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How do you ensure financial security as a teacher?

Hi! I'm a high school student in New York. I have always felt passionate about going into teaching, but over the years, I have contemplated if that profession will support the lifestyle I want to live. A lot of my teachers work second and even third jobs for financial support. Should I follow my heart or listen to my mind?

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Grandon’s Answer

#1 question is your priority. what do you prioritize in your life? Is it your financial position or your passion for helping others learn? I am in Grad School right now & the way i see it is, Yes i may not make a bunch of money working as a teacher (high-school) but i will have an awesome schedule & still have so much time in the day for my hobbys. One thing to note is you have an entire summer to work a 2nd job or pursue other things, whose to say your hobby's cant also make you some extra income? For instance if something like gaming is your hobby, you could dedicate your extra time to that & find a way to make income from it or say doing nails is something you like, you could do that on the side.
hope this helps
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for your feedback. I appreciate it :) Lauren
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Anell’s Answer

Hi Lauren,

Great question! I have been in the education sector for about 8 years now. I've taught, coached, been an administrator, and am now in Ed Tech.

Simply put, I think "yes", you can find financial stability as a teacher (particularly in NY where the benefits are pretty good). However, I do not believe you can find financial freedom with solely a teacher salary.

Part of the reason I have left the traditional school setting and moved into an EdTech role is because my personal and financial goals have changed throughout the years. When I was in my early 20's, I was living at home, and totally fine with pursuing a job that felt rewarding emotionally, but not necessarily financially. However, now entering my 30's, my goals are shifting and financial freedom is what I yearn for myself and my family.

What I have found in my current job, is that I have the amazing opportunity to feed my personal mission and values while also being compensated in a fair way.

Ultimately, follow what your inner voice says. If it's teaching, go for it. And be open to things changing, if it no longer aligns to what it most important for you and your future.
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Kim’s Answer

some options:

1. live, and work, someplace that doesn't have a high cost of living. For example, in San Antonio you need half the money that you need in Brooklyn to maintain the same standard of living. https://www.nerdwallet.com/cost-of-living-calculator/compare/new-york-brooklyn-ny-vs-san-antonio-tx

2. Specialize. Rather than being a general teacher, specialize in something that is highly sought but in short supply. That could be music, sign language, coaching, etc. I don't know what it would be, this would require more research on your part.

3. Adjust "the lifestyle I want to live." I'm not sure what that lifestyle is. Rather than spending your summers travelling, become a park host at a campground. Learn to shop for bargains. Make your own decor rather than buying. An awful lot of financial independence has to do with adjusting wants and needs.

4. Money management. Don't run up credit cards, keep a good credit rating, if you have to use cards, find low interest ones. Take advantage of 0% interest payment plans (furniture, for example). Find ways to cut food expenses. Learn to save and invest. Have good insurance, including medical, car, disability, pet (if you have one). Establish an EMERGENCY FUND. In all caps because it's important. Unexpected expenses are the downfall of many people!

5. side-hustle. If you work a side job, do it for extra spending money - don't build your budget around it! And, let's say you are a music teacher. Tutoring in music is a good paying gig, much better than driving an Uber!

The sad reality of life is that normally you have either time or money, but not both. When you have lots of money, you are too busy working to have the time to spend it. And, when you have time on your hands, you don't have the money to do the things you want. So, we start out in life trying to make money. As we grow older, we understand that time is much more precious than money.

Bottom line, if you want to live a life of luxury, no, teaching is not for you. But, if you can have a reasonable standard of living that allows you to afford all of your needs and some of your wants, and you feel yourself being called to teach, then, go for it!

hope this has helped!
Kim
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the help Kim! I appreciate the list lol. Lauren
Thank you comment icon Great response, Kim! You are certainly correct that this is not a luxurious way to earn a living, but that it is one of many careers where one's choices in other areas will enable them to be financially secure. Thanks so much for your answer! Alexandra Carpenter, Admin
Thank you comment icon Thanks Alexandra! Sometimes I worry that I'm getting too old to be on here. . . these are definitely different times than what I grew up in! I can almost hear, "but Mom! You don't understand. . . . " Please let me know if I'm ever too far removed from the present reality Kim Igleheart
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Theresa’s Answer

I have been a teacher for 20 years. If you want to teach, you can do it, but it takes work and commitment.
One of the things I did before I even started teaching, was to earn my Master's Degree. With a Master's, you don't start at the bottom of the pay scale. Yes, I had a ton of student loan debt.
Second thing I did, like was mentioned above, I did not have any credit card debt. I knew my student loan payments would start and I could't afford to have credit cards as well. It was hard, I bought my clothes at the Goodwill, looked for second hand furniture on Craigslist, and for awhile at the beginning I was lucky to be able to live at home. I budgeted myself and only when out once or twice a month. As bad as I wanted a new car, I bought a used one that I drove into the group. Any extra $, I put in my saving account, and still there were many months that this didn't happen, but I had a little in my saving account so I had back up. After my second year, I was able to buy a small paired home (and I will talk about real-estate in #4)
Third thing. Honestly, I killed myself at school. If it came with pay, I did it. My district offered Professional development credit that helped me move up on the pay scale. So, by my second year, I was able to move up on the salary scale. I coached, tutored, etc. If it didn't come with pay, I didn't do it - I was strong and I didn't any of those jobs they try to throw on new teachers. If they asked me to do it, I asked if it had pay.
Fourth, I bought instead of renting. When I started, I was under the belief that I could not buy. The reality is, you can. I bought with the knowledge that I would be selling it. So, I researched remodelling and did the top things that would gain me the most money. I learned to paint-cabinets and walls, build selves, improve bathrooms, etc. I have moved numerous times, and I am finally in our dream home, and we made enough on each move to buy down the next house. We did the same improvements, and we are in a house now, that we bought 4 years ago and were able to finance it on a 15 year loan - so hopefully, I can retire with no mortgage. Also, on all the loans we did not buy a the top of our budget. We bought so we would be able to pay hundreds more on the mortgage.
Since, I started my journey, I have gotten married, I have had 2 kids, I have changed districts - twice. Every-time I did something, I didn't do it until I thought about what my life would look like in 5 years.
For example - the first paired home I bought, I didn't buy it because it was close to school, I bought it because it was a good deal. I knew at the time, that I was in my first 3 years and my job was not guaranteed.
Last thing - I started investing - Day 1 of my first year. Yes, I thought I would be poor. I thought, how can I have 1% taken out of my pay check. You know what - I managed. I was able to increase my deduction by 1% each year. I now have 10% taken out and I have a nice investment account.
These are the things that worked for me. I hope they help.

Theresa recommends the following next steps:

Foward thinking
Be Debt Smart
Buy -- Don't rent
Invest -- real estate or investment account
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Annika’s Answer

It can definitely be tough! I wanted to be a teacher so badly, and I did for a while. Then decided financially I wanted more so I became an HR director. Somehow, I ended up back in childcare and I’m so happy! Sometimes you just have to follow your heart! If your hearts in it, the rest doesn’t matter!
Thank you comment icon Hi Annika! Thanks for sharing your story. I think you are correct about heart, but it sounds like this Student might have a particular reason for needing to ensure financial security as a teacher. When you returned to childcare, was there anything you did specifically to ensure you made an adequate living in that career? Thanks in advance! Alexandra Carpenter, Admin
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Lauren’s Answer

As a former teacher, my candid advice is find a career that makes a good living. If you ever want to travel or invest, your best bet is to avoid teaching. You can always volunteer with youth organizations on the side or make enough money to retire early and then become a substitute teacher in your free time. There’s plenty of other ways to feed your soul and still be able to feed yourself. I was in the same position as you in high school; I wanted to change lives because so many of my teachers had changed mine, but I’m sad to say it’s just not worth it at the end of the day unless you want to live a really simple life without any luxuries. If teaching is what you really want to do, my advice is to teach outside of America. There are many European countries that value teachers as much as doctors and you might actually find a better quality of life. It wouldn’t hurt to research education in other countries if you’re open to moving abroad.
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Pamela’s Answer

Your pay is correlated to the number of days you actually work in a way. Think about all the days off we have as teachers. Plus, your pay for when you work is spread out over the entire year. Pay is part of the picture. Yes, I had odd jobs over the years, and it gave me the freedom to switch things up and do something different in the summer. I also coached for a brief stint but that is not big money to be honest. I think the biggest thing is how you use your money. I have always been one who looks at if I need something or just want it. A lot of money is wasted, in my opinion, on things we don't really need. People buy things and take out loans and give a lot of their income to the banks. Don't be a slave to the banks. School loan debt is another biggie. I worked and paid for my schooling as I went along. If you end up with a lot of debt fresh out of college, it will affect your life. Be wise with what you make.
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Gloria’s Answer

Hi Lauren,

I would recommend considering working as a teacher in business rather than primary or secondary education. In business, they are often called trainers and I know that they sometimes make more money than school teachers. You should also consider where you want to teach. You can earn different salaries depending on where you live and work. You also have an opportunity to work in colleges. You should consider if you want to specialize in a very specific subject.

Gloria
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