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Back to School and One Year Closer to Retirement

When I was a kid, the Labor Day weekend meant two things to me: a new school year and (more importantly) a new TV season. Today, new shows are just as likely to launch during springtime as the fall. And more school districts now call students back to class weeks before the official end-of-summer holiday.

One thing hasn’t changed, however, and it should. Too many of our teachers mark Labor Day as one year closer to retirement, yet still don’t have enough saved for it. 

Worse, whatever educators can manage to put away will have to last even further. The average 65-year-old woman has a 53% chance of living to 85 (it’s a 41% chance for men).1  And these average lifespans lengthen with each passing year.

Although most school districts provide teachers a public employee pension, most leave a wide gap between their payout and what educators realistically need in retirement.

It’s Their Future Too

As teachers dive into their well-laid curricula to shape our children’s futures, they also need to raise their hands about their own, beginning with a few key questions:

  • How much retirement income will I need?
  • Will my state pension cover all my retirement income requirements?
  • Should I contribute to a retirement plan in addition to my state pension?
  • I’m over age 50, have I taken advantage of any catch-up contributions available to me?
  • How will health care costs factor into my retirement expenses?

Not all educators are falling behind in retirement planning class. In fact, according to a recent National Life survey, about 51% say they started saving for retirement before they turned 30. However, 78% said they wish they began even earlier than that.2

Those who are attuned to their looming pension shortcomings generally turn to alternate retirement products to supplement their strategies. These include Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), as well as 403(b) and 457 plans that are typically funded with annuities offered through insurance companies. Check with your district’s leadership to determine which companies are pre-screened and approved to offer these products through your school system.

Meantime, a great place to start to answer questions and find possible solutions is National Life’s retirement home room. Here, teachers can pinpoint their retirement income gap and chart a course to narrow it as they get closer to the big day. They can also access other online tools to capture a glimpse of their current situation and what they may need to help meet goals.

Most importantly, educators should speak with a financial professional who can help them ask the right questions, find the best answers and get to the next level. 

With the new school year now full steam, I want to thank our 3.2 million public school teachers3 around the country for being there again to lead our kids through yet another academic season. Although my classroom days are well behind me, I’ll never forget the lessons I gained from these respected professionals. They showed me how to “Always Be Learning” ─ every day and in every way, for life. Speaking of which, I just learned the network renewed my favorite show for another season. What a perfect Labor Day.

1Plan for a Long Retirement, Vanguard, 2019.

2 How Educators Feel About Retirement Security Survey, National Life Group, 2019.

3 Fast Facts, Teacher Trends, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017.