Financial Planning for Educators
Financial Planning for Educators
June 14, 2004
Guest: Dan Otter, author of Teach and Retire Rich
Anthony Rebora, Teacher Magazine (Moderator):
Thank you for joining our live chat with Dan Otter, author of Teach and Retire Rich and The 403(b) Wise Guide.
As those of you read the Teacher Magazine story know, Dan is not your ordinary financial advisor. He’s a former middle school teacher who began educating himself on investment issues in part by talking with his colleagues about their retirement plans. He discovered that they weren’t always well informed about what was in them—or what else they should do to prepare for the future. Now he considers it his mission to educate and empower teachers financially.
Dan is online now, so let’s get started answering your questions. We’ve got a lot of really good ones. I hope the discussion is helpful to you.
(Note: This chat is intended for informational purposes only. It will be conducted with the understanding that neither the guest, Editorial Projects in Education, nor persons participating in the chat will be engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services.
Opinions expressed are solely those of the guests and participants and do not reflect the views of Editorial Projects in Education, which takes no editorial positions.)
Question from Robin Walter, Special Education Teacher:
I have just entered the educational field. When I do actually retire (in many more years from now of course) I am confused about receiving Social Security or our teacher’s pension. Can you please clarify?
You have every right to be confused. Some teachers in some states contribute to both a traditional formula-driven pension through their employer and to Social Security. In some states, the teachers only contribute to their state pension plan. However, some teachers in those states have worked outside of education and have contributed to the Social Security system for some time. Unfortunately there is something called the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) which reduces benefits for those who receive a government pension and Social Security. Here is a link for more information from the Social Security Administration on this: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html There is also something called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision which affects spousal and survivor benefits for teachers who qualify for social security but receive a government pension.* Here is more information from the Social Security Administration on this: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10007.html. It sounds like you have many, many more years to work. I would encourage you to save as much as you can now in your 403(b) and your 457(b) or any other employer based plan available to you. Also contribute to a Roth IRA if eligible. Money in these types of plans will always be your money. The future of Social Security is tenuous at best. The future of teacher pension plans is also—I believe—tenuous at best. I think over the next 5 years you are going to see a real effort to eliminate these plans (because of their enormous cost to states), or restrict new hires from participating. The Governor of California tried unsuccessfully last year to close participation in CalSTRS (the state teachers pension system) to new hires.
Question from Natasha Koegler, Student, St. Edwards University:
When I graduate in spring 2007, I will be 39. What would you suggest I should do to acquire enough savings, while at the same time paying off all my loans (30K)..all on time for when I retire?
I think you can do both—save for retirement and pay off your loans—over time even at age 39. But you have to be realistic and you have to have a plan. In my book Teach and Retire Rich I profile a teacher who eliminated $52,000 in debt in less than four years. Here’s a condensed version of how she did it:
1. Stop the bleeding—be sure to pay bills on time to avoid late charges 2. Pay the lowest interest rate you can—she card shopped and moved balances to lowest interest cards 3. Simplify debt—she consolidated student loans with US Department of Education and moved some debt into her home loan 4. Change spending habits—live below your means 5. Save even when it hurts—she still contributed to her 403(b), at a minimum you should contribute at least $100 a month. 6. Do not be proud—she and her husband took in a renter 7. Track the progress—visually seeing the reduction was motivating
It is essential that once you get out of debt that you stay out of debt. Good luck.
Question from Maxie Patel:
I am at the end of my 30 years, and wish to retire from my present position and continue working for at least next 10 years. How do I best create a financial plan for these last ten years?
Congratulations on your long career in teaching. You are wise to be thinking about this when you are 10 years out. When it comes to retirement, planners talk about creating a vision. How do you envision retirement? Will you travel? Downsize your home? Buy another home? And just as importantly, how will you pay for retirement? I would encourage you to first make your best possible guess at how much money you will have in retirement. Do you have a traditional pension? This is called a defined benefit plan and is formula driven (generally years of service x a percentage of your final years salary x a retirement factor). Your state should have online resources that will allow you to calculate your expected payout. Are you eligible for Social Security? For teachers, this varies by state. For example, in California teachers do not contribute to Social Security. For those who are eligible, there is something called the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) which reduces benefits for those who receive a government pension and Social Security. Here is a link for more information from the Social Security Administration on this: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html There is also something called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision which affects spousal and survivor benefits for teachers who qualify for social security but receive a government pension. ** I would also contact your employer for more details on this question. You also need to figure out how much you will have from a 403(b) and/or 401(k) and/or 457(b) and/or IRA, traditional or Roth, and/or other savings and investments. How will you pay for medical? Will your house be paid off? These are complicated questions that vary greatly from person to person. I think as individuals there is a lot we can do in regard to retirement planning, but I think when it comes time to actually retire, and actually live on the money we have saved, I think investors would be wise to utilize the services of a professional planner. My preference is to use a fee-only planner. This type of advisor is paid on an hourly basis. His or her recommendations are not based on commission for selling product from a certain company. Look for an advisor who has the CFP (certified financial planner) designation. Here’s a good information source from the SEC: http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/invadvisers.htm I would encourage you to interview at least three.
Question from Pam Atkinson, Reading Recovery Teacher, JEB Elementary:
My husband (age 52) and I (age 51) are both teachers and plan to retire in about ten years. What’s the quickest way to prepare? We’ve done a little investing with mutual funds but now that our nest is about to be empty, we need to know the quickest way to get ready for a comfortable retirement.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is a lot we can do as individuals to save for retirement. But I think when it comes to actually retiring it would be wise to think about consulting with a financial professional. You are 10 years out and I think this is a good time to be looking very seriously at retirement. In regard to planners, my preference is to use a fee-only planner. This type of advisor is paid on an hourly basis. His or her recommendations are not based on commission for selling product from a certain company. Look for an advisor who has the CFP (certified financial planner) designation. Here’s a good information source from the SEC: http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/invadvisers.htm I would encourage you to interview several.
If you want to begin investing on your own I would encourage you to look into the 403(b) plan at your work.
Here’s info on starting a 403: http://www.403bwise.com/wisemoves/start403b.html
Here’s info on fees: http://www.403bwise.com/wisemoves/fees.html
and here’s info on asset allocation: http://www.403bwise.com/wisemoves/assetallocation.html
Finally, here’s information from the IRS: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4482.pdf
Another thing you can do is figure out your expected payout from your teacher pension plan (if you are contributing to a plan, most public school teachers do). This is formula driven (generally years of service x a percentage of your final years salary x a retirement factor). Your state should have online resources that will allow you to calculate your expected payout. Good luck!
Question from Donna Cooke, Guidance Chairperson:
How much can a put into my 403B each year?
As much as you can, but of course there are a myriad of factors for each individual. When it comes to investing, time is truly your best friend. That is why I advocate saving as much as you can as soon as you can. The power of compounded earnings over time is powerful. Even $100 per month can add up over time. Plus contributions lower your taxable income. Now if you are a school employee who can’t afford to put away more than a few thousand dollars a year and you have poor investment choices available at work—which is typically the case with teachers; I define poor investment choices as those limited to high fee annuity and high fee mutual fund products—you may want to instead contribute to a Roth IRA because you can invest with just about any company you wish. As you may know with a Roth IRA you contribute after tax dollars, can only contribute a maximum of $4,000 this year, but at withdrawal in retirement you generally do not pay taxes. Ideally you would contribute the maximum to both plans if eligible. Here is a link that details the workings of the two plans and outlines the 403(b) vs. Roth IRA debate: http://www.403bwise.com/wisemoves/403bvsroth.html
Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center, Little Rock School District:
Please summarize main points in the “The 403(b) Wise Guide”?
The 403(b) Wise Guide, which I co-wrote with financial planner Scott Dauenhauer, CFP, was our attempt to describe the workings of the 403(b) in clear, understandable language, and from the perspective of the participant. Basically, we explain what the 403(b) is, why it is important, and how it works. We also describe basic investment fundamentals. That book is now out of print, but all of the 403(b) information from that book, in addition to information on the 457(b), Roth IRA, teacher pension plans and other investing information is all described in my new book Teach and Retire Rich. The main points of that book are that teachers and school employees have some pretty powerful wealth building tools at their disposal—403(b) and/or 457(b) and/or pension—and that if they understand and take advantage of these plans they can retire fairly comfortably. The book also speaks to the intrinsic riches the profession affords. You can view the table of contents of that book here: http://teachandretirerich.com/contents/index.html
Question from Welson W. Nedlic ,Testing & Evaluation, Pohnpei State Education:
How can I save up for my childrens’ Education?
Despite some issues--too many broker-sold plans, not all states offer a tax deduction for contributions, uncertainty of how long provision allowing tax-free withdrawals will last--I am a fan of the 529 plan, which is kind of like a 401(k)/403(b)/traditional IRA for saving for college, with the emphasis on kind of like. To learn more about this plan I would encourage you to visit http://www.savingforcollege.com/. Here’s a link to an FAQ section from that site: http://www.savingforcollege.com/intro_to_529s/ which will give you the basics. I believe each state now sponsors a plan, but you do not have to contribute to your state’s plan—many folks do not because their state only has high-fee investment choices. Companies known for lower fees such as Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, TIAA-CREF and Vanguard offer 529 plans for various states. Fans of these companies—of which there are many—will often seek out a state that offers a plan sponsored by one of these companies.
Question from George D. Felan, teacher, Fort Worth I.S.D., Texas:
Why is it that all that teachers are ever offered are basically insurance based annuities whose commissions make AXA salesmen rich and teachers poor in retirement?
I have struggled with this question myself. I think it comes down to the history of the plan—originally the only investment options allowed were annuity products, though mutual funds have been allowed since 1974—the fact most teachers have pension plans, the fact that school administrators are so busy with all that it takes to run a school system, and plain old lack of knowledge. Teachers, school employees and school officials do not know what they do not know. And the majority, do not know about the 403(b). By and large schools provide no unbiased information to participants. Unions, who should be advocates for teachers on this issue, have a very dubious history in this area. Here’s a link to yesterday’s announcement of NY attorney general Eliot Spitzer’s settlement with NYSUT over their 403(b) “arrangement” with insurance company ING: http://www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2006/jun/jun13b_06.html. Here are excerpts from that story:
“The investigation revealed that a retirement product endorsed by the unit – a so-called 403(b) plan offered by the Dutch insurance giant ING and its predecessor, Aetna Life Insurance and Annuity Company– charged investors fees and expenses as high as 2.85 percent per year while delivering only limited benefits. The unit endorsed the plan (even though cheaper alternatives were available) in return for undisclosed payments of as much as $3 million per year.
The unit took pains to hide this “silent partnership” with ING/Aetna. The unit would urge union members to attend financial planning seminars, claiming that: “There’s no sales pitch - they [the seminars] do not promote specific products or services.” But contrary to this claim, the seminars were used as a “foot in the door” to promote ING/Aetna retirement products.”
Question from Beverly Clore, teacher, Hayes Elementary:
I have a small retirement fund. It is not growing much. I am 51 and intended to teach for at least 10 more years. What can I do to make sure I have a good retirement fund?
Unfortunately many teachers and school officials do not have what I consider to be good investment options. This is one of the main problems with the 403(b). I addressed some of the reasons earlier why I believe this to be the case. Things to consider in looking at your investment: How much does it cost annually? I don’t think an investment should ever cost more than 1% in total fees. How is the historical performance of your investment? How is it allocated? I am a big fan of the following companies: Fidelity, TIAA-CREF, T. Rowe Price, Vanguard and USAA. Full disclosure TIAA-CREF and T. Rowe Price are advertisers on my website www.403bwise.com You may want to consider the Target Date Retirement approach. This is how I now invest my 403(b). I think it is low cost, simple and ensures and investor has allocated investments suitable to their investing timeline. You can read more about the Target Date approach here: http://www.403bwise.com/wisemoves/targetdate.html
Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center, Little Rock School District:
Can you talk about the sometimes confusing options available for a teacher who is considering retiring? For example, one could retire at age 62, but the social security does not cut in full fledge until age 66. Is it in any way adviseable to retire at age 62 when the full social security does not take effect until age 66?
To be honest Social Security and when to take it is not my strong suit. This is a question that may best be answered by a planner (info on using planners explained in earlier post). I due encourage participants to wait as long as possible before taping 403(b) plans and IRAs. The reason? Let these plans grow as long as possible. Will you receive a teacher pension payout? If so find out how much you will receive. Perhaps you can live on that before taping SS and other retirement plans. As I mentioned earlier if you are eligible for both an employer pension and SS you may see your benefits reduced because there is something called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision, which actually reduces benefits for those who draw pensions from their employer and Social Security. Here is more information from Social Security on this: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10007.html I would also contact your employer for more details on this question.
Question from Kyle Kutz, Teacher, Westlake City Schools:
By and large, isn’t it true that with 403b’s 1. You don’t really own the money? 2. The fees and commissions cut into your profits, and you’d be better off with a quality mutual fund opened in your own name?
I think you are referring to annuity products of which there are two kinds: fixed and variable. Fixed work much like a CD while variable are generally tied to mutual fund investments. I think most annuity products are expensive and unsuitable for 403(b) plans. I think most investors are much better off investing in no-load mutual funds, which as you point out are much less expensive. One of the few things we can control when it comes to investing is how much we pay in fees. Definitely do your due diligence on this front. Morningstar.com is a good source to get this information (some of their services require a fee).
Question from Kathryn Antman, Art Teacher, Anderson Elementary and East Clayton Elementary:
I just finished my second year of teaching. I know I should have a 403b but I don’t know much more than that, can you give a basic summary of what they are and how they work and how they are different from an IRA?
The 403(b) is a tax deferred retirement plan available to employees of educational institutions and certain non-profits. Think of it as a 401(k) for teachers, school employees and non-profit workers. Generally, if you contribute $100 a month to a 403(b) plan, you reduce your federal income taxes by roughly $25 (assuming you are in the 25% tax bracket). In effect, your $100 contribution costs you only $75. Contributions and investment earnings in a 403(b) grow tax deferred until withdrawal (assumed to be retirement), at which time they are taxed as ordinary income.
For more details on the 403(b) I encourage you to look at our FAQ section: http://www.403bwise.com/faqs/index.html.The IRS just released the following information for participants: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4482.pdf I would also encourage you to look at this link http://www.403bwise.com/wisemoves/403bvsroth.html which describes the similarities and differences between the 403(b) and Roth IRA and details the debate between contributing to a 403(b) and/or a Roth IRA. Finally, here is information on the traditional IRA: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p590/index.html
Question from Bob Sedivy,VP-Finance, Collegiate School:
I’ve read Teach & Retire Rich, & I understand why you criticize many 403(b) plans. We use TIAA-CREF & are proud to do so. Aren’t they an exception to the general criticism? Their fees are low & their service is great.
Thanks for reading the book. I am a big fan of TIAA-CREF and recommend them in the book. I mentioned in a previous post they are long time supporters of my site www.403bwise.com. They have just about the only annuity products I would invest in. Their fees are among the lowest and they have a long history of servicing the educational field.
Question from Henrietta Sparkman, Arts Educatir & Curriculum:
I have set some money aside in 403K for retirement. Is there a way to roll it over into a Roth IRA? How can teachers effectively use the new Roth403IRA?? Thank you!
Unfortunately, you cannot roll a 403(b) or a 401(k) into a Roth IRA. If you separate from service from your employer you can roll either of these plans into a Rollover IRA. As far as the new Roth 403(b) goes availability is still not widespread (it just became available this year). If you do have such a plan available here is how the Roth 403(b) works and here are some things to consider: Similar to the Roth IRA, the Roth 403(b) allows individuals to contribute after-tax dollars to an account that will grow tax-deferred. Withdrawal of contributions will never be taxed. Employees have the option of contributing to either a regular 403(b) or a Roth 403(b), or some combination of the two plans. Total contribution to either plan(s) cannot exceed $15,000 for 2006. Choosing which plan to contribute is very much an individual choice. Do you want the upfront tax deduction of the 403(b), or do you want the tax-free withdrawal option at retirement of the Roth 403(b)?
Question from Melissa Kulak, Master Ed, student, Shandoah University:
I am moving towards 50 years old, about to graduate and become a teacher. This is a new career and I want to know the first things you would do if you were someone who is just now going into education with no real retirement. I have invested in stocks for many years but the market seems fickle (for much of the time). Can you suggest a strategy for me and my new career in teaching/education with regard to financial planning? Sincerely Melissa Kulak
Welcome to the profession! I would investigate your 403(b) options as soon as you are hired. I would also encourage you to look at the Target Date Retirement approach to investing. Basically you invest in one fund geared toward your estimated retirement date. For you it may be in 15 years so you would look at a 2020 fund. As that date approaches your fund automatically becomes more weighted toward safer, fixed investments. The reason? The last thing an investor wants is to be over-weighted in stocks as they approach retirement and have a major market reduction occur as happened in 2000 when too many investors were overweighted in internet stocks. This link can better explain the Target Date approach: http://www.403bwise.com/wisemoves/targetdate.html Good luck!
Question from Melissa Tame, teacher:
How can you do this [i.e., retire rich]? All that we have and use is spent on buying resources for the classroom,... clothes to appear professional and cars & petrol to get to school functions. What do you do that is different?
I totally agree that as teachers our compensation is generally not equal to the work expended and as you mention we spend much of our own money on our classroom. The premise of my book is twofold: teachers have some powerful wealth building tools available to them (403(b) and usually a traditional pension plan which many private sector employees envy) and they are in a profession that affords them the opportunity to be intrinsically enriched. So it is really a play on the word rich. I write in the book that yes over time you can accumulate a significant amount of money (which is why I advocate that teachers contribute as soon as possible to a 403(b) even if it is only $100 a month), but if your goal is to retire to a McMansion or several McMansions teaching may not do it. The goal, I think, is to retire comfortably knowing that you engaged in a career that impacted, and enriched others.
Question from Kristin Evans, Special Education teacher, St. Michaels Assocation for Special Education:
I am just about to finish a year volunteer service as a first year teacher. I hope to teach in Iowa next year. What would you suggest as a budget plan for me next year?
While it would be hard to tell you how much to save for groceries, rent, bills etc. I would strongly encourage you to start a 403(b), even if you can only contribute $100 a year. I would also encourage you that every year when you get a raise to up your 403(b) contribution. Look at the Target Date Retirement approach, if available through your employer. I think this is a very simple approach, one which I utilize myself. Here’s a link to info on this type of investment: http://www.403bwise.com/wisemoves/targetdate.html
Question from Susan - State Department of Education:
How can I calculate the amount of savings I will need to have in order to be able to enjoy retirement? I am 58 and planning on working until 65.
This is a pretty tough question to answer not knowing your situation. As I said in an earlier post when it comes to retirement, planners talk about creating a vision. How do you envision retirement? Will you travel? Downsize your home? Buy another home? And just as importantly, how will you pay for retirement? I would encourage you to first make your best possible guess at how much money you will have in retirement. Do you have a traditional pension? This is called a defined benefit plan and is formula driven (generally years of service x a percentage of your final years salary x a retirement factor). Your state should have online resources that will allow you to calculate your expected payout. Are you eligible for Social Security? For teachers, this varies by state. For example, in California teachers do not contribute to Social Security. For those who are eligible there is something called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision, which actually reduces benefits for those who draw pensions from their employer and Social Security. Here is more information from Social Security on this: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10007.html I would also contact your employer for more details on this question. You also need to figure out how much you will have from a 403(b) and/or 401(k) and/or 457(b) and/or IRA, traditional or Roth, and/or other savings and investments. How will you pay for medical? Will your house be paid off? These are complicated questions that vary greatly from person to person. I think as individuals there is a lot we can do in regard to retirement planning, but I think when it comes time to actually retire, and actually live on the money we have saved, I think investors would be wise to utilize the services of a professional planner. My preference is to use a fee-only planner. This type of advisor is paid on an hourly basis. His or her recommendations are not based on commission for selling product from a certain company. Look for an advisor who has the CFP (certified financial planner) designation. Here’s a good information source from the SEC: http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/invadvisers.htm I would encourage you to interview at least three.
Question from Joanne Alexander, Reading Specialist, Metz Middle School:
Recently, I read an article that said educators will lose money, or have to pay money if they do not move money out of the 403B within a year of ending their contributions. What are the legal stipulations? Should we move money to an IRA or leave it with the companies who are currently investing our money in the 403B account?
I am not 100% sure of this question and what you heard. I think you may be referring to how the ability to move 403(b) money outside of your employer plan (known as 90-25 transfer and described here: tp://www.403bwise.com/wisemoves/transfer403b_bm.html) and into another plan (typically low cost mutual fund plan not available via the employer) is set to end with the new 403(b) regulations which are supposed to go into effect January 2007. If this is what you are referring to, this is the latest new on that front that I have. If this indeed happens I hope it leads to employees demanding that their employer offer better investments. Here’s a link on how to lobby for better choices: http://www.403bwise.com/wisemoves/betterchoices.html
Question from Julia Sonnenschein, Teacher, Chapin School:
I am 57 yrs old, working in a private school and at this time, and have NO definitive retirement plan. I withdrew previous funds from a public school plan to help off-set the cost of sending my son to college (I am a single parent). If I work one year in a public setting I can “buy back” my portion of the public plan (cost to me approx. $62K) Is this a viable choice? Would it be better to make today “day one” and begin to create something else for retirement? Best suggestions for ways to create this retirement fund? Thanks, Julia
At the risk of sounding like a broken record or a CD that skips, I would encourage you to seek council from a financial professional. This is a very complicated question (buying back service credit) largely dependent on your individual situation. See my earlier posts on seeking financial council. I would recommend that you look to open a Roth IRA. Good luck.
Question from :
I am near retirement in Virginia and will get a “partial lump sum” payment from my retirement account. What is the best way to handle this sum to keep it safely growing, sheltered from taxation, and available for emergency.
Doris L. McNeal Principal, Brighton Elementary, Portsmouth Public Schools, Virginia
Ask an official from your plan if you can move this into a rollover IRA at an institution of your choice. If you are able to do so this will allow you to avoid taxes now and the money will continue to grow tax free. If you are able to do this request a trustee-to-trustee transfer. This basically means that you yourself do not touch the money. Instead, all exchange of money is handled by the trustees holding and receiving the money.
Thanks for all the great questions. If I wasn’t able to get to your question I apologize. Since it is always wise to get a second opinion I encourage you to also post your question on our 403bwise.com discussion board at: http://bwise.ibforums.com/ There is a simple login procedure at top. We have some really knowledgeable posters who should be able to aid you.
Anthony Rebora, Teacher Magazine (Moderator):
I want to thank Dan Otter for taking the time to do this. This was a very detailed and substantive chat. I’ll have the transcript up shortly (on www.edweek.org and www.teachermagazine.org). If you haven’t done so yet, please check out Teacher‘s recent story on Dan Otter.
* The preceding three sentences were corrected and modified by Dan Otter after the chat. The passage originally read: Unfortunately there is something called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision, which actually reduces benefits for those who draw pensions from their employer and Social Security.
** The preceding three sentences were corrected and modified by Dan Otter after the chat. The passage originally read: For those who are eligible there is something called the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision, which actually reduces benefits for those who draw pensions from their employer and Social Security. Here is more information from Social Security on this: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10007.html
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