How Financial Stress is Affecting our Teachers
Teachers in the United States face unique financial challenges that educators in other countries may not. While their focus is on educating our children, they are living paycheck-to-paycheck, unable to pay off student debt, and under a constant dark cloud of financial angst. This high level of stress can have an unintentional adverse effect on their students, also.
For example, a recent study out of the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions reported that teachers who were experiencing high stress in their work and were ill-equipped to cope or manage the stress were “associated with the worst student outcomes [including] lower math scores and higher disruptive behaviors.”
Financial anxiety causes teachers to quit or work multiple jobs to try to make ends meet. Even if a teacher is able to repay their monstrous student loan debt, what can be said for their retirement fund? Most educators are unable to fully rely on their pension or retirement funds from the state to maintain their current standard of living or cover unforeseen expenses in the future.
Here are four tips to help teachers manage their financial stress:
- If your student loans were issued through a private funder, reach out to the agency to ask if the payments can be lowered or any percentage of the loan forgiven. It never hurts to ask.In regard to federal student loans, there are a few different options for repayment. Research each of the different repayment types to see which works best for you. Income-based repayment plans often have the option of loan forgiveness through different programs, such as public service loan forgiveness or a variety of state programs.
- Educators in a public setting may be able to contribute to a 403(b) plan. A great option for retirement in that participants can contribute pretax dollars. Some states or districts may offer a Roth 403(b) which will allow taxes to be paid on contributions as they are made. This will cut down on the taxes paid upon retirement withdrawals.
- Take control by increasing your spending awareness over the course of a month. For the first two weeks, track your spending. Understand how much money you have, where it went, what bills you paid, etc. The next two weeks, manage your spending, outside of paying bills, by using a set amount of cash. Using only cash makes it easy to see exactly how much you have left both visually and physically. Any money you have left over should be moved to a savings account. Additionally, adjust your spending awareness and budget after you understand how much you spent on unnecessary or frivolous purchases.
- Take a hard look at your recurring bills. Order your bills by amount. Look at each bill closely to see if you can minimize it or eliminate the bill. One of the most popular options is switching from cable TV to subscription or on-demand TV and video through providers like Hulu, Sling, Amazon Prime, or Netflix. If you pay an average of $100 a month for cable, switching to Hulu, Prime, and Netflix will save almost $900/year in entertainment costs.
Whatever the scenario, teachers need to first pay attention to their budget, how much they are paying for services and take the time to understand the investment options available to them. In the event of an emergency, contact EmployeeMoney. A low-cost solution that will never negatively impact your credit. Finally, a financial wellness program for teachers that actually works.
 Education Week: Most Teachers Report High Levels of Stress, Study Finds