Teacher Talk Tuesday: Retirement

Retirement is one of those things that your HR department gives you a brief overview of during your hiring process, and then (if you’re like me), you forget about it. This is especially true if your school is part of a statewide union in which retirement contribution is compulsory.  Maybe your advisor suggested you choose the high risk package because you’re a young teacher or maybe not even that much advice has been given to you! Well, after eight years of teaching in two different states and contributing to both 403b’s and compulsory retirement funds, I was ready to pull my hair out. Since When We Teach is aimed at providing support for educators, I’m going to share what I’ve learned about retirement and hopefully help other teachers out there dealing with the same issues.

This is the first in three-part series on Teacher Talk Tuesday that will clarify the unclear, provide you with potential options, and give you concrete action steps you can do to take BACK your retirement. Yes, I said take BACK. Many educators do not realize the options they have and the necessary actions that are needed now to ensure a safe retirement.

Clarify the Unclear

As I said, retirement contributions may not be top of mind for many new (or experienced!) teachers as they embark on their career. But it is absolutely CRUCIAL that we understand our options and are empowered to make sound financial decisions to safeguard our finances today and in the future. The first step to taking back your retirement funds is knowing what what kind of retirement fund you contribute to AND knowing the shape that fund is in. As I’m sure you know, many states’ compulsory education retirement funds are making headlines for various reasons. So, you need to know how your state retirement fund is fairing and what your state’s education department’s plan is. To find this out, you could search your district and state retirement website, but I’ve found that process to be confusing and unclear – it’s difficult to find the information you’re looking for and even harder to quickly understand the jargon used to explain the plan.

What I’ve found to be more helpful is information that Bellwether Education Partners publish. Bellwether describes themselves as “… a national, nonpartisan nonprofit of more than 50 professionals dedicated to helping education organizations become more effective in their work and achieve dramatic results, especially for the most underserved students.” The do strategic consulting, policy work, and talent services. They are recently focused on teacher retirement and have complied awesome, informative, and simplified resources on retirement that educators can use to better understand how their retirement is working (or not working!) for them.

So, what are your next steps? Do these two things:

  • Find out what your retirement plan is!
    • What is your portfolio made of?
    • What percent does your employer contribute and what percent do you contribute?
    • What is your plan’s vesting period? (i.e., how long do you need to stay in order to qualify for a minimum pension?)
  • How well does your state deliver retirement benefits to teachers?


Check back next Tuesday for Part II!






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