School’s looking a little different this year as COVID-19 continues to impact America. As an educator, you may be connected with kids virtually over the coming months, or you may be offering in-person instruction with the help of masks, separated desks and new sanitation procedures.
Whatever the 2020-2021 school year looks like for you, now’s an ideal time to review and reflect on your current financial standings. With a new year ahead, are you making the right financial moves? What should you be thinking about, or what should consider doing differently? We’ve outlined three of our top financial considerations for teachers below.
Consideration #1: Is an Advanced Degree Worth It?
Multiple studies have conducted research to determine whether or not an advanced degree increases a teacher’s effectiveness and performance in the classroom. Interestingly enough, researchers saw little to no difference in a teacher’s effectiveness. The big difference, however, is in salary.
School districts value teachers who earn an advanced degree, meaning a Master’s degree or higher. A polling of the largest school districts in the country revealed an impressive 88 percent of districts offer a higher salary for those with advanced degrees.1 Some districts offer a specific amount across the board (such as $1,000 increase each year), while others will base the amount on years with your degree, experience and more.
As an educator, you shouldn’t ignore the potential payout an advanced degree may earn you. But before signing up for classes, you’ll want to make a couple of considerations first:
- What student loan debt will I have to take on to complete a Master’s degree?
- Can I afford to be a full-time student, or will I need to continue working while completing my degree?
- What will the pay increase be in my district? Is it worth taking on more debt?
Consideration #2: What Debt Should I Prioritize Paying Down?
To be an educator, a bachelor’s degree is required. In some districts or states, a Master’s degree may even be preferred. But, as you know all too well, a bachelor’s degree doesn’t come cheap. Meaning whether you’re in your first year of teaching or tenth, it’s likely you’re still paying down student loan debt.
As you start a new school year, now’s the perfect time to reassess your current debt and payback strategy.
Aside from student loan debt, what other debt have you accrued recently? This could include:
- Car payments
- Credit card debt
- Personal loans
If you’re struggling to get ahead of debt, you may want to speak to a financial advisor who can help you make a game plan. In general, prioritize paying down high-interest debt like credit cards and personal loans first. These will accrue interest the fastest, meaning they can get out of control quickly.
Consideration #3: Should I Feel Obligated to Buy Classroom & Cleaning Supplies?
Teachers spend on average $459 of their own money on school supplies each year - that’s money that doesn’t get reimbursed by the school.2 While the actual amount varies state-by-state, the numbers are clear: it doesn’t matter if you’re working in a rural area or city, high-poverty district or low, nearly every teacher in America shells out their own dough to cover classroom costs.
The problem is, teachers nationally are paid less than comparable workers, earning on average 11 percent less (when accounting for non-wage benefits).3 The difference is so much so that 18 percent of teachers across the country work second jobs outside of the school system.3
As a teacher, you’re already facing an uphill battle when it comes to enjoying a liveable and fair wage. Should you feel obligated to buy classroom supplies out-of-pocket? And with many schools returning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, do you need to account for additional safety and sanitizing supplies as well?
To help offset the costs of running a classroom, some teachers ask parents to supply their kids with basic necessities - pens, pencils, tissues, notebooks, highlighters, etc. This year, that list will likely include new necessities like masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, etc.
Your dedication to your students shines through in everything you do - whether you’re working in-person or virtually. As the school year gets into full swing, take some time to help yourself out by refocusing your finances and working with a professional who understands your specific needs and concerns.
Paradigm Advisors is a fee-only financial planning firm based in Dallas, Texas and Fayetteville, Arkansas. Paradigm Advisors provides comprehensive financial planning and investment management services to help clients organize, grow and protect their wealth throughout life’s journey. Paradigm specializes in advising young professionals and entrepreneurs in the early stages of life and well-established career executives through financial planning and investment management. As a fee-only fiduciary and independent financial advisor, Paradigm never receives commission of any kind. Paradigm is legally bound by certification to provide unbiased and trustworthy financial advice.