Author Topic: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?  (Read 7105 times)

westtoeast

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Teacher In Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?

Life Situation: I am a late twenties teacher living in the very expensive greater Boston area. In addition to teaching, I do a bit of tutoring each week and have just started doing freelance curriculum design. I also teach summer school, run a few clubs and tutor.

Gross Salary/Wages: Gross: $57,000 +5000 from extra responsibilities. After all the deductions (health care, dental, pension, state and federal taxes, and union dues) my net income is $3,100. If I stay working in this state I will earn in the 90,000ís in ten years (but no potential for higher).


Current expenses:
Rent: 712 (cheapest we could find near my work)
Utilities: 60
Food: 350 (I knowÖ NOT GOOD)
Pharmacy: 30
Bus Pass: 75 (I donít have a car)
Medical: 120 (this is as cheap as I can get this #)
Student Loan, Federal: $600 (minimum payment is $330, interest is 6%)
Netflix & Amazon Prime: $16 (Prime pays for itself in what I save on ordering supplements)
Beauty: $30
Misc: $100 (I include any clothing, movies, and restaurants in this #)
TOTAL: 2,100

Assets:
Emergency: 2500
Travel: 1000 (family lives on other coast)
Roth: 3000
403(b): 800 (Just raised contribution)
-I'm currently putting 1000 per month towards savings and retirement

Liabilities:
Federal Loan: 29000 left (In 3 years, 5,000 will be forgiven for my teaching serviceÖ Iím trying to time the payments so that I am paid off after this point, but if I pay off any earlier I wonít get this 5,000 benefit)

Specific Question(s):
I feel that I already adhere to many of the MMM principles. I even started cutting my own hair! So my problem is I am still not saving very much each month.

I feel there are a few barriers to my saving:
1)I live in a very expensive area. However, if I moved to a cheaper area I would need to buy a car and I donít have the cash for that. Plus, I donít want the added expenses. ALSO, I make over 10,000 more a year in this area that I would teaching anywhere else in the country. I am in one of the highest paying school districts in the country. I'm open to moving, but Iím not sure a move would be worth a huge pay cut.
2)I have food intolerances to some common cheap foods
3)Student loan debt. In 3 years I will qualify for 5,000 in teacher loan forgiveness. I am trying to decide if it is better to pay off my loans with everything Iíve got (this will take me at least 3 years, best case scenario) or if I should be balancing that with increasing my retirement investments or saving for a house.

Ok, let me have it! Please, poke holes in all this!
« Last Edit: October 24, 2016, 05:54:40 AM by westtoeast »

lbmustache

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2016, 03:51:46 PM »
I think you're doing pretty good and might be beating yourself up over minor things. Teaching is one of those jobs where I don't think any one is in it for the riches... at least, financially speaking.

Rent: this sounds as good as it gets for a major city, especially if you're already living very close to work. Coming from Southern California myself, I would say you could get that down to maybe $500-$600 BUT then you'd live far away and maybe have to get a car. Potentially not worth it since it'd be the cost of the car + gas + maintenance + insurance (which would all probably be over $100 a month).

Utilities: sound kind of high but Boston is a lot colder in the winter and maybe a lot more humid (?). Could be a bit lower IMO but I'll leave that for other people to decide. With 4 people in the house you may not be able to control this as much.

Health issues: these are what they are, I would do your best to source food from cheaper grocery stores, look for coupons or weekly deals, etc.

Loan: I would put less towards this amount and more towards retirement. 3 years is nothing since I presume you will continue to be in this field for the rest of your life (or, until ER). You lose the compound interest you could be gaining right now by not focusing on retirement, but the student loan is relatively stable and will be $5000 lower in 3 years. Maybe drop it down to $450/mo and use the other $150 for the 403b? I think other's will have more concrete suggestions.

All in all, I think you are doing pretty well with what you've got. One question I do have is that you have accounted for $2100 in spending but say your net income is more like $3100. Where is the extra $1k going? Savings? I would set a goal # ($5000, $10k) and after that use that additional money either toward your loans or retirement accounts or even investment accounts.

westtoeast

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2016, 03:56:08 PM »
Thank you lbmustache! Lots of good advice here. The unaccounted 1,000 is going into savings-- I should have put that in the breakdown! I am going to strongly consider reallocating less to loans and more to 403b-- it would only extend my loan by a year or two to do so!

letired

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2016, 05:10:58 PM »
It sounds like you are actually doing really well, and maybe you've hit that 'treadmill' point where you've got about a million irons in the fire, but you don't feel like you're seeing any of the results yet.

1. I would work up a spreadsheet about the loans, and see what kind of payment plan I needed be on to have that $5k forgiveness basically finish wiping out my loans for me. And if that saves me money. I'm not a spreadsheet wizard, but I'm sure you could get some help around here. This seems like it is a pretty big source of stress for you.

2. Check CamelCamelCamel.com before you buy anything off Amazon. It tracks amazon prices, so you can see if the thing you want is around what it usually is. If you sign up for an account, you can also set price alerts so you know to buy when things are on sale. I use it to get the deodorant I like, and anytime I try to get something, just to make sure it isn't having a major price spike or something.

3. It sounds like you are doing an amazing job of picking up stuff on the side! I'm really impressed, especially since I know teaching can be a high intensity job! At this point, I would start thinking about the return you are getting for the amount of work/effort you are doing for each one, and maybe focus your efforts a bit if it makes sense. Like, I don't know the effort for tutoring vs summer school, but it might make sense to try to tutor more or something.

4. The thing that really helped me (and continues to help me a lot) was to set intermediate goals. My 'retirement number' feels like an insane/absurd amount of money. So I set smaller goals for the next few months/year/few years/etc. It is easier for me to see my progress that way.

5. Rewards cards? It sounds like money for travel is also an area of concern for you about your budget. Do some research to see if there are travel-hack-y ways to make your money go a little farther.

6. It might be time to step away from Personal Capital/Mint/the spreadsheet and get a free hobby. Summer is coming up, the weather is getting nice. Take up hiking/biking/long walks outside/free outdoor concerts/free museums/free lectures/free stuffff (I'm imagining Boston has a lot of opportunities??) and let all the hard work and optimizing you've been doing start to build up.

7. This is probably not applicable, and you know your dietary needs waaaaay better than I could: Windowsill garden? If you like growing plants and have a southern/eastern/western facing window or balcony/patio/any outdoor space, it might be fun and (eventually) cost-save-y to get a packet of lettuce seeds/spinach seed/some herbs and some potting soil. But I'm OBSESSED with plants/gardening, and not everyone is into it, so this last one is very YMMV.


Good luck!

Mikila

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2016, 05:42:43 PM »
 If you pay off $26,000, and they forgive $5,000, then you pay interest of roughly $3,376.  That 6% interest  is higher than a return you would get on your personal savings- unless you earn a match from your employer.

Once those student loans are paid, you will have an opportunity to really accelerate your savings.  They are a weight holding you back.

Jet9

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2016, 06:14:50 PM »
Hi,

Can you move up the pay ladder by taking extra classes/credits or getting certification such as National Board? Is there a way to get the district to pay for those classes for you? Some districts sponsor National Board cohorts and/or pay an extra stipend if you achieve certification. Some online classes are inexpensive and can integrate with what you already do at work. Check with HR to make sure they accept the class for hurdle/professional development credit. You can also use the classes you are taking as goals to achieve for your evaluation year.

Good luck!




socalteacher

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2016, 10:18:29 PM »
Please watch out on your 403b. Many if not most offered by your district are very high in fees. There are a couple websites you can look at to evaluate your 403b. Try 403bcompare.com. My district forces me to go through two 3rd party providers to get to low cost index funds. Most of the choices that they make "easy" are loaded with fees and high yearly expense.

mozar

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2016, 08:37:13 AM »
Can you eat chickpeas?  I find them easier to digest. And I think I read somewhere that vegetables have protein too, like broccoli and kale. Can you eat quinoa? How about potatoes?  I've been moving toward a vegan diet and its a lot easier these days with the internet. Do you really need supplements? You should be getting all your vitamins from food. stop wearing make up. It's a tax on women. Otherwise you're doung well.

former player

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2016, 09:53:23 AM »
Like the others, I think you are doing pretty well so far.  Savings of $1k plus student loan capital payoff a month is pretty good in your circumstances.  Do you get a pension as well as the 403b?  You can count the entitlement you are earning towards savings as well, if you do.

One thing I would suggest is that instead of having a general "savings" category you separate the amounts which will not be long-term savings into separate "sinking funds".  I'm thinking particularly of your plane tickets: estimating a monthly amount for these as part of your expenses would give a better idea of what you are actually saving over the year, rather than accumulating and then spending.

little_brown_dog

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2016, 02:27:21 PM »
350/mo for groceries isn’t bad considering all of your dietary restrictions. Sounds like you eat a diet similar to strict paleo, which can be a much more expensive way to eat if you can’t tolerate eggs. I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much about the grocery budget if you do make attempts to keep things reasonable.

You sound like you are at a point where the issue is really your income for the area, not your mismanagement of savings/spending. I used to live in Boston so I know how crazy expensive it can be. There isn’t much to fix this unless you can find a way to boost your income, or you team up financially with your bf. My husband helped me pay off my loans faster by taking over 75% of our combined expenses when we first were living together - he made more than I did and had no debt. Obviously this type of arrangement really depends on many factors such as your bf's income/financial stability relative to yours, your willingness to tackle debts as a team, and whether or not you view eachother as marriage/long term partners who will both benefit from the elimination of the loans.

tobitonic

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2016, 03:34:36 PM »
ALSO, I make over 10,000 more a year in this area that I would teaching anywhere else in the country. I am in one of the highest paying school districts in the country. I'm open to moving, but Iím not sure a move would be worth a huge pay cut

Are you sure about this? How much education do you have (e.g., a masters? masters + 30? etc), and how many years of experience do you have? Because I highly doubt you're making at least 10k more there than you would as a teacher with your education and experience in every other part of the country. For starters, I'm a teacher in another, far cheaper part of the country, and my gross salary is within ~3k of yours, and we're in the same age range.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2016, 03:40:25 PM by tobitonic »

westtoeast

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2016, 05:01:07 PM »
ALSO, I make over 10,000 more a year in this area that I would teaching anywhere else in the country. I am in one of the highest paying school districts in the country. I'm open to moving, but Iím not sure a move would be worth a huge pay cut

Are you sure about this? How much education do you have (e.g., a masters? masters + 30? etc), and how many years of experience do you have? Because I highly doubt you're making at least 10k more there than you would as a teacher with your education and experience in every other part of the country. For starters, I'm a teacher in another, far cheaper part of the country, and my gross salary is within ~3k of yours, and we're in the same age range.

Thanks for responding! 57,000 is for a 3rd year teacher. I am close to earning my M+15 which gets me an additional 1,600. I only compared salary/cost of living with a few places in the country that it seems likely myself & bf might move to (for example, my family lives in Portland, OR and I would be losing about 10,000 there). Would you mind sharing what state you teach in? I would love to know! Maybe I need to broaden my options.

slugsworth

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2016, 05:30:22 PM »
This might be of interest, listened to it recently. http://www.madfientist.com/millionaire-educator-interview/


tobitonic

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2016, 06:11:50 PM »
ALSO, I make over 10,000 more a year in this area that I would teaching anywhere else in the country. I am in one of the highest paying school districts in the country. I'm open to moving, but Iím not sure a move would be worth a huge pay cut

Are you sure about this? How much education do you have (e.g., a masters? masters + 30? etc), and how many years of experience do you have? Because I highly doubt you're making at least 10k more there than you would as a teacher with your education and experience in every other part of the country. For starters, I'm a teacher in another, far cheaper part of the country, and my gross salary is within ~3k of yours, and we're in the same age range.

Thanks for responding! 57,000 is for a 3rd year teacher. I am close to earning my M+15 which gets me an additional 1,600. I only compared salary/cost of living with a few places in the country that it seems likely myself & bf might move to (for example, my family lives in Portland, OR and I would be losing about 10,000 there). Would you mind sharing what state you teach in? I would love to know! Maybe I need to broaden my options.

You're welcome...I'm in Illinois. Combined with the much lower cost of living, I think you could come out far ahead in a number of other areas; I'd stick with states that haven't outlawed collective bargaining, and look in medium-to-large cities. And I'd be very honest with yourself from the get go: if the salary you're offered (not including the pension) isn't at least 1/3rd of the median home price in the area around the school district, the job or area isn't worth it. If you can't afford a home individually on what should be a professional salary, you're either being underpaid or in an  overpriced market, and it's not one I'd stay in. And this goes for any professional job, not just teaching.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2016, 06:19:41 PM by tobitonic »

tobitonic

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2016, 06:23:52 PM »
QUESTION: I am really interesting in boosting my retirement savings because I recently read an article in the Boston Globe explaining that there is very little chance teachers my age will EVER get their pension. This is super disappointing... I would get back what I paid in, but it will not gain interest. Given that 403b's have all these fees, is it a good idea to just stop contributing and open something private like an IRA or a index fund???

I think the Globe is simply fear-mongering, as newspapers are trained to do. The fact is that the vast majority of lifetime teachers don't have any significant retirement savings beyond their pensions, so eliminating them completely would leave millions of citizens destitute, which promotes instability, which isn't good for billionaires around the country. Pensions may be cut, but they will still exist, or be replaced by 403b matching options and higher salaries. I do agree with having multiple retirement streams, and think IRAs and index funds are much better ideas than 403bs, but the pension system isn't going to go away completely, or a.) it will create a great amount of societal instability, and b.) it'll essentially eliminate the teaching population, which leads back to a.).

singlemominmass

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #15 on: May 13, 2016, 07:37:04 PM »
I'm also a teacher in Massachusetts.  Can you tell me where the article you read is located?

Jakejake

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2016, 09:04:46 PM »
How many times a year are you flying back and forth cross country, and what's the cost for that?

hownowbrowncow

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #17 on: May 13, 2016, 09:16:15 PM »
Are you familiar with the Frugalwoods blog? Two mustachians in your area who just retired in their early 30s on non-profit salaries! Some of their habits may be a bit extreme but there are a lot of good tips that may be applicable to you.

http://www.frugalwoods.com/category/food/  - They are very enamored with a store called Market Basket.  Do you live near one?

http://www.frugalwoods.com/category/frugal-city-living/



Sturton

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2016, 01:36:31 AM »
Have you thought about doing the onsite test scoring for the College Board?  You spend one week in June scoring AP or various College Board tests ó they fly you in, put you up, and feed you.  As I remember, they pay around $1800.  You could sock that straight in an investment account, or use it towards paying off the loans.  Here's a link: https://www.ets.org/scoring_opportunities/onsite/

westtoeast

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2016, 06:10:08 AM »
I'm also a teacher in Massachusetts.  Can you tell me where the article you read is located?

Hello! I can't find the original article I saw... here are two others that say similar things. I hope what tobitonic says is correct and the gov't would need to develop a solution.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/05/01/massachusetts-pension-plan-ranked-worst-nation-washington-think-tank/NmlY5TiLeDRPr2mFgGFccM/story.html

http://www.forbes.com/sites/maureensullivan/2015/09/29/attention-new-teachers-dont-count-on-your-pension-to-fund-your-retirement/#92b4e4563d64

westtoeast

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2016, 06:51:38 AM »
How many times a year are you flying back and forth cross country, and what's the cost for that?

I go twice a year. It usually costs between 400-600. Because I'm on the school calendar I'm basically forced to fly on really high cost days... for example, if I want to be home for Xmas (which my family wouldn't accept me not doing) I have to fly on Dec 23rd or Dec 24th. I usually fly back on New Years Eve which saves maybe 50 bucks. Right now I'm trying to use my travel rewards credit card for everything, so we will see if that makes a difference.

I know there are some other really great mileage cards out there, but I don't spend enough each month to get the rewards. I'm also really scared of messing up the whole manufactured spending thing! :/

lhamo

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2016, 07:01:03 AM »
....if I want to be home for Xmas (which my family wouldn't accept me not doing)...

If it is that important to them, then maybe they can cover the cost as their gift to you.

I understand wanting to see your family on a regular basis -- we had a travel budget of 10k+ for several years in order to enable 1-2 international trips home to see my family every year, and several trips to see my DH's family in another city in China. But we were making $120-150k/year at the time.

In any event, if you want to keep doing this it should be because YOU want to do it, not because your family guilts you into it.  In this day of Skype, Facetime, etc., there are plenty of ways to stay closely connected to family without spending  money on peak period plane tickets.

Jakejake

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Re: Case Study: Teacher in Expensive City-- What Am I Missing?
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2016, 07:19:15 AM »
If you are spending up to twice as much on air travel as you are able to put into retirement savings, definitely that's an area I would look at cutting. At some point families come to terms with their adult children not coming home for every Christmas, or multiple times a year. For example, when the adult kids get married, they often have to do alternate years with each set of inlaws. The parents deal.

I am not saying you have to cut it back, maybe the family Christmas visit is more important than retirement plans for you, but for me it would be an obvious choice.

I would also look at convincing them that a single longer summer visit (if that has better pricing) is better than twice a year including Christmas because you aren't so rushed, you aren't spending a third of your vacation days flying back and forth, and you can have more quality time with them.