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How 4 Teachers Use Side Hustles to Stay Afloat

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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It’s no secret that American educators as a whole aren’t well-compensated. Throughout 2018, in multiple states across the country, educators have publicly demanded salary increases, benefits and more funding for public education through staged walkouts and marches at state capitols. The protests have intensified a national debate about how we value teachers and the future of public education.And then there are the statistics:

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the average annual pay was $58,780 in 2017 for the nation’s 4.2 million preschool, primary, secondary and special education teachers. The average annual expenditure per consumer — the average spending budget for American households — for 2017 was $60,060.
  • An analysis of teacher salaries by the National Education Association reports the average classroom teacher salary is up 15.2% over the past 10 years. However, after adjusting for inflation, the average salary has actually fallen by $1,823 or 3.0% over the same period.
  • In 2017, teachers earned 19% less than similarly skilled and educated professionals, what’s referred to as a “teaching penalty,” according to the Economic Policy Institute.
  • Nearly one in five teachers leave the profession because of low pay, according to the Learning Policy Institute.

Meanwhile, many teachers have taken on side hustles or second jobs as a solution to stagnant wages in their chosen profession. Some sell their expertise by sharing lesson plans and other tools to be used by other educators via platforms like Instagram and sites like TeachersPayTeachers.

Others have taken on side hustles in the gig economy. Airbnb, for example, reports nearly 10% of its U.S. hosts — more than 45,000 people — are teachers. And, based on a Brookings Institution analysis of BLS data, elementary and secondary school teachers are about 30% more likely to work a second job than non-educators.

With that in mind, MagnifyMoney spoke with four educators about what they do on the side to make ends meet at home, and to share their advice for any educators considering taking on a side hustle.

Lorri Lewis

The 12th grade English teacher worked as a driver for Uber and Lyft to fund her wedding planning business. Now she has a fully funded emergency fund and can afford to take vacations.

Lorri Lewis, 50, of Southfield, Mich., told MagnifyMoney she has always been an advocate for having multiple streams of income. So when the 12th grade English teacher and newly single mother of two saw an opening for a paid wedding coordinator at her church in 2002, she jumped at the opportunity to try out a longtime interest. Then, about five years ago, Lewis started driving for Uber and Lyft to raise the seed money she needed to launch her own wedding coordinating business. Lewis also made Instacart deliveries once her youngest son entered college.

“Having multiple streams of income is a big thing in my life now because I’m at the top of the pay scale and want to do other things in my life, like travel,” said Lewis, referring to educator salary schedules set by school districts. The educator notes because there’s no room for a raise, her pay technically decreased a couple of years ago when she and her co-workers started paying a larger portion of their health care expenses.

Earlier in 2017, Lewis ditched the gig economy in favor of running her business.

“The nice thing about being a wedding coordinator is that it allows me to work on the weekends and the summers, which is “off time” for teachers anyway,” said Lewis.

Where the side hustles help

Lewis’ teacher salary is just enough to cover the basics, including her mortgage, utilities and student loan payments. Until recently, the majority of her side income went to raising her kids as a single parent, completing necessary home repairs and funding her business. She said it was a struggle, but now that both of her sons are out of the house, Lewis has enough to build a financial cushion.

“I’m at the point now where I’m actually accumulating an emergency fund since becoming an educator,” Lewis told MagnifyMoney. Lewis’ career in education spans 20 years.

Advice to other teachers

Lewis’ main suggestion to other educators looking to start a side hustle is to find something you can do in the off-hours, like on weekends and during summers.

“Outside of the emails and phone calls, I schedule rehearsals on Fridays and weddings are on Saturdays, so I still have Sunday to regroup and organize for the new school week,” Lewis said. She added that it’s nice to do something that doesn’t involve working with students or children so teachers can get a break from their work environment.

Cecily White-Cooper

The middle school English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher tutors online, sells T-shirts she designs and creates teaching materials so she can travel and fund the holidays.

Image courtesy of Cecily White-Cooper

Cecily White-Cooper, 40, in Laurel, Md., told MagnifyMoney the predominant side hustle throughout her 18-year teaching career has been tutoring. It was a necessity, both when she started her career in California and when she moved to Maryland.

“I was on the bottom tier of the pay scale,” White-Cooper said. “I was not making enough money either here in Maryland or California in order to survive.”

In California, she began by finding clients on Craigslist and tutoring students at the local public library. After moving to Maryland, she tutored with a company based in Washington, D.C., until it became too much of a hassle to travel and find a babysitter after having twins in 2009. At that point, White-Cooper turned online, teaching English to students in China through VIP Kids.

Though tutoring has always been a staple side hustle, White-Cooper also has other income streams. She designs and sells T-shirts through Merch by Amazon, Redbubble and Etsy. White-Cooper also produces her own teaching material and sells that on TeachersPayTeachers.

White-Cooper’s experience as a lifelong side hustler inspired her blog, TeacherCes.com — from which she earns some advertisement income — and a podcast of the same name, where she shares advice and interviews with other moonlighting educators.

Where the side hustles help

“Initially when I started up until when I got married, every year I had to have something going on. It was hustle, hustle, hustle annually,” White-Cooper told MagnifyMoney. White-Cooper married about eight years into her teaching career. Having a dual-income household means the extra income is no longer a necessity, but she maintains her side hustles because they provide extra money she can use to travel or pay for seasonal expenses like holiday debt.

Advice to other teachers

“There will be something that will suffer,” White-Cooper said. “For me, it’s my social life.” But she makes up for the lost time with vacations once in a while, like a trip to Las Vegas with her friends.

White-Cooper added that having a side hustle and a family has also forced her to manage her time more efficiently to be successful.

“I’m very selective about what I do and where I go in order to get my tutoring projects and all of that finished,” she said. “I do my personal projects during my lunch hour. Then once the day is over at 3 p.m., I eat lunch.”

White-Cooper said she also gets to bed earlier so she can be up early on the weekends to work in her home office before the twins wake up.

Shannon Mitchell

The high school English teacher turned to multilevel marketing companies to get the money her family needed to fix their home sewer system. Now, she runs her own jewelry business.

Image courtesy of Shannon Mitchell

It was a poor housing market, low wages and a broken sewer system that drove high school English teacher Shannon Mitchell, 40, in Fredericksburg, Va., to seek side income through multilevel marketing (MLM) companies in 2013.

“With teaching, there’s no overtime — there is no other way to make money unless you get a second job,” Mitchell said.

Upon realizing there was no other option to earn the funds to fix the sewer system, she told herself, “‘Here I am, 35, and I have to ask my parents for money.’ I was like, ‘No way. I’m taking the bull by the horns.’”

Where the side hustles help

Mitchell became a representative for Rodan and Fields, where she said she quickly made the money she needed to repair the sewer system. She later worked for an MLM called Keep Collective before ending her side gigs with MLMs in 2016.

Although Mitchell says she and her husband have always generally lived beneath their means, she says the side income from her work with multilevel marketing firms helped them have a more flexible lifestyle and extra funds for life’s emergencies. Mitchell no longer has these income streams, but she started a porcelain jewelry business, which she runs outside of teaching, and hopes it will eventually become profitable.

Advice to other teachers

While many teachers seek extra-income opportunities within the world of education, Mitchell recommended not limiting yourself to the profession. She encouraged teachers to follow their interests.

“Don’t feel like it’s all or nothing with teaching,” Mitchell said. “You can be a good teacher and also explore other things as well.”

Finally, Mitchell warns any educators interested in multilevel marketing to “be smart about it” and weigh the pros and cons.

“Don’t buy into their hype,” said the MLM veteran, who mentioned that she didn’t have the control over her business the way she thought she would when participating in an MLM.

Jessica Cioffi

The 5th-grade teacher walks dogs with Wag! to fund humanitarian trips.

Jessica Cioffi, 32, an educator based in Los Angeles, told MagnifyMoney she first looked into dog walking in June 2017.

“The summer came and some of my travel plans had fallen through, so I had some extra time on my hands that I needed to fill,” said Jessica. With travel out of the picture, she said she decided to turn to her other love: dogs. She started walking dogs through an app called Wag!

Where the side hustles help

At first, dog walking was a fun way for her to exercise, hang with dogs and get paid, but when Cioffi realized the income could help her pay humanitarian trips she wanted to do, she was motivated to walk more often. She dog walks up to 8 miles a day on the weekends and in the summer.

Advice to other teachers

Cioffi advised using breaks to earn extra income with a side hustle.

“Summer is a great time to take on extra work, especially if it is something you can find joy in,” Cioffi said. “For myself, regardless of income, Wag! was a great way to interact with animals, get outside and meet incredible people.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
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Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at [email protected]

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How to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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Parents often revel in the calm and quiet that comes when kids head back to school, but they aren’t likely to enjoy the excess spending that also accompanies the back-to-school season. According to the National Retail Federation, parents will set a record in 2019, spending an average of $696.70 per household on children in elementary school through high school.

 

“It was interesting to see the across-the-board increases in spending levels,” said Mark Mathews, vice president for research development and industry analysis with the NRF. “Elevated levels of consumer sentiment, healthy household balance sheets, low inflation and recent wage gains all seem to be contributing to a confident consumer who is willing to spend money on back-to-school supplies.”

If you’re planning a trip to the store before classes start, there are a few ways to curb the spending and save some bucks.

Plan ahead

No parent should set foot out the door for back-to-school shopping without first taking stock of what they already have. Plenty of old supplies from previous years might still be usable, especially arts and crafts items like crayons, pencils and pens, as well as more expensive things like backpacks, lunch boxes and calculators.

Crossing a few items off your list is a good first step when it comes to saving, but learning how to budget is also important. It’s tempting to run down the back-to-school aisle and grab every colorful notebook and snazzy pencil case in sight, but it doesn’t make a lot of financial sense. Create a realistic budget based on the items you actually need, and try your best to stick to it. If possible, do most of your shopping online, since it’s easier to keep a running tally of how much you’re spending as you shop.

Be smart about sales

Although you’re bound to run into many back-to-school sales this time of year, you don’t need to buy 12 notebooks just because they’re cheaper right now. In fact, you shouldn’t assume the sales price is the best price at all, said consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. Instead, always comparison shop.

“Run a quick Google search online or on your phone to see if another store is selling the same or a similar item for less,” she said. “Most big box stores will price match, so you won’t even have to drive to another store to get the better deal.” For example, Target, Staples and Walmart all have price matching policies.

Clip coupons and shop discount stores

Coupons have definitely made a digital comeback, with countless apps and websites dedicated to listing all your options in one place. “Spending a few minutes looking for coupons can help you get a better discount,” Woroch said. “Use apps like CouponSherpa, for instance. Or, use the Honey browser tool, which automatically searches and applies relevant coupons to your online order.”

Many stores also offer discounts to valued customers who sign up for their rewards program, like Walgreens and CVS, while craft stores like Michaels regularly offer discounts. Don’t knock purchasing basics like paper and writing supplies from the Dollar Tree, either — you might be surprised by what you find, and those types of items are often the same quality wherever you buy them.

Tax advantage of tax-free holidays

On select dates throughout the year, different states offer state sales tax holidays, or days where you can purchase items without having to pay sales tax on them. You can find a full list of the 2019 state sales tax holidays here, but some upcoming ones include:

  • August 18-24: Connecticut, clothing and footwear
  • August 17-18: Massachusetts, specific items costing less than $2,500 per item

Split bulk purchases

You can usually save money by buying certain items — like construction paper, pens, pencils and folders — in bulk, but you can save even more by splitting those bulk items with other families. Not only is this a great way to share savings, Woroch said, but you can earn rewards faster by charging everything on your card and then having the families pay you back.

Redeem your rewards

If you have a cash back credit card, now’s the time to use it. “Most credit cards give you the best redemption value when you opt for statement credit or have the cash rewards deposited into your bank,” Woroch said. “You can set this money aside for back-to-school shopping.”

Alternatively, Woroch suggested checking to see if your particular card allows you to redeem points for gift cards to retailers where you plan to shop.

Use discounted gift cards

Besides redeeming credit card points for retailer gift cards, you can also scour the web for cheap gift cards online. Planning a trip to Target? Scan websites like Raise, Cardpool and CardCash first. These sites buy and sell unused gift cards at a discount, meaning you can save on purchases you were planning to make anyway.

Consider having your kids contribute

Depending on your child’s age, back-to-school shopping might be the perfect time to start having them contribute to their own goods, especially if they earn an allowance or have a job. Talking to your kids about money at a young age — whether about budgeting, saving or spending — will help them develop solid money habits that will pay off in the future.

Parents already seem to be catching on to this idea. “It was surprising to see how much of their own money kids are contributing towards the back-to-school bills,” Mathews said. “Teens and pre-teens will be spending $63 of their own money, which works out to $1.5 billion overall. This is significantly higher than the levels we saw a decade ago.”

Although the news about increased spending on back-to-school supplies may be alarming, these days there are more ways than ever to save. A little ingenuity, resourcefulness and research can go a long way.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Cheryl Lock
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Cheryl Lock is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Cheryl at [email protected]

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Survey: Most Americans Have Raided Their Retirement Savings

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Successfully saving for retirement requires dedication and self-restraint, but more than half the country admits to robbing their future selves in order to satisfy today’s spending needs, according to a new survey by MagnifyMoney. While the economic pressures bearing down on workers today make their actions understandable, the hard truth is that many Americans are turning an already-difficult task that much harder by tapping into their retirement savings early.

Key Findings

  • Approximately 52% of respondents admit to tapping their retirement savings account early for a purpose other than retiring: 23% have done so to pay off debt, 17% for a down payment on a home, 11% for college tuition, 9% for medical expenses, and 3% for some other reason.
  • About 29% say there are some scenarios where it is a good idea to withdraw money early from a retirement savings account.
  • Around 60% of respondents do not know exactly how much they have saved for retirement. Just 40% know the exact amount, while 45% have a rough idea, and 15% have no clue.
  • Almost 25% are unhappy with their retirement savings. 47% are happy with the amount saved, and about 28% are neither happy nor unhappy.
  • Finally, 27% have never thought about how much money they’ll need in retirement.

Why are Americans tapping their retirement savings early?

The two main reasons respondents cited for withdrawing money from their retirement savings are as American as apple pie: home ownership and personal debt. According to the survey, 23% of those making an early withdrawal did so to help pay down non-medical debt, while 17% needed the money for a down payment on a home.

Although the housing market appears to be cooling off compared to just a few years ago, a down payment on a home still requires a significant chunk of change — experts recommend a down payment equaling 20% of the total mortgage to optimize your mortgage payments.

Personal debt, from credit cards to student loans, remains a fixture of everyday economic reality for millions of Americans. In other words, the stressors that cause workers to raid their retirement funds don’t look like they will decrease appreciably in the foreseeable future.

Which Americans are withdrawing money the most?

Breaking down the demographics, older savers are less likely to withdraw money from their retirement fund than younger savers. 54% of millennial savers say they’ve taken an early withdrawal from a retirement savings account, compared with 50% of Gen Xers and 43% of baby boomers. This stands to reason considering that many millennials have now entered the stage of life where they are getting mortgages, starting families and taking on bigger financial obligations while also being decades away from the traditional retirement age. Millennials are also more likely to say that raiding your retirement fund is justified under certain circumstances, as seen in the chart below:

Just one of many bad retirement savings habits

Tapping into retirement funds — whether an employer-sponsored 401(k) or a traditional IRA — before the appropriate age almost always comes with a financial penalty in the form of additional taxes and fees. What is more, you’re diminishing the principle that fuels the compound interest you need to meet your retirement savings goals.

Unfortunately the survey reveals early withdrawals are just one of the many bad habits Americans engage in when it comes to retirement savings. This list of less-than-ideal practices includes:

  • 35% of Americans are not currently saving for retirement. Of those who are, 37% started saving at age 30 or above, and 12% started saving when they were older than 40.
  • 60% of Americans do not know exactly how much they have saved for retirement. Just 40% know the exact amount, while 45% have a rough idea and 15% have no clue.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 Americans don’t contribute enough to their employer-sponsored retirement account to get the maximum company match. Maximizing a company match is one of  your best ways to maximize your retirement savings. Among those with an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, just 17% of respondents contribute 10% or more of their take-home pay. Almost 5% contribute nothing at all, and nearly 6% are unclear about how much they contribute.

  • Approximately 42% of respondents have made the mistake of withdrawing their entire balance from an employer-sponsored retirement plan when changing jobs without rolling it over – and nearly 15% have done so more than once. A little more than 47% of millennials admit to this faux pas.

The most damning finding of all is that 27% of those surveyed have never thought about how much they’ll need in retirement. And while “ignorance is bliss” may hold true when it comes to some things in life, this expression should not apply to your retirement plans.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,029 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the general population. The survey was fielded June 24-27, 2019.

Generations are defined as:

  • Millennials are ages 22-37
  • Generation Xers are ages 38-53
  • Baby boomers are ages 54-72

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

James Ellis
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James Ellis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here