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Dan's Blog

Dear New Teachers ✍️

July 27, 2021

Dear New Teachers,

Thank you. Thank you for embarking on a career that can have such a positive impact on society. I know how excited you are about the upcoming school year. I just want to share a few thoughts that I wish someone had shared with me when I was in a similar position in August 1993. 

Rewarding But Exhausting

The job is rewarding but it can also be draining. I taught in my late 20s and early 30s and I was often exhausted by Friday dismissal. Please take care of yourself. 

Be a Goldfish

Not only should you strive to eat well, exercise regularly and get lots of sleep, please go easy on yourself. I was far too self-critical in my early years of teaching. In hindsight I wish I had celebrated the victories more, and been — as coach Ted Lasso urges his players when things go south — a goldfish, a creature with a short memory. 

Touch the Future But Don’t Forget Yours

I used to think the phrase “teachers touch the future” was corny. But I now see how true that is. A few years ago I had to take my son to the emergency room. One of my former third graders was doing his residency in the very hospital. Former students have reached out to say hi, to thank me, to recall a classroom incident, or to let me know about a life milestone. I get emotional thinking about these encounters. 

While you will surely have similar interactions, please don’t forget to think about your future self. When you are in your early 20s, age 56 (my age) seems a long way off. It's not. By the time you hit your 50s I want you to be well on the path to ensuring a comfortable retirement. Here are three simple things you can do to make this a reality.

  1. Most teachers are covered by a pension plan. This is a formula-based retirement plan where payout is based on some combination of years worked, salary and age at retirement. Unfortunately, many states are making retirement plans less generous for new hires. Understand now how your plan works. 
  2. Get wise to the two 401(k)-like retirement plans available to teachers: the 403(b) and the 457(b). When used correctly, these can be fantastic wealth-building tools. Learn more about the 403(b) here and the 457(b) here
  3. Avoid the 403(b) sales agent in the staff lounge and the ones filling up your email box. They will claim to be financial advisors. They are not. They are commissioned-based sales people. 

August 19th Event for New Teachers

Tired of seeing my teaching colleagues ripped off by 403(b) sales agents, I started 403bwise in 2000 to educate teachers about the 403(b) and advocate for lower-cost investing choices. Not only do we provide information on the wise use of the 403(b) and now also the 457(b), we put on free weekly education sessions on saving for retirement. We are hosting a special one hour education event for new teachers on Thursday August 19th (4pm PT; 5pm MT; 6pm CT; 7pm ET). We will be raffling off copies of my book Teach and Retire Rich. Learn more about the event and register here. Your future self will thank you. 

Stay wise and well (and get to know how to unjam the copy machine).