7 ways educators can earn straight A’s in money-management - KSTC-TV, Channel 45 Lifestyle-

7 ways educators can earn straight A’s in money-management

© Jack Hollingsworth / Photodisc / Thinkstock © Jack Hollingsworth / Photodisc / Thinkstock

By Andrew Housser

Few topics are more contested than how to build our educational system. But most people agree that a teaching career’s rewards are more personal than financial. With Wednesday, Oct. 5, designated World Teacher Day, this week presents a good opportunity to offer suggestions for teachers who want to build strong financial report cards along with their careers.

Here are seven ways teachers can get straight A’s in financial success.

1. Learn to budget. Teachers’ starting salaries are among the lowest for new college graduates. For 2016, new teachers average $36,800 annually. Teachers who stick with the profession earn more – but no one goes into teaching to get rich. That makes an education in budgeting crucial. Find ways to manage your housing, entertainment and transportation costs, whether that means roommates, biking to work or hosting potluck parties instead of dining out.

2. Participate in available retirement plans. Savvy educators understand the value of compound interest. Investing early and often provides greater returns. Teachers often qualify for a retirement pension, but it might not cover all of your post-retirement needs. Private, parochial and charter schools might not qualify for state-run retirement pools at all. But many schools of all types do allow you to contribute toward your retirement savings. Talking with a financial advisor can help you determine whether you should use an IRA and/or other retirement tool.

3. Take advantage of all benefits. When your human resources officer talks about your potential employment benefits, take notes. You may have access to affordable health insurance, inexpensive dental coverage or a free session with your school’s investment company for financial planning assistance. You also might be offered a flexible spending account, which lets you save pre-tax money. You can then use these funds for certain expenses, such as medical costs or dependent care.

4. Look into student loan forgiveness and other payment-reduction options. Teachers in certain high-need subject areas or geographic locations may qualify for loan forgiveness or loan cancellation. Check online to learn more about teacher loan forgiveness, or contact your lender for information.

5. Consider additional, paid duties. Some teachers earn more by taking on coaching a sport, proctoring examinations or teaching summer school. Coaches, on average, can earn an extra $5,000 per year. If you have the time and skill, this can be a useful way to add income.

6. Weigh pros and cons carefully before going to graduate school. Teachers with a master’s degree typically earn more than those with only a bachelor’s degree. Nationwide, the difference ranges from about $2,000 to $10,000 per year. However, a recent study found that a teacher would have to work nine years, on average, to earn back the amount an average master’s degree costs. Given that nearly 50 percent of new teachers quit after five years or less, a master’s degree may or may not offer the desired monetary return. Check with your school and district about any reimbursement.

7. Make the most of long vacation periods. The one teaching perk everyone can agree on is that teachers have long stretches of time off during holidays and summer. Use these times intentionally. That might mean taking on extra work to earn more cash, planning the birth of a child for early summer to make the most of time off, saving money by doing home or yard projects yourself, or refilling your spirit with travel. Set goals that will work for your needs and your budget.

Earning those straight A’s in financial success on a teacher’s salary takes dedication, commitment to a budget and cautious spending to avoid going into credit card or other debt. The good news is that educators who pay attention can make their careers work well for themselves as well as those they teach.

Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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