back into your RSP!! I think I had a whopping $1700 in my RSP at the time. He also advised cashing in on life insurance and buying term insurance instead. I had had two life insurance policies from when I started in banking so I cashed them in. Now I had about $4200 to use as a down payment. I also borrowed money from my dad as there were legal fees and moving expenses. (my dad loaned money interest-free to all 5 of his kids from time to time with the expectation we would pay him back and we always did! We called it the Bank of Dad!)
I discovered the condo complex we live in in the weekend paper. The units had been rentals and someone had purchased them all to renovate and sell as condos. The price was right so i went to the bank to see if I could qualify for that amount. The wait was excruciating but eventually I was approved! After giving birth that was the highlight of my life!! Kazi was 4 and I can remember jumping up and down screaming with joy ' "we're owners we're owners!" I don't know if she understood the concept but if mommy was overjoyed so was she! We wandered around the complex to look at the available units - none had been renovated yet so i was just looking for the best location. We picked an end unit that had a gorgeous crabapple tree in front of it. There were lots of mature spruce trees and they planted a lot of maples which are now 40' tall. I got to pick out the kitchen cupboards, all of the flooring, the countertops etc. It was thrilling! It was also a bit of a risk as the condo corporation had to sell 80% of the units to be considered a corporation but they soon did.
Finally in 1999 teaching positions started to open up. I applied and was interviewed for a Curriculum Resource Teacher. I didn't get that position but my resume crossed the desk of one of the Directors of Education. He gave me a call and offered me a permanent .5 position. I replied that was great but I needed full-time, not part-time work. So he found another .5 position and hired me over the telephone!! (This would not happen today!!) The first half-time position had a LOT of turnover in teachers. He asked me to commit to 2 years minimum. Both .5 positions were in special education and luckily I had taken Special Ed courses in previous summers.
The learning curve was straight up!! I never worked so hard in my life! But I enjoyed the challenge - I was 43 and still had lots of energy. And the board sure got its money's worth from me - the position in the morning was a highschool position and the afternoon job was an elementary position - that meant travelling from one school to another on my lunch. I started an hour earlier in the morning and the afternoon job went an hour later so all in all I worked for free for six months over the 3 years I worked those 2 jobs!! My instructional day wasn't the usual 5 hours, it was 6! I was told by my elementary principal I could go to my union with a grievance but I was just damn happy to have a permanent contract - I wasn't going to make any waves! I had benefits, I had a bump in salary, what more could I ask for?
Three years later the same director gave me a call. He was being relocated to another school board and before he left he wanted to offer me a highschool position which would mean only working at one school - no more driving during my lunch hour. He had asked me to stay in the .5 position for 2 years and I had stayed for 3 - so I think this was my reward. (Again, this would never happen today - I would have to apply along with anyone else who wanted the position). I don't know how he managed it but he did and I came to my current position which I've held for the past 13 years. It's made a huge difference to my life and i like to think I've earned it by giving it 110%.
Oh, forgot to mention the glitch when moving from an occasional contract to a permanent contract. Yes, there was a glitch of course, when isn't there? Although I had worked for 7 years as an occasional teacher that only equated to 3.5 years on the teacher's pay grid. Why? Some courses I taught in addition to visual arts didn't qualify (basic numeracy and literacy) and the courses I taught at night didn't count either. I was pretty downcast about that as it took almost 7 more years to reach the top of the pay grid!! Well, that's my life - work hard for my money! That means I was 50 years old by the time I reached the top of the grid. Now I'm 57 - so I've only been earning top dollar for 7 years. In May I'll be 58 and I'll be retired at the end of June.
HOW is that possible you ask?
The main reason is because we never moved out of our condo which was paid off at an accelerated rate. Another "Wealthy Barber" tip - ALWAYS PAY MORE THAN YOUR MORTGAGE PAYMENT!! And don't buy your home based on 2 salaries which is the big mistake people are making today. One person loses their job and they're screwed!
So while other teachers bought bigger houses, new cars, cottages and had tropical vacations during Christmas and March break Kazi and I stayed put in our condo, I bought used cars and our vacations were based on her highland dancing career (which I could never have afforded if we had moved to a bigger house!) We've vacationed in Alberta, Montreal, Nova Scotia (first time Kazi was on a plane!), the Gaspe Peninsula, Cape Breton and Ottawa. Our big "extra" purchase came in 2005 - I bought a trailer in a Bayfield trailer park (on Lake Huron) for $10,000 which I paid off in a year. It was paradise - we loved it - a more luxurious form of camping complete with campfire and nearby beach.
And in 2007 I began to seriously think about retirement. I created a 7 year plan based on retiring TWO YEARS EARLY on a reduced pension. Yup - I'm not eligible for a FULL pension until 2016 but I would rather have two extra years of LIFE than a little extra $$ per month. So I worked towards becoming debt-free and saving as much as possible. We live on half my income and I bank the rest. Once I'm retired I'll already be used to living on my pension amount. I'll have savings, I'll sell the condo and I've already purchased my retirement dream home in PEI where you can still get property at a reasonable price.
That's where I'll end today. I know there are a lot of missing pieces in my story but I'd be sitting here writing for weeks to TELL ALL so it'll have to be a bit at a time.
It's a gorgeous sunny day here in London, ON, hope you enjoy your day!