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52. Financial Self-Care for Teachers: Strategies to Reduce Stress and Change Your Money Mindset with Special Guest Emily Maretsky
Episode 5216th May 2023 • The Resilient Teacher Podcast • Brittany Blackwell, Teacher Burnout Tips
00:00:00 00:25:08

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One of the most not-talked-about factors of teacher burnout is our finances. Our financial health impacts our overall well-being, alongside physical, emotional, and social aspects. As educators, financial stress can weigh heavily on us, exacerbating burnout. A study by Stanford University found that teachers experience higher levels of economic and financial anxiety compared to other professions. Many teachers struggle to make ends meet, leading to chronic worry and even the need for second jobs.

But there is a way forward. By prioritizing financial literacy and making smart decisions, we can reduce stress levels and gain a sense of empowerment. In this episode, we interview Emily Maretsky, a financial coach specializing in helping educators. Emily shares practical strategies, retirement options, and tips for achieving financial health. Join us as we debunk financial myths, break free from scarcity mindset, and explore how financial self-care is essential for teacher well-being.


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[0:00] Welcome back to Episode 52 of the Resilient Teacher Podcast.

There is one teacher burnout issue that I've not discussed yet on the podcast before, and that is finances.

Many people don't realize how our finances actually impact our burnout.

You see, there's all sorts of factors that impact our overall wellbeing.

We've got physical health, we've got emotional health, we've got intellectual health, spiritual health, social health, and financial health.

And when I say financial health, some of you are already getting a stress response just thinking about money. A few years ago, I probably would have felt the same way.

Teachers are underpaid. That's just how it is.

And when we talk about financial health, that means you've got the ability to reach your goals. You can take advantage of opportunities and you have the flexibility to pursue your dreams.

The only way to really achieve financial health is through financial literacy.

Being financially literate just means that you're understanding the importance of saving early and often to reach short and long-term goals like retirement.

Think about it.

[1:08] Short term, if we're living paycheck to paycheck, which I believe all of us have done at some point or another, it really impacts how we feel in general.

Financial health and stress levels are deeply interconnected.

So when we experience these financial difficulties, this instability, like when we have to go grocery store and a carton of eggs is $7.45, it can really create this constant state of worry and anxiety.

The burden of debt, living paycheck to paycheck, or just struggling to meet financial obligations can weigh really heavily on our minds and our hearts.

This chronic stress can affect not only our mental and emotional well-being, but also our physical health.

When teachers who already have super demanding jobs carry the additional weight of financial stress, it becomes a recipe for burnout.

A study completed by the researchers at Stanford University found that teachers were considerably more likely to experience economic and financial anxiety than the regular national sample.

[2:13] That means out of blue collar workers, stay at home parents, teachers are more likely were more likely to experience financial anxiety. Nearly half of the teachers in the study, 48%, reported being frequently anxious about their current financial situation, compared to only 17% of employed adults in other areas.

And with all of that, 20% of teachers surveyed had to have a second job to help cover their expenses.

[2:39] Think a minute about how many teachers you work with that have a second job just to make ends meet.

It's probably more than you realize.

And I'll tell you right now, teacher salary is not commiserate with the professional degrees held.

And that is an issue in and of itself. But when it comes to the stress of educators, this is a whole new lens that it causes us to look at.

If you don't understand how to manage your money, you're at risk of overspending, going into debt, not having enough for your future.

Everyone can relate to financial stress. Even the wealthiest of people have felt financial pains at one time or another.

Debt and or lack of savings can cause considerable hardship on a person's life.

And it doesn't just cause this daily stress.

Financial problems are often this catalyst for divorce, poor health, depression, bankruptcy.

On the other hand, when we start to take control of our finances, we create these healthy habits, we make smart financial decisions, we can reduce those stress levels and experience a sense of empowerment and freedom.

Financial well-being brings this peace of mind, allows us to focus on what truly matters, and then provides a solid foundation for our personal and professional lives.

[3:53] That's why in today's episode, I am interviewing Emily Moretsky, who is a financial coach for educators.

She also teaches engineering in the New York City Public School District.

She's taught for over a decade in schools in New York, California, Micronesia, Italy, Thailand, and she runs the Teacher Financial Coach account on Instagram to help teachers learn about their finances, their benefits, and how to make the most out of their money.

Today, I'm getting really real with her. I'm asking her some of the most commonly asked questions that teachers have about finances, including financial mistakes that teachers make, retirement and investment options for teachers, practical tips and strategies for financial health, and even our lack mindset around finances.

So if you feel like your finances are stressing you out or you just want a new perspective on how to build wealth as an educator, this episode is for you.

So let's go chat with Emily.

[4:46] Welcome to the show, Emily. Before we get into some like really fun finance questions, because I've got like a lot. I shared a little bio blurb about you, but I'd love for you to just tell the listeners a little bit about yourself, how you got started sharing as a teacher financial coach.

Sure. So I run the teacher financial coach account on Instagram. I've been teaching for a little over 10 years now. And I I felt like for most of my teaching career, I had no idea what was going on with my benefits, how my pension worked.

[5:25] I feel like many teachers, don't feel like they understand all these things.

It's not like human resources stops us and gives us a training on how any of these works at any of our point in our career.

So I started teaching myself about this and during the pandemic, just for fun, I started up the account on Instagram to kind of teach people about this in a bite-sized way that felt manageable.

And since then, it's just grown a whole bunch. Initially, I'd just been teaching other New York City teachers like myself, and now I have educators who follow me from all over the country.

So it's been a really wonderful experience.

Yeah, so you're still in the classroom as a teacher also. Is that correct?

I'm actually currently on maternity leave right now. I had a baby a couple of months ago, but I have about six more weeks left. So, and then I'm back in the classroom.

[6:17] Well, congratulations on the new baby. That is so exciting. I know that was one of the, the toughest things that I dealt with in teaching was trying to figure out, OK, what do I do with my finances? Or how do I, how do I save for this? Because at the time, now our district will do a maternity leave that they do paid parental leave now. But they did not do that at the time. So I had to save up all my sick days. I had to do all of those things. So it's great that you know all of that finance stuff to be able to figure that stuff out.

Yeah, I mean, I've been there and so many other folks have as well. And parental leave, it varies so much from district to district. So I've heard all the stories.

Yes, yes. So what are some of the most common financial challenges that teachers face, and how can they overcome those?

Totally. So the biggest thing, and why people come to my page, is often to figure out what's going on with their pension.

So I feel like when we start teaching, we are told by the teacher down the hall how great our benefits are, how great this pension is going to be, if you can stick around that long in the classroom.

[7:32] But no one explains exactly how it works, what the rules are around it, how to know exactly how much you're going to be getting from this pension.

So I feel like that's a big issue that I chat with teachers about.

And a lot of them are, especially people who are thinking about making a change, whether that be changing careers.

Or another big one is if you teach in a different state, you might be in a different pension system.

So knowing what the impacts are of that is a big one. And the second piece is around how to invest in retirement accounts for teachers.

Most commonly, most districts offer a 403B to their teachers.

So learning how to use that is a source of a lot of questions for folks, too.

[8:15] Yeah, I don't know any of that stuff. I couldn't tell you any of it.

So in terms of like, because we don't often think about finance as an area of self-care or an area of, that impacts us in our teacher burnout journey. But for my audience listening, we're teachers that have either dealt with burnout, considering leaving the profession, or those types of things. And so finance can cause a lot of mental health struggles along the way. And so that's why I really wanted you to come on, because I felt like you would have some of the answers to some of the questions that teachers struggle with, and we could kind of get us into a place where we're having that financial flow, and that we feel a little bit more confident with that. So in terms of like, Financial mistakes. What are some of the biggest mistakes that teachers make when it comes to managing their finances?

What, what is something that teachers say, oh, I, I really messed up and I didn't know that, um, that you have experienced?

[9:23] Yeah, and I love that you use the term financial self-care because I absolutely feel the same way about it.

It is part of taking care of yourself. Um, so I do think one of the big mistakes, quote unquote, that I would see is people wait too long to start taking care of that. A lot of times, especially when we start teaching, we're super overwhelmed with what's going on in the classroom. We feel like we have no room for other things going on in our life. But if you wait to start saving for retirement by an additional five years, that can mean an additional couple hundred that you need to start putting away every single month for retirement to be on track. So I think starting early is key, folks who wait, that can cause some issues. The second piece is a lot of folks don't realize that the 403B industry for retirement investments.


So when you start opening up a 403B, a lot of teachers start this because someone came to their school and offered a retirement 101 session or offered free lunch if they can meet with teachers to talk about their finances.

The people who are coming to visit schools are the ones that are charging the highest fees.

That's why they're there because they're making a lot of money off of teachers.

So I feel like the second big mistake is enrolling with these high fee providers, which will eat away at teachers' retirement accounts if they stay with them for a decade, two decades, or up until retirement.

So those are the two things. I want people to start early, and I wanna make sure they're using good providers when they're saving for retirement.

You know, when you said that, I thought about this time when I worked for a charter school district, and they had.


It wasn't just one, which was interesting, but several people came in and talked about retirement, and because they were not offering state retirement, through that school, and I can remember thinking, Dad, I called my dad up, and I was like, Daddy, I don't know what to do. Like, I know I'm supposed to do this, but I don't know what to do. And he said, Let's look at all of the options that there are, because lots of times when people are coming in, they're trying to take advantage of some of the people in the building, and they're having these higher rates and things like that. And I had no idea. I think that there should be a course on this. So if you have one, that'd be great if you'd share that.

Many things down the line that I would love to offer.

But I'm glad that at least you stopped for a moment and said, what is there that I don't know?

And you asked for help. A lot of times, these salespeople come in with their 403B plans, and you don't know what you don't know in the beginning.

And it's like, oh, this person seems to know what they're doing for retirement.

Sure, I'll just sign up and start putting money away with them.

I think stopping to evaluate options is so important.


We all know that teachers struggle with the paycheck that we receive.

We're not well compensated for the work that we do. So what are some ways that they can improve that?


I always tell folks, come follow me on Instagram. I'll give you a little piece a couple times per week and you can start with some of the basics there.

The next big one is reading just one personal finance book. I have a couple of favorites that I recommend.

There's a book called Millionaire Teacher that's written for teachers to invest.

There's I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi.

He talks about a lot of the personal finance basics and also talks about a lot of the investment accounts.


People think that they need to be spending hours and hours and hours to teach themselves.

But if you can get to a B-plus knowledge with eight hours of reading, that's kind of like the biggest help and the biggest place to get started.


Yes, I saw it on TikTok and was like, I've got to get that book.

It's a really good one.

Yeah, it is a really easy read, the way that you read it. One of the biggest things that I think holds teachers and people in general back, you know, when it comes to making a change in their lives or taking action is that mindset.

And that goes hand in hand with finances. We have a lack mindset, so we think this is the way that it always will be or things like that.

And so how can teachers stay really motivated and focused on their financial goals, even when they face setbacks or challenges along the way, because we all know that those are going to happen.


You start wherever you start and it's only up from here. The more you learn, the smaller the changes you can make now.

Everything grows down the line. I think that's really the piece.

Everyone starts as a beginner and it's just where you go from there.

Of course, it's best to have started investing yesterday, but the next best day is today.


What's the first thing you would be like, that is the thing that you need to do first?

Is the first thing. Hmm, I would say for most teachers if they Um, I want to get everyone started with retirement investing as soon and on a good path as quickly.


So if you look up them, if you join their Facebook group, they also will help you out. There's a whole bunch of teachers on this Facebook group being like, show me your list. I'm going to help you pick the best one. If you find out that you're already using a 403b vendor that is a high fee.


People, when I meet with them for sessions or chat with them and my messages, everyone has mistakes. So I feel like it's super common. We're all in this together.

Myself, I didn't start investing for retirement until my mid to late 20s.

And the only reason I had started even that early was because my mom told me to sign up for an IRA.


Yes, yes. And I saw that on TikTok when I was looking at finance stuff and trying to figure out, because I had a lot of teachers who were reaching out. They were asking all these questions about like, I talked about financial self-care, but then I don't really have the answers to it, right. And so I started looking on TikTok, and somebody showed that they had opened up an IRA, and that they'd had money just like sitting in an account, basically like.


I would say, starting with the book, starting with a couple of good finance Instagram accounts is a good spot for most folks.

The next piece is going to be, depending on what type of school you work in and what state you work in, learning the rules for your system.

I wish there was a nice book for the Illinois pension system or an Instagram account for the South Carolina teachers retirement system.


Yeah, good idea, good idea. So Emily, thank you so much for coming onto the podcast and I would just love it if you'd share with the listeners about where they can find you because you have a lot of great free information that is on your Instagram, But any other programs, services? I know you mentioned a call that you do check-ins or something like that, that you offer that would help them?


So if anyone wants help like that, happy to book a session. Otherwise, check out my content for free. Happy to have you.

Yes. Awesome. So I'm going to put the links for everything down in the show notes. That way, everybody can go and check you out because I know that they're going to gain a lot of valuable information from you so that they can get started, you know, really changing their finances. So thank you again, Emily, for coming onto the show. I really appreciate it.

Thanks so much for having me.