The purpose of the Retirement Vault is to provide public school teachers with a database of information regarding financial and retirement planning specific to each state. Whether you are settled or possibly moving, we believe you’ll find the Retirement Vault useful tool that provides a lot of valuable information. Before viewing your state’s information, we encourage you to read the following:
Feedback: First and foremost, the Retirement Vault is about providing valuable information to public school teachers, which requires a LOT of time to research and aggregate all of the data in what we hope is a user-friendly format; however, we need your feedback! What did we miss that you believe we should have included? Did you, in fact, find the information valuable? What questions do you have that we did not answer? What could we do better? Please let us know by reaching out to us through our contact page, email, or twitter.
Median Pay: Figures provided represent the median salary of all public educators of all levels accross each state in 2018. The median starting salary for first-year educators is lower than the overall median salary and was last recorded for the 2016-2017 school year by the National Education Association (NEA).
Teacher Pension Grade: Each grade was assigned by a non-profit group who received some funding to conduct a research study on the state pension programs offered to public teachers in each state. The findings are quite revealing (and admittedly a bit scary) in regards to the sustainability of most state pension programs.
Teacher Recriprocity: Many young teachers either believe they can go teach anywhere no problem, OR that they are completely locked in to the state of their initial certification. Neither are actually the case, but the process of transferring a teaching license and the requirements to do so vary from state to state. Even earning your National Board Certification doesn’t guarentee the mobility of your license/certificate across the nation. Securing a professional license/certificate prior to moving makes the process significantly easier and generally just requires some or all of the following: paperwork (including verification of teaching experience, copies of license/certificate, copies of praxis scores, etc.), a fee, fingerprinting, and some time. Apprentice licenses/certificates can be trickier or involve many more requirements, if they’re transferable at all. In either case, be sure to contact the State Department of Education for a complete description of what you need. Another consideration when moving: if your teaching license is transferrable, your state pension is not portable (see below).
Pension Eligibility & Benefit Calculation: As long as state pension programs remain available, they are arguably one of the best perks for public educators. One major problem, though, is state pensions are just that – STATE pensions – are not portable across states. There is a vesting period ( (between 0-10+ years) in order to become eligible for a monthly benefit. If you stop teaching in that state for whatever reason before becoming vested, you receive no monthly benefit and generally forfeit any empoloyER contributions made to the account (but you still have control over what happens to the employEE contributions and can generally roll those into qualified retirement accounts without penalty). Furthermore, the contributions made to state pension programs are, in almost every case, significantly backloaded, meaning you need to remain an active member in the program for many years beyond the vesting period to break even on the contributions made to the account. Once vested, you must meet the respective state/district’s eligibility requirements in order to receive benefits.
SO WHAT HAPPENS IF I MOVE? Many state pension programs offer the ability of active members to purchase service years (the process, rules, and costs vary); however, you cannot double-dip if already vested in another program.
Our goal in providing the pension benefit calculation is so that readers can grasp an understanding of what it takes to maximize your payment in retirement; furthermore, knowing your anticipated monthly/annual pension income is integral to effective retirement planning (particularly if your goal is to retire early). Many states will actually calculate your monthly payment for you, and that figure is viewable by simply logging in to the respective state pension website. Additionally, an annual update is generally mailed out to participants.
We cannot stress enough how important accounting for your healthcare, vision, and dental coverage coverage for retirement planning is (especially for early retirees). Benefits vary greatly from not only state to state, but also district to district. Even if a teacher becomes eligble for “unreduced benefits”, that does not necessarily suggest your state/district will continue to cover or subsidize your healthcare insurance premiums. Healthcare coverage is far more expensive when you’re responsible for footing the entire premium bill – make sure you plan for that. Consider combing through your benefits plan with a fine comb and contacting your respective district/state for clarification.
College Savings: Some may disagree, but a pillar of TeachFI’s financial/retirement planning philosophy requires setting future generations up for success so that they may continue to carry the torch that signifies Financial Independence. Ensuring they are not
Most all states offer some sort college savings program, but not all programs are equal. For instance, some offer state tax deductions.