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Joe, age 43

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As a 6th grade Social Studies teacher, Joe, age 43 loves working with kids this age as they have the perfect blend of maturity and dedication to learning: "Their humor is fantastic and it is really the last year of true innocence for some of them as they approach their middle school years, and I just love it. The most challenging part of teaching is the lack of mobility the position offers. On one hand, it is wonderful because teaching is such a stable job but there is almost no ability to move to another district."

We asked Joe, age 43 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 9 because I have spent a great deal of time learning about these issues and feel pretty informed as to the retirement programs that are offered in our district and state. However, no one knows everything so I gave myself a nine.

What is your biggest money worry?

That the retirement system which we fully fund will be tapped into and drained by our state (New York).

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 T. Rowe Price. On a scale of 1 to 10, my satisfaction with my 403(b) plan is 9.

What prompted you to start a 403(b)?

I fortunately had a girlfriend whose father put a lot of pressure on his daughter to sign up for her school 403(b). I worked in the same district so I listened to the arguments for doing so and followed suit. It was the second best decision I ever made in

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

No but we absolutely do that for our teachers now. In fact, I give the presentation and we really focus on our NYS 457(b) plan because that is the much better option in our district.

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

I would ask the non fiduciary advisor how he/she sleeps at night knowing full well their typical fees are robbing teachers of nearly 40% in retirement savings over the course of a 30 year investing time frame.

Anything else you would like to share with us?

If I could offer three pieces of advice, they would be as follows:

1) Do not commit one cent to any retirement plan until you do the research first on the company you are going with. Too often we hear that you should "get started early" but this is missing the "do it right" component. This is the most important step of all. Choose a company wisely!

2) Begin with a very small amount. Again, we often hear that you should "contribute everything you can" but this is the wrong advice to give in my opinion. Start slowly and watch your money grow for a small amount of time. Be comfortable with your investment selection and your company of choice before you really start heavily investing. Once you start giving money towards something, you will be amazed at the interest it will provoke. You don't want a new investor turned off if the market takes a downturn. By starting off slowly and with small amounts, you can ease the person into investing and it takes away lots of the emotions that could come with a downturn of the market.

3) Once you are comfortable with your choice and investments, now challenge yourself to try and max out your contribution as soon as possible. This might mean $100 every paycheck or 20% more each year. Give your yearly "raise" to your contribution. Perhaps max out and then scale back if needed. However you do it, this is the goal and needs to be done as soon as possible. You will never regain the years lost to compounding. This step is the exact opposite of #1 and 2. Do it now and do it as quickly as you can.

Joe, age 43 is our podcast guest in episode 6: Episode 6: Teacher Joe Minnuto describes his bad 403(b) choices

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