Are teachers better off in conservative or liberal states at retirement?
By National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
Most public school districts have a retirement plan that is based on your income as an educator. Some base it on your highest salary and some of the best three years. Obviously, salaries change and so do the politics and so the chart I have made reflects those salaries from the National Education Association (NEA) and are fairly current.
The data does not reflect the living costs in each state. The cost of living certainly is going to eat up more of your pay check to live in some areas of California over those in Nebraska. However, this study was not designed with that as a criteria because some teachers may want to retire in another state which may have a higher or lower cost of living. Thus, if you are looking for good salary and, perhaps, willing to move, this chart may be of significance knowing that in the next few years there is going to be a lot of jobs as the Baby Boomers move into retirement and leave significant openings for new hires. Some states may require a few more courses to gain your accreditation in that state, but those courses are tax deductible and the cost of the move may be deducible as well. It is best to check with your tax person.
The first consideration is to ask yourself does it pay (income wise) overall to work in a conservative state. Well, not really. Here is what A GALLUP poll lists as the most conservative states. I have added that states average and starting salary from the NEA site as well. However, most salary data is a couple of years old. Nevertheless, the average percentages should remain similar.
Here is the salary information for the most conservative states (starting-average)
Here is the salary information for the most liberal states (starting-average)
Average starting salary conservative states $34,00* average salary $48,200*
Average starting salary liberal states $39,900* average salary $61,000*
Although these figures may no longer be accurate, they do provide insight into the averages a teacher may expect. As for retirement numbers, studies have shown that when a teacher retires after 30 years their retirement is typically in the 60 and 75 percent of her final salary range.
It does not take long to see that those working in the liberal states not only make more money to start, but are going to make significantly more when retiring. A teacher working in a conservative state who retires with an above average salary of $50,000 should get a retirement check of $30,000. A teacher in a liberal state making a slightly below average of $60,000 would get $36,000 based on 60 percent. In California, for example, the majority of teachers are getting in the range of $55,000 to $70,000 a year.
I did not factor in Social Security as the Windfall Elimination Factor can deprive teachers of the full payment they should have received while working jobs that require Social Security deductions. The Windfall Elimination can eliminate 66 percent of their retirement from Social Security even though they have paid for it over the years. That is why teachers who have been in other occupations for a significant amount of time might want to look at how much they are going to lose by becoming a teacher in those states where the Windfall is in play. It could cost them thousands of dollars a month.
There is no way to factor in cost of living for various cities. However, there is a site that helps you with this http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/. I compared Bismark, North Dakota to Los Angeles, California. The cost of living in Bismark was $50,000 and for Los Angeles $67,000. The average salary for a teacher in North Dakota was about $47,000. The average salary for a teacher in Los Angeles was $59,000. A budgeting teacher in Bismark could break even, but the Los Angeles teacher needs to find a second income. However, when it is time to retire, the California teacher is going to have $36,000 coming in and the North Dakota teacher under $30,000. Essentially, $500 a month more and the truth of the matter is that it could be far more with $100,000 teacher salaries in California for teachers with over 30 years of experience becoming commonplace.
If you are free to live anywhere, willing to adopt to new surroundings and requirements, you might want to consider working in a liberal state and retiring in a conservative one. Indeed, some states don’t tax Social Security and others don’t have an income tax. It is a difficult choice to move from the known to the unknown. The best advise I can give is that after you have done your homework, after you have made your decision to start a new life in a new state remember that wherever you go, there you are so know yourself.
* Figures are rounded off and may not be current.