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VOICES: English Teacher in Tokyo who quit Goldman Sachs

Anna @ Young Money: Emily is a dear friend of mine — we met during our full-time training at the NYC Goldman Sachs headquarters and now bond over Asian-American identities and Ali Wong. Emily worked full-time at GS Hong Kong before joining a dance media and entertainment company in China and then teaching English in Japan. She quit GS after only 6 months.

I’m particularly excited to share Emily’s non-linear path because it’s the opposite of mine! Most millennials I know consider (however briefly) quitting corporate life for a more peaceful, adventurous life. I’m not against it myself, but have my own reasons for staying in finance. Emily managed to shape her initial urge to quit corporate life into a reality that she is happy with today.

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Interview with Emily:
What is your current age, salary, and job position?

I’m currently 25, and I work as an English teacher in Tokyo at a language company (1-on-1 lessons, students are mostly Japanese businessmen). I make 3.3 million JPY per year (about $30,000 USD). Most of my students have pretty high-level English, so a lot of the time our “lessons” are just really interesting and engaging conversations about Japanese history, politics, economics, and culture.

For COVID-19, my company gave us the option of either working from home (teaching lessons online) or just not working at all and getting paid 60% of our salary, so I chose the second option. I’ve been using this time to learn about film and videography.

Young Money: Emily chats more about her life experiences on her Youtube channel.

What led you to Japan? And what was your previous job / last salary change?

I actually first came to Tokyo on a business trip with Goldman haha. I couchsurfed with a local host family afterward (stayed a few more days in Tokyo after the business trip ended) and loved it. That was October 2017. The next time I came was for vacation while I was at the dance company in China, in June 2018. On that trip, I hung out with a lot of Japanese dancers (mostly hip-hop / urban dancers); we made videos, we produced a sh*tty rap song, and it was just all-around a very culturally and artistically rich experience. I felt a strong pull to live in Tokyo.

My previous job was the dance media and entertainment company in China. When I joined in March 2018, I got 11,000 RMB per month (roughly $1500 USD) and that came with a free apartment (that would have cost 3800 RMB or $500 USD). By the time I left I was making 16,000 RMB (about $2300 USD) per month, but had no apartment stipend because I had chosen to live in Japan.

I moved to Japan in September 2018 and quit the dance company in March 2019. I realized I didn’t like working in the Chinese entertainment industry at all, and also wanted a job in Japan that would sponsor a work visa so I could stay long term.

What was your first full-time job (including year, age, and salary)?

My first full-time job was at Goldman Sachs Hong Kong on the Prime Brokerage team in the Sales & Trading division. I joined at the end of August 2017 at age 22. My starting salary in 2017 was $80,000 USD (625,000 HKD). I also received a year-end bonus and pay raise in 2018, but I don’t remember what either of those were.

YM: We love her candor in this video talking about why she left Goldman.

What are your money goals / thoughts on money now? 

Money no longer holds any meaning to me other than being a basic necessity for life. I just try to make enough to cover my living costs and still save some for retirement, and that’s the extent of my “money goals”. I currently make about $2,000-3,000 USD per month. I can usually save about $1000 of that. This is all after tax. 

Most people think of “retiring early” as something you do when you’ve reached a certain income bracket or net worth. But if you think about the meaning of retirement — it’s basically when you finally get to do whatever the f*ck you want and not have to worry about money either (if you’re lucky). In that sense, I “retired” at the age of 24 when I left the dance company. I don’t have to worry about money, I’m continually saving, and I get to do whatever I want.

What are your professional goals?

My “professional goals” are completely removed from any income goals or status/prestige/company rank goals. I would say my “professional goal” is to live a life that I find meaningful and fulfilling. Ideally create some things that bring meaning to other people too. Or at least create some pieces of self-expression that others can resonate with.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated by a desire to live the most “saturated” life possible. “Saturated” in the sense of rich experiences and meaningful connections with other people. I don’t want to spend the majority of my limited time on earth sitting in front of a computer in an office doing work that doesn’t fulfill me. (Side note: these are just my raw, unfiltered thoughts! Not trying to pass judgment on anyone else’s lifestyles.)

(Another side note that you didn’t ask for — I find that living in a foreign country and having new experiences every day is a far richer experience than taking an expensive two-week vacation once a year, but again, it’s a lifestyle preference.)

More about Emily

Emily can be reached on Instagram at @emerlene or via email at echen(at)wellesley.edu. She appreciates hearing other people’s experiences and would be touched if you reached out to share yours.

About #ShowMeTheMoney:

#ShowMeTheMoney is a pay transparency series that showcases different perspectives and career tracks for young people.

Beyond serving as a salary indicator that is more accurate and personal than Glassdoor, it reminds us that building a career, like anything, is an individual choice and journey.

Stay tuned for more on the #ShowMeTheMoney series or consider contributing your voice.

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