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5 Ways for Educators to Get Their Retirement Savings on Track

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5 Ways for Educators to Get Their Retirement Savings on Track

When you work in K-12 education, your calendar revolves around the school year. The blur of buses, busy hallways and school bells makes it easy for the calendar to fly by, leaving little time to think about yourself … let alone your future.

Man smiling with folded arms

But retirement is always on the horizon. Whether that’s far down the road or just a few years away, there are steps you can take now to get your savings plan in shape.

When you’re ready to leave the school hallways behind, you want your finances to be ready too. Let’s look at five ways you can get your retirement savings on track.

1. Plan your budget for now — and the future

Saving money while spending money is a challenge. It helps to know your budgetary needs, not only now but in the years ahead. Is a new home in your future? How much debt do you have and how does it impact your budget? Are you planning to relocate when you retire?

Putting a budget together allows you to look for ways to reduce your cost of living — including putting the brakes on overspending that helps accumulate debt — and can help you save more toward retirement.

With a comprehensive budget in place, you can set a goal for how much you want to save toward your retirement plan and prepare for unexpected events that could impact your budget's bottom line.

» Tip: If student loans are a part of your debt, there are loan forgiveness programs to assist school employees in paying down or paying off their loans. Keeping those payments low — or even out of your budget — can give you more money to grow your savings.

2. Look at the life events that may affect your ability to save

Even strong plans can go awry when life steps in and throws you for a loop. While no one has a crystal ball to predict where life may take you, it's a good idea to consider what could happen. The death of a spouse or a prolonged illness for you or a family member can impact your savings. Even children — whether having your first or adding to your family — may affect your ability to save for retirement.

Developing a game plan that takes life events into consideration, however, can mitigate the financial impact of unplanned surprises. It may be as simple as starting a savings account for your children's college plans or securing disability and life insurance in case of a catastrophic illness or death. Having these elements in place can allow you to focus on your retirement plan.

» Tip: To protect yourself, experts recommend having an emergency fund covering 3-6 months of living expenses to create a financial cushion for unforeseen events. A systematic saving plan1 can help.

3. Become a pension plan expert

Understanding your pension plan and what you need to do to qualify for your benefits is an important part of staying on track for retirement. For Texas teachers and other school employees, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas2 (TRS) is the primary source of retirement savings.

Some questions to consider about your pension plan include:

  • How much are you contributing to your pension plan?
  • How much is your employer contributing?
  • When will you qualify for retirement benefits under your plan?
  • How well aligned are your retirement benefits with your retirement goals?

These critical pieces of information have a direct impact on your retirement. TRS offers a retirement estimate calculator3 that shows what your monthly annuity will be based on your years of employment.

There are also options in how you can choose to receive your annuity.4 Look at payments under each option and think closely about your unique situation and goals when deciding how your benefits will be distributed to you.

» Tip: There may be limitations to what your pension provides. The specifics of your plan should be factored into your decisions regarding additional investments and savings strategies.

4. Explore more ways to save money for retirement

While TRS is the primary source of retirement savings for most Texas educators and school staff, it's not the only way to boost your savings and potentially improve your financial return post-retirement.

Starting your own retirement savings account is one way to help fund your retirement. Investment vehicles specifically designed to help school employees like you fund your retirement — including Traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) or Roth IRAs — can provide flexibility in the release of funds and have different tax benefits. Participating in a 403(b) or 457(b) retirement plan — or even more than one, if that suits you, may provide additional retirement funds as well as potential tax benefits.

Another popular way to save is to boost your income with a summer job. Temporary, freelance or tutoring work can be a summer bonus you use to accelerate your path to retirement.

» Tip: Educators in most Texas school districts do not pay into Social Security and are not eligible for Social Security Retirement benefits. If you worked in the private sector or are married to someone who has, however, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits. Yet your benefits may be reduced5 by the TRS benefits you receive. Yes, it can be confusing, so be sure to check with the Social Security Administration to find out where you stand.

5. Ask for help from a financial advisor

Taking an active role in saving for retirement is a great step you can take as you pursue a more secure financial future. As you look for more ways to save for retirement, a financial advisor can guide you through your options to help you prepare.

An experienced financial advisor familiar with educators can assist with budgeting, debt restructuring and personal retirement accounts — as well as provide information on investment products that could help grow your retirement savings.

The takeaway

It's easy to get caught up in today and not think about tomorrow. But putting your future retirement needs on the back burner may mean your finances are not ready for retirement when you are.

Making your retirement savings a priority now is key to being ready for the future.

Planning for retirement can feel daunting as a school employee — especially when the economy is challenging and your workload is heavy. Fortunately, help is available. If you’re a Texas teacher or school employee, trust that the RBFCU Retirement Program is here to guide you through your retirement preparations.

Last updated March 2024.

Information in this article is general in nature and for your consideration, not as financial advice. Please contact your own financial professionals regarding your specific needs before taking any action based upon this information.

Investment products are not insured by the FDIC, NCUA or any federal agency, are not deposits or obligations of, or guaranteed by any financial institution, and involve investment risks including possible loss of principal and fluctuation in value.

Ameriprise Financial Services has a partnership with this financial institution to provide financial planning services and solutions to clients. The financial institution is not an investment client of Ameriprise but has a revenue sharing relationship with us that creates a conflict of interest. Details on how we work together can be found on

This information is being provided only as a general source of information and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, accounts or strategies mentioned. The information is not intended to be used as the primary basis for investment decisions, nor should it be construed as a recommendation or advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual investor. Please seek the advice of a financial advisor regarding your particular financial situation.

Ameriprise Financial is not affiliated with the financial institution.

Ameriprise Financial, Inc. and its affiliates do not offer tax or legal advice. Consumers should consult with their tax advisor or attorney regarding their specific situation.

RBFCU Retirement Program, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC, is a division of RBFCU Investments Group LLC.

Investment advisory products and services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC, a registered investment adviser.

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The following sources were last accessed in March 2024.

1“How to Create a Systematic Savings Plan.”,

2“Teacher Retirement System of Texas.”,

3“Retirement Estimate Calculator.”,

4“Prepare to Collect Your Pension.”,

5“Social Security and TRS.”,