Year One 🧁
June 16, 2020
Last June I left my job as associate dean of the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Redlands. It was a bittersweet departure. Two-and-half years earlier our family had moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico for this job. I worked with some pretty impressive colleagues. I especially enjoyed the people in my department: Marianna, Bridgett, Hannah and Lili. Together we created some cool new classes including: From Beer to Eternity, a 2-day workshop on the history of beer which we held at area breweries; a Coding Boot Camp, and of course, a personal finance course. But I wasn’t leaving for just any reason. Thanks to the generous support of Tim Ranzetta, co-founder of Next Gen Personal Finance, I was leaving to work full time on a passion project 19 years in the making: 403bwise. While biking the other day, I got to thinking about what we have been up to these past 365 days. Here are some highlights…
June 2019 was devoted to a top-to-bottom website re-design to reflect our transition from 403bwise.com to 403bwise.org. Like a garage, a basement, or a 55-year-old teacher/403(b) advocate’s mid-section, 403bwise.com had grown a little bloated. A key goal was to simplify. My uber-talented designer wife, Amanda, led my podcast partner, Scott Dauenhauer, CFP, and me through a day-long mission redesign workshop. What emerged was an organization designed around three core areas — Education, Advocacy, and Community — and the motto: “The K-12 403(b) is broken. Together we can fix it.”
In addition to building out the Education section with information on the 403(b) and other relevant retirement plans and investing information we have…
- Created a short, succinct (at least we think so) 403(b) explainer video that can help teachers and others quickly get wise to the value of the K-12 403(b), and exposes some of its shortcomings. The video, which clocks in appropriately at 4 minutes and 03 seconds, has become our most popular piece of content.
- Launched weekly educational video conferences. Using Zoom plus interactive presentation tool Nearpod, we have put on dozens of sessions on the 403(b), the 457(b), investing, asset allocation, market fluctuation, working with an advisor, and how to get better vendor choices. We are now rolling out a “Fireside Chat” series with the likes of Vanguard, Aspire, and the “Wealthy Custodian.” The best part of these is getting to meet teachers from all over the country. While Scott and I miss traveling to meet with teachers in person, these video conferences are a pretty great consolation.
In addition to building out the Advocacy section with tools and downloadable advocacy presentations, we will be hosting the first ever 403bwise Advocacy Summit at the end of the month with a small group of teachers dedicated to educating colleagues about the 403(b). The event was supposed to be held in San Diego but instead will be held virtually this year. Enough said. More information coming soon.
One of the most satisfying developments the past year has been the growth of the 403bwise community. In particular, I have been blown away by the success of the 403bwise Facebook Group. I thought maybe we would attract 100-200 members the first year. We have more than 1,100 members.
Other Cool Year One Doings
- Interviewed on the Motley Fool Answers podcast
- Site mention and quotes in Wall Street Journal articles
- Meeting Karen Ferguson and Karen Friedman of the Pension Rights Center, an organization founded in 1976 with seed money from Ralph Nader (who was a trail blazing consumer advocate long before he ran for president) fighting to ensure that "older Americans will have enough money to live on when they are too old to work."
- A song! Days before the start of the National Tax-Deferred Savings Association's annual conference, Scott and I got word that we were “banned” from attending the event we had already booked a hotel and airfare for. The reason? Scott’s “numerous and unfair mischaracterizations of the Association” and its members. Hmmm. An organization dedicated to maintaining the status quo of commission-sold products and multi-vendor plans, is threatened by an organization dedicated to fixing the broken K-12 403(b)? Shocker. We didn’t get mad. Instead, we got our creative friends together to record the hit “Banned by the NTSAA” which is now the outro music for our podcast. We have another song in the works which we think will be equally catchy.
- Producing and releasing a Teach and Retire Rich podcast on a weekly basis
Scott and I are busy developing some more cool new features and projects. Stay tuned, as they say. Wait, do people still say that? Is "stay connected" a now more accurate phrase? Either way, the K-12 403(b) remains broken. Together, we are going to fix it!