You’ve probably heard it from your parents, or mentor, or older relative, but now you’re going to hear it from me. My cachet is that I am a knuckle head myself and made many financial mistakes. But here are four biggies not to make. If you do as I say and not as I do did you’ll be really happy with yourself in about 15 years.
• Buy the five year unqualified service time from calSTRS today, right now. (Check into your state school retirement system, if you’re not in CA.) This provides an extra five years service credit when you retire, and it’ll significantly boost your retirement. Every year you wait, it’ll cost more, since the cost is based on your yearly salary. calSTRS will allow you to buy the credit overtime, rolling the payments into your check as a salary deduction.
• Make sure you opt in to all calSTRS service credit that you may qualify for, i.e. military service. You can also convert some other government service time into calSTRS.
• Move across your district’s salary schedule as quickly as possible. The longer you wait to take classes, or go to the district offered training is just a waste of money. Learn as soon as you’re hired the district’s rules of salary schedule placement and then max out your eligibility every year until you’ve reached the maximum column placement.
• Get as many of the salary schedule placement units below the going rate, or free if you can. In 2010 the average unit cost is between $90 and $100. Column advancements are typically 10-15 units… do the math. Take district offered classes (usually free outside of the working day), summer offerings that are subsidized, and county education courses. Ask colleagues for tips and comb the internet for courses that are reduced in cost. If you must pay for units, try to take a course that offers at least 5 units.