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Lesson Plan: Retirement 101 for Teachers

If you are a teacher, you are in a unique position to inspire learning and discovery in your students. Your work can affect your students for the rest of their lives. We’ve noticed that teachers devote so much of themselves and their resources to their students that they sometimes overlook their own needs, such as planning for a secure retirement. While you may be covered by a state pension plan, you may also feel like you need to save additional money to provide for a comfortable retirement. Here are some steps to get yourself started.

“I Can’t Invest! I Spend Everything I Make.”

If you are spending all your income, and never have money to save or invest, you’ll need to look for ways to cut back on your expenses. When you watch where you spend your money, you will be surprised how small everyday expenses that you can do without add up over a year.

Small Savings Add Up to Big Money

How much does a cup of coffee cost you?

Would you believe $465.84?  Or more?

If you buy a cup of coffee every day for $1.00 (an awfully good price for a decent cup of coffee, nowadays), that adds up to $365.00 a year. If you saved that $365.00 for just one year, and put it into a savings account or investment that earns 5% a year, it would grow to $465.84 by the end of 5 years, and by the end of 30 years, to $1,577.50.

That’s the power of “compounding.” With compound interest, you earn interest on the money you save and also on the interest that money earns. Over time, even a small amount saved can add up to big money. If you are willing to watch what you spend and look for little ways to save on a regular schedule, you can make money grow. You just did it with one cup of coffee.

Know What You Owe

It’s easy to forget how much you’ve charged on your credit card. Every time you use a credit card, write down how much you have spent and figure out how much you’ll have to pay that month. If you know you won’t be able to pay your balance in full, try to figure out how much you can pay each month and how long it’ll take to pay the balance in full.

Pay Off the Card with the Highest Rate

If you’ve got unpaid balances on several credit cards, you should first pay down the card that charges the highest rate. Pay as much as you can toward that debt each month until your balance is once again zero, while still paying the minimum on your other cards.

The same advice goes for any other high interest debt which does not offer the tax advantages of, for example, a mortgage.

Savings vs. Investing

Your "savings" are usually put into the safest places or products that allow you access to your money at any time. Examples include savings accounts, checking accounts, and certificates of deposit. At some banks and savings and loan associations your deposits may be insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). But there's a tradeoff for getting that security and ready availability. Your money is paid a low wage as it works for you. 

When you "invest," you have a greater chance of losing your money than when you "save." Unlike FDIC-insured deposits, the money you invest in securities, mutual funds, and other similar investments are not federally insured. You could lose your "principal," which is the amount you've invested. That’s true even if you purchase your investments through a bank. But when you invest, you also have the opportunity to earn more money than when you save.

Most public school teachers can invest for retirement with automatic payments made directly through payroll deductions in a 403(b) plan. Read more about your investment choices in our publication “Evaluating Your Retirement Options"



We have provided this information as a service to investors.  It is neither a legal interpretation nor a statement of SEC policy.  If you have questions concerning the meaning or application of a particular law or rule, please consult with an attorney who specializes in securities law.

Modified: 09/14/2005