Is It Time?

Thrivent offers teachers helpful advice when planning for retirement.

Thrivent is a not-for-profit financial services organization. For more than a century it has helped Christians make wise money choices that reflect their values while providing them opportunities to demonstrate their generosity where they live, work, and worship.

As a teacher, you’re on a mission to educate, inspire, and support your students so they can achieve their dreams and use the talents God has given them. 
But while you’re busy preparing them for the future, have you spent much time thinking about yours? 

No matter where you are in your career, planning for retirement should always be a priority. However, before diving into the practical aspects of preparing for the future, it’s important to take a step back and think about what retirement will look like for you. How will you be a good steward of what God has given you? And how will you use your time, talents, and treasures to make a positive difference in the lives of others?

Are you a member of Thrivent who’s eligible to direct Choice Dollars? Eligible Thrivent members can recommend where they feel Thrivent should distribute a portion of its charitable funds. Choice Dollars®outreach funds can make a world of difference to CEAI.

At Thrivent, our mission is to help Christians be wise with money so they can live more content, confident, and generous lives. Developing a financial plan is one thing. But building a holistic strategy that reflects your faith and aligns with your values is another. 

As you’ve probably told your students, it takes time, patience, and work to do something well. The same principle applies to a retirement plan. To help you get started on your journey, Thrivent suggests the following timeline: 

Early Career:

Meet with a financial professional: Now is a great time to meet with a financial professional to review your financial situation and develop a roadmap for achieving your long-term goals. He or she can provide guidance on how to select the right retirement plan, how much to contribute, and other ways to bolster your savings. 

Start budgeting: Look at your current spending, expenses, and debt. Ask yourself if your habits are helping you achieve your goals and determine a workable budget that will allow you to save more. In addition, consider applying the extra money earned from a tax refund, promotion, or raise toward retirement. You'll be less tempted to spend when saving becomes an automatic habit.

Explore savings options: As a teacher, you may have access to a defined-benefit pension plan, defined-contribution plan [like a 403(b) or 457(b) plan], or both. Carefully research the options available to you. Both 403(b) and 457(b) plans allow you to set aside tax-deferred savings for retirement. Some employers may offer to match a percentage of your contributions. Take advantage of this benefit–it’s free money that can add significantly to your retirement savings! 


Review your retirement statements: Commit to reviewing your retirement statements on a regular basis. This will help you assess whether you’re on track toward meeting your goals or if you need to adjust your approach. You may decide, for example, that you’d like to change your investment mix or risk tolerance since you’re now in a different stage of life. However, before making any concrete changes, it’s a good idea to meet with your financial professional to weigh your options.

Factor in healthcare: As you plan for the future, don’t overlook healthcare expenses. According to a survey from the Insured Retirement Institute, 75% of boomers haven’t factored healthcare costs into their retirement savings goals.1 Work with your spouse to anticipate what your future healthcare needs might be and develop a strategy for dealing with those expenses.

Plan for taxes: Once you reach retirement, you’ll rely on your savings and pay taxes based on your total income and filing status. Think in advance about what your cash flow needs will be in retirement and work to diversify your assets. 

Catch-up contributions: If you’re age 50 or over, take advantage of catch-up contributions that are available in retirement accounts. This allows you to set aside more savings. 

Late Career:

Start planning your retirement income: You’ve worked hard to save over the course of your career, so be thoughtful about the way you spend your hard-earned money. Don’t outspend your assets. Budgeting is a smart move that can help you track and contain your spending. 

Social Security: Throughout your working years, you earn credits to be eligible for Social Security benefits. Your total benefit is based on average earnings over the course of your career. It’s important to note, however, that 15 states participate only in their own pension plans and do not provide Social Security for public employees. Visit your state retirement system website for more information. Be sure to work with your financial professional to figure out when and how to claim Social Security or your pension benefits.

Pay off your mortgage and take care of home renovations: Pay off your mortgage before you retire so you can eliminate a costly monthly payment. In addition, tackle any major home repairs or renovations before retiring. Those projects tend to cost more, and you don’t want to tackle those expenses when you’re on a limited income. 

Medicare: If you’ve been planning for your healthcare, you’re probably familiar with Medicare. As with any other benefit, do your research well in advance. It’s important to know what services and procedures will be covered under the different parts of Medicare and what out-of-pocket expenses to expect. 

Plan your legacy: If you’d like to pass down a financial legacy to your family members or an organization you care about, you’ll need to develop a strategy to ensure your assets are transferred with minimal tax impact. The goal is to keep your assets from being tied up with unexpected tax consequences, legal complexities, and confusion. This is another area where it’s wise to partner with a financial professional who can help you figure out the best plan for moving your assets.

After all of your years of hard work, you don’t want to feel anxious about what lies ahead–instead, you want to be free to give back to what matters most: your family, church, and community.

While everyone will have a different path when it comes to retirement, you don’t have to go at it alone. Working with a financial professional can help you build confidence that you’re taking the right steps toward a secure retirement.

Karen Birr is the Manager of Advanced Retirement & Advice Tools Consulting at Thrivent.  She oversees a team of consultants who help Thrivent’s financial professionals with retirement planning, estate planning, charitable giving, small business planning, and tax strategy. Before joining Thrivent in 2006, Birr was a retirement consultant at Piper Jaffray.

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