When Poverty Knocks?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by MissKatie, Dec 31, 2010.

  1. MissKatie

    MissKatie Rookie

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    Hello, everyone,

    I love teaching. From what I've gathered, most teachers love teaching. Despite my enthusiasm for teaching, the unavoidable fear of poverty follows me as I pursue my future profession.

    I figured the best place to get an honest answer about this issue would be from an actual teacher:

    Do modern teachers live in poverty?

    Every internet article I've read states that all teachers struggle with finances and are barely making it. *gulp* Is this true?

    I know the pay isn't grandiose, but I would like a secure and happy life. Coming from a financially struggling family, I am already used to thrift store clothes, over-the-sink haircuts, and non-name-brand items. I doubt I would ever live less frugally, as this is just what I am accustomed to.

    That being said, is it possible to live my definition of a happy life on a teacher's salary?

    Thanks for any advice.:)

    Katie
     
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  3. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    It depends on what your definition of happiness is!

    I'm a single mom, but I own my own home, I have a nice car, I can afford to send my daughter to college, and I will be able to retire in my 50s (if I want). It's just about not spending more than you make.

    Now, do I have a big house and a super fancy car? Nope. I don't get to vacation across the globe, but I live a decent life, and I can pay my bills and do fun things with my family.

    I think for only working 186 days a year, I get paid a good salary.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I do not live in poverty. My husband and I live frugally and have no debt besides our modest mortgage. Our cars are paid for and we buy everything with cash.

    If you handle your finances properly and don't live outside your means, I think you'll be fine. There's no need to buy a new fancypants car when a slightly older one will still get you from point A to point B safely and comfortably. There's no need to live in a 3,500 square foot house when there are only 2 people in your family. If you ask me, too many people are focused on showing off and keeping up with the Joneses, and I think that's a big part of what is wrong with our economy these days.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    "Poverty"???

    I can only speak for my family, but absolutely not!!!

    My husband and I both teach in Catholic High schools, so I would imagine that what holds true for us must also be true for the higher paying public schools.

    We have 2 cars; one is paid off, the other is not.

    We own a house in the suburbs: 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom cape in the high cost of living suburbs of NYC. Theer's a 4' pool with a deck in the yard.

    We have 3 kids. None owns a pair of Uggs, but Christmas pretty much looked like Santa's workshop threw up with toys everywhere. My daughters each got an American Girl Doll and my son a Kinect, and there was a roomful of presents in addition.

    We take at least one vacation every year. We did 2 consecutive trips to Disney World. (Yeah, they were budget busters, but absolutely needed at the time.) A more typical vacation for us is a week upstate. Last year we also did a weekend in Mystic Seaport.

    I tend to shop in Kohls, Sears, and JC Penney a lot. The kids clothes also come from Justice, Target, The Disney Store, and the Children's Place.

    We're not wealthy, but we're incredibly happy.
     
  6. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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    No poverty here!
     
  7. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I'm in a two income family. We work hard for our money. We've never been anywhere near poverty.
     
  8. TeacherApr

    TeacherApr Groupie

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    yep! Depends on the district you are at! My district does not allow you to go up on the payscale based on experience. I am on my 4th year of teaching and do not even make $30K!!!!

    I live in an old 2 bedroom apt. Couldn't buy anything for my daughter for Christmas and have been struggling to afford food and diapers for several months now. My car is paid off but only because I got in a car accident many years ago, was injured and received a settlement. I am also having to do a bunch of maintenance on my car and cannot afford the $90/hour for labor at your basic auto shop so I have to search for friends to do it. As it is, I can barely afford the parts and any money to give my friends for helping out.

    I had to go to the Salvation Army 2 months ago for free food and a few diapers. I never thought I would be that low in my life to have to get a handout like that but I'm grateful I was able to.

    THAT is the down and dirty that is a possibility for anyone BUT as I said, it depends on your location and the cost of living.
     
  9. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    There are also usually extras you can pick up to add to your regular salary. We offer tutorials, summer school, leadership positions, merit pay in some places- that all come with extra compensation. I can make $2,000 take-home pay for one extra month's work teaching summer school. I think it depends a lot on where you live and what's typical for that district.

    I'm single, so sometimes the pursestrings get tight-but I still wouldn't want to do any other job. Like bandnerd said-I think we're compensated well for only really having to show up to work literally 1/2 a year.
     
  10. janlee

    janlee Devotee

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    I live in one of the costliest areas of the country and am no way near poverty and have never been. I am a single mom who sent 2 boys to college. I do not deprive myself of the things I need. I do not travel the globe but do enjoy one or two vacations over the summer break. I'm eligible to retire and if I did I would have no problem continuing to live in my current lifestyle.
     
  11. Mark94544

    Mark94544 Companion

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    I've worked as a journalist, as an attorney, as an internet marketing consultant, and as a teacher. As a teacher, I worked much, much harder (longer hours, more stress) than in any other career, and I earned less than I'd earned in any other career.

    But as a public school teacher, I earned a "reasonable" salary with good benefits, and even after deducting the huge amounts I had to spend from my own pocket for my classroom, I was still well above the poverty line, although I certainly would have struggled more if I had a family to support at that time.

    Keep in mind, I quit teaching midway into my first year, because I wasn't willing to make so many compromises nor break so many laws. I don't think a new teacher's salary is fair, when compared with other careers that require fewer hours and less stress. But of course, "fair" isn't what it's about; it's about what a group of well-educated, community-minded people are willing to accept, and for good or ill, teachers accept a lower salary for their effort than most other careers.
     
  12. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    This is a way some of my old coworkers helped make ends meet:

    http://www.angelfoodministries.com/menus/menu_2011-01_en.asp

    My husband and I do not have children, but we are very comfortable living on our two-teacher salary. We do also both work summer camps and things. But, we make our mortgage, car, and other payments each month, have cell phones, season tickets to a professional sports team, and we eat out when we want to. I don't have to worry about if I have enough money to stop for coffee on the way to work and things like that. We don't live extravagantly, but we live well. We do have four pets, and all of the expenses that go with them.

    I feel like I make good money for the days I work, but maybe not the hours.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    In the quarter century I've been teaching, I've never been asked to break a single law.

    In fact, the odds are that doing so would have been grounds for termination.

    I'm sorry you were put in such a position.
     
  14. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I lived in poverty as a child and while I earned my college education, but I am certainly not living in poverty now nor would I be if I were single and living only on my income.
     
  15. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    In this area, the deep South of Alabama, I feel that public school teachers' salaries are excellent. A starting salary of 41 K (with a Master's) and excellent benefits puts you above much of the state population.

    I have no complaints about the salary. I would love to make that much money. All of my financial problems would easily be solved. You can buy beautiful and spacey homes here for very low cost as well (such as less than 150K). There's a very low cost of living here so a 41K starting salary and 50K after 10 years means you can be living a good life in Alabama.

    Sadly, private school salaries here are about 20K and sometimes below that and yes, that is just about poverty level salary.
     
  16. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I'm struggling a bit now, but that's more because my husband's been laid off for over a year than anything else. When we were both employed, things were great. They will be again soon!
     
  17. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I make an excellent salary. Even when starting out, I was no where near poverty. Being a two income family helps tremendously; we could live on my salary if we needed to.
     
  18. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    MissKatie, I suggest doing a little research to determine what teachers in your area of interest earn and the cost of living. I know my state posts a massive document online detailing each district's salary scale, so your state may do something similar. If not, many individual districts publish this information. Look into that, determine what average homes cost...things of that nature. That will help you decide if what teachers earn will be acceptable to you or not...although I think as you can see here, we really do just fine. :)
     
  19. skittleroo

    skittleroo Connoisseur

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    Agreed - I love having time off with my family (I never have to worry about working through Thanksgiving or Christmas), I make in the mid 50K's, and get to retire and enjoy my golden years instead of depending of social security that won't exist by the time I'm old enough anyway.

    Yes there are people that make more money, but I definitely would not classify myself as destitute.
     
  20. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I've never broken a law and I don't compromise on what's right for my kids. As for the salary,no one expected to become a millionaire by the age of 30 in teaching...Many teachers are paid well but there are rewards to this job outside of the financial.
     
  21. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    My first two or three years of teaching, I qualified for the low income tax credit. I still wouldn't have considered myself "in poverty".

    I started teaching at age 22. I lived with my parents from age 22 to age 29. During those years I paid for all of my own expenses other than housing. I paid for my masters. I bought a brand new car. I went on vacations. And I bought a house at age 29.

    I live in an area where the cost of living is not that bad. In some places I can't imagine how anybody--even two-income families--could ever afford a decent house.
     
  22. historynut

    historynut Rookie

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    Both me and my husband work. I have a son. We have a house and 2 cars. We are not rich but we do save and keep to a budget.

    I know teachers that I work with that are in the poverty range but that is do to poor lifestyle choices and family issues not necessarily job related.
     
  23. teach2read10

    teach2read10 Companion

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    Your standards

    This is a question of what you expect more than anyhting else. There are alot of teachers all around the country who make more than $75,000.00 per year but the state you're in has a lot to do with your compensation. Teaching salaries are public record.
     
  24. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    I work for a private school and while I love my private school, when I first started teaching in 1986 my take home salary was $750 per month. I'd say that was well below the poverty level.

    I got a second job and worked that second job for many years before I married. It's unfortunate, but true. I've been teaching at that same school for 24 years now and am finally making what I consider to be a decent, livable salary. I paid for my own masters degree, I am paying for my own classes to add my reading certification to my teaching license. My school will pay for workshops and certain trainings. You just have to ask.

    There are tradeoffs working for a private school, though. If I worked in a public school here (as a Montessori teacher), I'm not sure I would have made it this far. We don't have testing like the local public schools do, we have tons of freedom, and we get to make our own rules. I also love how flexible the administration is at our school if we have family issues. When my father was dying, my boss told me to leave and not come back until after the funeral was over. That was about 2 and a half weeks. He didn't make me use personal time or anything like that, he just let me go. Sometimes money can't make up for things like that.

    I always tell people that if they want to be wealthy, teaching is not the place for you. Yes, you'll work hard. Yes, you'll spend a lot of time in your classroom and take things home. Hopefully one day teaching salaries will rise to the level of education and experience of the teachers, but not until we as teachers stand up and help change the perception of teaching to the public in general. That's another thread. :lol:

    Good luck to you. There are tradeoffs, and it's up to you to figure out whether those tradeoffs are worth it to you.
     
  25. dizzykates

    dizzykates Habitué

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    I wouldn't say I would be living in poverty, but when I was single I either lived at home or in what I am sure was the cheapest apartment building in the city. I am fortunate to have very low student loans, but I am a friend who's loans prevent her from moving from her parents house.

    If I were single, I would not be able to buy a home in our area or keep the home my husband bought. I know I'd be back to renting, but that doesn't define poverty.

    It really depends where you end of teaching and where you choose to live in relation to that.
     
  26. Soccer Dad

    Soccer Dad Cohort

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    MissKatie, like the others have been saying, it's very dependent on where you're going to teach. I've taught in the NYC public schools and made a very low salary for the VERY high COL in that area. Then, I moved out to Long Island and again, made a low salary at first (in the 1980s). However, my salary after 3 years of working covered my COL and has ever since.

    My wife and I are both teachers. We have no complaints with our salaries or pension. I can retire at age 55 with 30 years of working experience, as can my wife. My pension is determined by taking my salary from my last 3 years working and averaging them out.

    My salary as compared to other teacher salaries seems high, but the COL on Long Island is horrendous. My property taxes alone are $16,000 and I live on 1/2 an acre (and it's NOT water front). But, my bills are always paid.

    When I started teaching, I struggled. But by the time I was 30, I had a decent salary that afforded me the ability to buy my current house. I will say that I'm in debt--we have a mortgage and my son just entered college. Is it serious? Absolutely not because we have plans in place to pay for them.

    In the end, I'd take my 1999 Jeep, family vacations to Montauk (only 2 hrs away), and bargain shopping any day because my family is safe, healthy and happy.
     
  27. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I don't foresee a problem once I have a continuing contract. Unfortunately, working year to year, sometimes part time has been difficult. I am blessed to be able to live with my parents, but I'm ready to move out... Really hoping for a continuing contract next year!
     
  28. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    Ditto. We are a two-income family with a small child and two pets. We're fine.

    I think that there *are* places where living on a teacher's salary would be really hard, but even then people seem to do fine. Here, it's entirely within the reach of a person who is willing to carefully manage his/her finances.

    That said, there's not a lot of wiggle room. I can see how an emergency or a rash of unexpected problems could pose a real challenge to living on this salary and I have a lot of sympathy for the poster upthread who is having a hard time raising her daughter.
     
  29. kab164

    kab164 Companion

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    I live in a rural area. Teachers here make much less than the cities in our state. However, I'd have to say that the excellent medical insurance helps to make up for the lower salary. I just had unexpected surgery and the bill was $10,000. I do not owe a dime for any of it! In general I'd say for our area, teachers probably have a nicer lifestyle than most people. And yes, having 3 mos off is a bonus too! I think it also depends on being willing to live on a budget. We went to FL last spring but this year can't afford it. I am bummed but we'll probably go somewhere closer at least overnight.
     
  30. GoldenPoppy

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    I've taught in private school for 22 years. My salary keeps supports us comfortably, but it is less than I would make in public school. As was said earlier, there have been trade-offs between where do I want to teach and where could the salary be higher. We've been able to base our financial life on where I want to be.

    We're able to own our own home and buy the items that we want. We've had new cars when necessary and vacations when we wanted them.
     
  31. indigo-angel

    indigo-angel Companion

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    I think a lot of this depends on where you started before going into teaching. If you came out of college with lots of debt to pay back, it's gonna hurt for a while. How comfortably you live on a first year teacher's salary depends more on your personal finances and cost of living, in my opinion. I also come from a poor background and have had to take out several personal loans to cover expenses. My credit is also shot, so that makes it a bit difficult because I have to do everything with cash.
     
  32. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    I do not consider myself in poverty even though I was struggling financially for a while. I own a house which instantly puts me above poverty. I live in the one of the most expensive areas in the USA and work in one of the lowest paying district in the area; and I am financially stable. I own a house and a vehicle. The only debt I have is the house. I am comfy, there are many things I could covet; but nothing I need that I cannot have.
     
  33. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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  34. TeacherApr

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  35. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Part of your response seems a little rude to me. I found it very interesting and helpful to the discussion to see what the government considers to be poverty level. Certain people making more than this would still meet the dictionary definition of poverty. That's why so many areas are moving away from a minimum wage to a living wage. I found both the link and the definition of poverty to be relevant to the discussion. No need for what I interpreted to be sarcasm and snarkiness! (Is that a word?)
     
  36. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    I'm in my third year as a private-school teacher (I started at a different private school this year) and I live in New Jersey, where everything is expensive. I rent an apartment with two other people, I'm paying for a wedding this year, and I have two school loans to pay off (totaling about $26k).

    I am happy with what I have. I have a place to live, I can afford heating in my apartment, I can afford to make repairs to the used car my parents gave me, and I have money for food. It has required that I am extremely careful with budgeting--- something I went down hill on when I was laid off for the summer months (and thus my credit card bill looks scary but I've never been late on a payment and I have some savings too), but it's easy to put a system together to budget yourself.

    I really think it depends on what type of person you are: if you need a lot of material goods that are brand new and a few vacations during the year, no you're not going to be able to make it on a teacher's salary. If you can budget your money, are okay with not having a brand new piece of technology every few months, are okay with eating at home most of the time, and can deal with a yearly vacation some place cheap, then yes you'll be okay.

    And even though I have to do without a lot of the nice things, I am happy and I don't have any plans of changing my career. :)
     
  37. TeacherApr

    TeacherApr Groupie

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    Didn't realize you could read tone of voice online...?

    There was no additional info that's why I said that. Was the link to basically tell those that feel they are on poverty level to shut their traps because they really weren't on that level or was it to say "hey, this is what the government says. What do you think?" Most of the time when people just post a link to something in a thread it's to be rude so......there ya go.
     
  38. UVAgrl928

    UVAgrl928 Habitué

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    As everyone has said, it depends on where you are, and who you are. I am 25 years old, in my 3rd year of teaching (and have been on a salary freeze for one year), and make $49,000. But, I live outside of DC, which is a very expensive area. I work with kids who live in poverty, and can tell you I am NOWHERE close to their living conditions. I don't even want to compare my hardships to theirs.

    Do I have to scrape by some months? Of course, but I can make it on my own. You learn to make do with what you have. I am currently trying to save for a house, so right now I'm keeping my spending low. Plus, you have to keep in mind all of the time that you have off. I make an additional $3,000 for summer school. I am also doing an after school program twice a week through my school this year that will earn me an additional $2,000. I know many other people that work summers doing other things (I have coached, worked in restaurants, etc.). But make sure you do your research on the salaries and cost of living.
     
  39. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I've never encountered anyone being rude by posting just a link. I read the poster's intent as providing information. I really don't understand how that's rude, or why it deserved a response like yours.

    I guess I read punctuation as part of tone of voice. I almost always read statements that end with "...?" as being sarcastic, because they seem that way in my head. That's just me though.
     
  40. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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  41. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Wow. The OP is a young student wondering about her financial future if she goes into teaching. The word poverty, like most words, has both a denotation and connotations. There was an earlier post about earnings early in a member's career that person considered at the poverty level for the year in question...which got me thinking about what level of income is considered the poverty level...especially in these tough economic times. The link provided was to simply add information to the conversation. I don't know why you would think that 'most of the time when people post just a link in a thread it's to be rude'...I tend to not think that's the case at all...certainly wasn't the intention of posting the link.
     

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