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Teacher Stories

Danielle, age 45

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Danielle teaches basic reading and math skills to struggling regular education students in grades 1 to 5. She loves working with students in a supportive environment. She targets instruction to meet their needs, and then watches their confidence soar. Danielle loves knowing they feel successful and hopes that their improved confidence as well as the new content learned helps them succeed in the regular classroom. "I have a lot of students, and most need much more intervention time than I can provide," she says. "My schedule is driven by the classroom teachers' schedules and not necessarily tied to the needs of the students."

We asked Danielle some questions about what he knows or wants to know about the 403(b) and saving for retirement, and this is what he said.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being total understanding, how well do you understand saving for retirement? Why did you pick this number?

I picked 8 because I have educated myself on the matter, but I know I am far from an expert.

What is your biggest money worry?

I want to make sure I have enough saved for the retirement of my dreams. I want to travel extensively and enjoy my time at home comfortably.

Do you have a 403(b)? If yes, are you satisfied with your investment? If you do not have a 403(b), why not?

I have a 403(b) with Lincoln Investments. On a scale of 1 to 10, my satisfaction with my 403(b) plan is 8.

What prompted you to start a 403(b)?

My dad told me to start saving for retirement as soon as I first started working. So, I opened a 403(b) my first year of teaching. I am so grateful for his advice!

Did you ever hear about the 403(b) in your teacher preparation program?

No. I had ZERO financial education in school.

Do you know what a fiduciary financial advisor is? If yes, how would you describe a fiduciary to a colleague?

Yes. A fiduciary advisor is someone who puts a client's needs ahead of their own. They act in their clients' best interests and typically they do not make commission from the sales of investment products.

If you could ask a financial advisor one question what would it be?

Am I on the right track to retire at age 65?

Anything else you would like to share with us?

I want to let people who are frustrated with their 403(b) know not to give up. It took me years to change to a 403(b) that has low fees. Around 2007, I found a website called 403bwise and learned that most 403(b) plans are high in fees. This information shocked me! I spoke to my school district about getting a lower cost plan, but they were not interested. I felt trapped, but I knew I would be leaving the district soon and figured I could roll my money out of the expensive retirement plan. I went out on maternity leave that year, and then decided to resign and stay home with my children. After I resigned, I called my advisor and told him I would like to roll my money into an IRA. He told me that there would be a very heavy charge because I was invested in Class B mutual funds. I could wait until the funds were 10 years old and convert to Class A shares. The fees would be much lower. I was so angry! But I decided to wait as the fees would have eaten up most of the earnings I had made. So, I let that 403(b) just sit.

Several years later, I started getting notices showing that my Class B shares were converting to Class A shares. Once they all converted, I called the advisor and told him I was ready to roll my 403(b) into an IRA. Unfortunately, once again, I could not get my funds out because I had returned to work and was back at the same school district. I considered rolling into a different financial company available through my district, but I thought I had no choices with lower fees. I was angry once again. I actually avoided investing in the 403(b) for several years. I was investing in a Roth IRA, but in 2019 I decided I wanted to invest a little more than $6,000 a year (current maximum allowable contribution to a Roth IRA). I remembered that website I had looked at years and years ago. I found 403bwise once again and joined their Facebook group. By posting my choices, I learned that I actually had a lower cost option available. So my journey was almost 13 years in the making, but I feel like I have finally gotten the investment vehicle I wanted!

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