Financial Planning for Teachers: Tips

Although often overlooked, financial planning for teachers is essential. Teachers are so busy with their students that they can neglect their own needs, such as their financial security. In today’s world, that can be disastrous. I didn’t start taking care of my finances until I was 43, and I wish I knew earlier what I know now. Here are some tips for taking care of your financial future.

Build an Emergency Fund

This can be hard to do if you’re aggressively paying down debt, but it’s an essential part of good financial health. Automate your savings by directly depositing money into a savings account. If you don’t see it, you won’t spend it. Even if you can only afford to save the cost of a cup of coffee each month, do it—it adds up. Bank your tax refunds and stipend money. Aim to save at least three to six months of living expenses.

Pay Off Your Student Loans

This should also be a priority. Pay as much as you can each month—preferably more than the minimum payment—and try not to defer your loans. If you meet certain requirements, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness; it’s worth looking into.

Maximize Your Economic Potential

Most schools pay step raises for advanced degrees, so you can expand your knowledge base and boost your long-term salary. Teaching also provides a multitude of ways to make extra money through summer school, coaching, and tutoring opportunities. You can even become an advisor to a club. There are plenty of ways to boost your salary if you look for them.

Save for the Future

Although many teaching positions still offer pension programs, you should be proactive in supplementing your retirement income. A Roth IRA is a great way to do that. If you have an emergency, you can always withdraw what you put into a Roth IRA. If you can, try to sock away 10 percent of your pay.

Invest in Long-Term Disability Insurance

Long-term disability insurance is relatively inexpensive (a few dollars a paycheck), and in the event that you’re unable to work, you can still receive approximately 60 percent of your salary. Your school may have a plan in place, or you can purchase it through organizations like the National Education Association.

Consider Buying Life Insurance

This is not a necessity. Only buy life insurance if someone in your family depends on your income to survive. My financial idol, Suze Orman, says never buy whole life insurance; only purchase term life insurance.

Make a Will

If someone depends on you for financial support, you need a will, a trust, and a power of attorney; Suze Orman has always stressed this on her show and website. I’m shocked at how many of my colleagues who are parents don’t have these documents. While you’ll have to pay an attorney to help you create them, it’s well worth it to know your loved ones are protected.

Get Organized

Buy a fireproof, locked box for your important paperwork, including your will and trust. Be sure someone has passwords to all your accounts. Save your receipts and other forms; you’ll thank me at tax time when everything is at your fingertips.

Examine Your Finances

Ignoring your money situation can have catastrophic results. Suze Orman says, “You have to face it to erase it.” I believe that to be true. Financial planning for teachers should occur at least twice a month. Plug leaks, spend less, save more. Knowing where you’re at is half the battle.