The Countdown to My Vesting Date: Teachers, Pensions & Gratefulness

dividing-a-pensionBy Nick McDaniels — There may not be many people my age really thinking about retirement.

And, the way I’m wired, I may never actually think about retirement. But that has not stopped me from counting down the days until I’m vested in my pension. On my first day of service in the 2014-2015 school year, I will be at that point.

Will I invite friends over for a BBQ to celebrate? Probably not (though I’m not ruling it out). But will I stop and say thanks for what is becoming dying form of retirement planning? Most definitely.

With the decline of unionism in America, and in turn, increased unchecked efforts by employers to shift the burdens of doing business to their employees, there has also been a decline in pensions. More and more employees have employer supported retirement through 401K plans and other similar investment plans.

How is a pension different than a 401K (technically, a 401K is a type of pension)?
A number of ways that I probably don’t understand and a few ways that I do. But, most importantly, a pension has to be managed by an employer, and in that way, has guaranteed benefit payouts based on a formula. 401Ks which are outsourced for fund management typically and have pay outs based on a number of factors like contribution and, scarily, the stock market.

Why am I glad to work in a profession where I earn pensionable income? Because every worker deserves the ability to retire comfortably, albeit modestly, without fear that the stock market will crash a year before retirement, forcing a person to work longer than they are required to (just ask anyone scheduled to retire in 2002 or 2009). The work I do is difficult, and one that does not pay extremely well (though well enough for me to be grateful). Part of the trade off for doing challenging and sometimes thankless work, is good benefits, and health insurance for a family man like me, and a good pension is extremely important to my quality of life.

So here I am, about to be vested, proving that teachers who stay longer in the classroom, as opposed to those who quit after two years, are more expensive. So here I am, about to be vested, and doing some of the best teaching of my career. So here I am, about to be vested, and worth every penny of it.

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