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Broke Millennial No More: Finding Financial Liberation in China

   Posted On: July 20, 2018  |    Posted In: Broke Millennial No More  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

The first story in the Broke Millennial No More series comes from Shannon Ullman. 

I never expected my move to China to liberate me from being broke. In fact it was the year leading up to my move that left me more broke than ever. Being my first year out of college, I was struggling to pay student loans. On top of that, I had to pay for rent, car insurance, health insurance, my pets and all of the normal life expenses.

Those days, I was lucky if I could save $20 a month. Financially, things weren’t going well. And, in terms of my career, things weren’t really moving at all. I had graduated with a degree that I wasn’t interested in and had no real job prospects.

So, I did what any wander-lusty, career-less graduate would do, I got a job teaching ESL in China.With only $2,000 in my bank account, I packed a bag, got on a plane, and started a new life. The first way that China liberated me from being broke was my apartment. As part of my contract, my employer provided housing with no cost to me. Score!

Secondly, I didn’t need a car. Anywhere I needed to be was walk-able. The places that weren’t, I took a bus or a cab. Health insurance was included in my employment package and a cell phone was provided too. All I had to do was pay for minutes if I ran out. While I still had to pay my student loans, my overhead was pretty low.

The cost of living in China is also quite low. And, my teaching salary of $1,500 USD per month,was considered pretty high. It allowed me to eat out for almost every meal, take taxis everywhere, go to the bars and clubs nearly every weekend, and still have money to travel on school holidays. I also picked up a handful of tutoring gigs outside of work. There were several months where I didn’t even touch my paycheck because I had enough cash from tutoring.

Life in China as a 23-year old was good. Mornings were spent wandering the city in search of temples and new street food to try. Evenings were spent playing games with kids to teach themEnglish. Nights were spent at the ‘high-end’ bars drinking imported beers and talking culture with co-workers who were from places all around the world. And, weekends started with house parties, moved on to the clubs, migrated to karaoke, and ended at 4 am eating fried rice from the street vendors.

I was broke no more and it felt fantastic.


Shannon travels because it makes her life better, all around. She’s building her ideal life and hopes to inspire you to do the same. Visit her for more adventure at

Written by Shannon Ullman
Photo from Shannon Ullman
Edited by Bridget Dennin

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