While doing research for a blog about teacher career satisfaction, I recognized a pattern in the articles I read. In each of the articles there were comments or quotes about teachers and money, like how much teachers earn, how much of their own money teachers spend on classroom supplies/to help students, and how often teachers work summer jobs to make ends meet.
Although we’re not financial advisors, (we’re teachers!), we can offer three simple, straightforward tips we believe will help you (and us!) plan our financial futures.
Tip One: Eyes Wide Open
Catching up with colleagues, I shared that I only bring my mail in once a week, mainly because I believe it to be mostly bad news — which brings me to Tip One: Eyes Wide Open. Ignoring or leaving our finances to someone else is not a healthy financial choice. Instead, set aside an hour on a Saturday to review all accounts and to pen a simple and honest financial plan (aka: a budget). Imagine knowing where your money goes! Consider making an appointment with yourself to do this once a week. It takes 30 days to establish a habit (just 30 days!). As you make your way, pay attention to convenience fees, late fees, and other “extras” that aren’t being used (like extra TV channels). Make a list, follow your plan, and feel proud of the steps you’re taking towards keeping your eyes open when it comes to your finances. As Lao Tzu tells us, a journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.
Tip Two: Review Your Benefits
Public schools and not-for-profit companies typically offer 403(b) plans. Don’t let the name intimidate you, it’s only a tax title, much like a 401(k). Find out if your district has a “match” — that is, if they match your contribution up to a designated percentage. The money you contribute and is “matched” and put into a 403(b)-retirement account is pre-tax dollars so you’re putting away more than if you deposited money into an account after being paid (see: Roth IRA).
As Greg Naylor, Financial Planner and President of Naylor Asset Management explained, you do not pay tax on your 403(b) contributions until you withdraw money. The Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) requirements are much the same as they are for a 401(k), unless the money was deposited prior to 1987. Ask your tax accountant or financial planner for more information or check out the IRS website for FAQs. To learn more about Teacher Retirement Accounts and planning, check out A Better Retirement Plan for Our Hard Working Teachers from Dave Ramsey.
My mom used to remind me that compound interest was one of the 7 Wonders of the World (well, technically, that would be the eighth). If your district has a retirement plan, take advantage of it. Talk with your Human Resources rep to learn about the benefits offered in your district, then talk with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to ensure you are financially fit. And, if you have questions, do what we encourage our students to do: ask questions. Yay, you!
Tip Three: Learn and Teach
Try your best to ditch the anxiety talking about money can bring. It really is simple math. The “people that know more than you” only know more because they have talked about it and learned about it. You can, too. Most banks offer financial planning for free, and there are online tutorials, videos, and plenty of books to get you on your way. Here are a few we like:
- Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? by Cary Siegel
- Finance for Teachers by Dave Grant
- Marriage, Kids, and Money by Nadia Busseuil and Nicole Ozelge
- Extravagantly Broke: Empowering Women to Crush Debt and Pursue Your Passion by DeShena Woodard
- The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman
- Winning to Wealth by Michael Lacy
- The Millionaire Next Door, and more recently Millionaire Women Next Door by Thomas Stanley