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It's a good time for a financial checkup

New York Teacher

When you’re a newer teacher, you’re not only learning how to manage your students and your classroom. You’re also learning how to balance your personal and professional lives. As the holiday season approaches — with all its accompanying expenses — now may be a good time to take a look at your financial life and take steps to ensure you’re on the right track.

If you haven’t already, review your pay stub and become familiar with the common deduction codes (like taxes and Social Security). To verify that you’re getting the right amount on each paycheck, look for the words “Recurring Gross” and multiply that number by 24 (the total number of pay periods each year). That number should equal the gross amount you expect to earn. If you think your salary is incorrect, talk to your payroll secretary or call the UFT at 212-331-6311.

Because you’re starting your new career, now is an ideal time to think about your financial goals. Are you hoping to save money to go back to school or to buy a house? Having a clear idea of what you’re hoping to accomplish will make it easier to establish a budget — and stick to it.

Next, take a look at your current expenses — rent, groceries, student loan payments, etc. If you’re using an online banking program to have payments automatically deducted from your account, or if you have a lot of monthly subscription services — like Netflix or a gym membership — it’s smart to evaluate your budget periodically and make sure you understand where your money is going and when.

Online tools, like Mint.com and YouNeedABudget.com, can be linked to your bank account and can help you identify trends in your budget. You can also use an online tool to measure your credit score, which you should check once a year.

While you’re figuring out where your money is going, visit the UFT's Discounts section to see if there’s anywhere the union can help you save money. Union members have access to special member-only discounts from the UFT and its state and national affiliates on everything from travel to clothing to movie tickets.

Because you’re a UFT member, you have access to benefits now to help you plan for a secure financial future. By now, you should be enrolled in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), which will provide you with a defined-benefit pension when you retire. If you haven’t already done so, it’s also a good idea to enroll in the voluntary Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) program, which allows you to invest money toward your retirement on a tax-deferred basis. These funds are automatically deducted from your paycheck after you enroll.

If you are carrying student loans, the Student Debt Relief Program is an exclusive benefit for UFT members that may be able to help you reduce your student loan debt. You can attend an information session about the program in one of the five UFT borough offices or even in the comfort of your home via an online webinar. 

The UFT also offers free financial wellness workshops for members that will help you analyze your finances and plan for your financial future. Check the UFT events calendar for details.

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