On being poor in ELT: some verbs that collocate with money

ask for money

Asking for money is a bit of a taboo in teaching or writing. We’re meant to do it for the love of the noble principle of education and literature.

I remember a job interview for Assistant DoS at a well-known language school chain. At a previous interview I’d been offered a Senior Teacher position which I’d turned down citing money. But they’d liked me so, when a higher position came up, they invited me down for a second interview. If I remember rightly, they even said they knew money had been an issue for me before. I took that to mean that the new offer was going to be good so I didn’t ask the ballpark figure before taking a second unpaid day off work and going down to London from York again. I did ask if they might cover my train ticket though, and was told they wouldn’t.

At the end of the interview I asked about the salary. It was £19,000. I’d paid for a train ticket and lost a day’s pay for a job that paid less than the average graduate fresh out of university. I asked when having 7 year’s experience and a Masters in ELT would be commensurate with salary. Yes, I actually did use the word commensurate, the long word only partially distancing myself from the outrage I was otherwise too British to show.

She said, it must be noted, proudly how they all loved working there and had had a pay freeze for the last couple of years (though the school had invested a ton of money on some part of their website I vaguely recall). She wore the low pay as a badge of honour. It is like some sort of money Stockholm Syndrome and, I think, it seeps into a lot of ELT’s culture around money

Anyway, surprise! I didn’t get the job which was fine as I could never have lived in London on 19 grand without time travelling to the ’70s.

borrow money

I’ve not typically been a big borrower but, when I was starting out as a writer in Madrid and still teaching, I had to borrow money from a guy I was dating. All because I had moved flat, for the first time in my life renting a non-shared place, and didn’t have the cash flow to pay the rental deposit plus internet installation.

I was a fully-grown, working adult unable to financially weather a simple life event.

earn money / make money

The most I’ve ever earned was 36,000€ for one year working as a sort of live-out governess/English teacher/English-speaking companion in Germany with all rent and bills paid. I felt rich. I saved most of it because I had zero social life and lived at the beck and call of the multi-millionaires I was working for.

That, at times very difficult, job contributed to over half of what’s in my pot now. 10 years later, with I can’t remember how many published books and articles, that salary still seems unattainable to me as a writer.

This is something to work on but I see how this industry makes educators and writers believe money is out of reach and feeds a feeling that money isn’t for people like us.

invest money

Not once in EFL, as a writer or a teacher, do I remember ever being given any training or input into money, let alone growing it, despite having worked for some of the big language school chains. I’ve never had a company pension nor any guidance on a concern that drives most teachers to taking private students on the side. The dependency on abundant private work is somehow seen as a perk of the job, not one of its dire consequences.

I can only suppose that employers don’t want to disturb the hornet’s nest and draw attention to the fact the pay is so bad that the future is something to ignore in the hopes it will go away. Freelancers have it even worse.

Anyone who has ever read anything I’ve written before will know how little filter I have, even with the time to edit before clicking “publish”. In person, it’s even harder. A few years ago, I was on a panel at a conference in Barcelona. I forget the topic now but the CELTA academy owner and host asked if we had any recommendations for newly-qualified teachers. Before I could think, I said “Have a plan to get out after two years and get a job with sick pay or a pension.” I didn’t do anything about improving my own circumstances with regards to either though — I had no idea how to.

inherit money

Unlikely. Next!

lend money

My sister and I have made pretty opposite life choices. Her for financial security and home-ownership, even though she’s an artist at heart, and me for something more bohemian and “freer”. Years ago, I had some savings at the time she was buying a two-bed flat and lent her money for part of the deposit. She repaid it as soon as her previous one-bed flat sold, on the way up the property ladder.

I put the money back into an account where it earned pretty much nothing for the next 15 years. I didn’t have the financial education to know better.

She went on to buy a three-bed house.

I … didn’t.

save money

Now this is one thing I was quite good at. I’m an accumulator and steadily grew my savings to a modest amount over maybe 20 years. In my mind I was always going to be OK because I had those savings. But also, nothing would ever induce me to dip into them because the psychological cost of removing my safety net was too great. I didn’t know, or pretended not to know, that inflation was eating them away and I also pretended not to know that, in terms of retirement or incapacity, they’d only buy me 3 years at most. Now I know about investing, they’re working hard for me but my big regret is not knowing about this ten years ago as they’d have tripled or more by now.

spend money

waste money

Again, not a great tendency for me but I do own things I don’t need, like most people, and having small kids mean my house fills up with plastic crap. But my incentive to not waste money is much greater now there is an investment destination for savings. I’ve even passed it on to my 7-year-old who, with 20€ euros of birthday money from his nanna, chose to spend/waste 5€ on a bey blade knock-off that we couldn’t then put together, and invest the rest!

Ready to make your money work for you?

Investing is the only one of the money collocations that takes you beyond the confines of what you can earn through working. It expands your income to a form of passive income that will grow over time.

It is literally money for doing (almost) nothing.

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