Planning for the future is a necessity that can seem daunting, particularly for people who are just entering their professional lives. Retirement may seem far away for them, but as most financial experts will say, it’s never too early to start planning.

For professional educators, planning for retirement can sometimes seem even more daunting, particularly as many educators in Pennsylvania and across the nation use their own money to provide supplies for their students. Fortunately, for many education professionals, new to the game and highly-seasoned, that’s where an organization like Horace Mann can provide necessary guidance.

Joseph Brophy, a representative from Horace Mann, the nation’s largest educator-focused insurance and financial company, notes that the sole focus of Horace Mann is providing guidance to educators. A company built by educators for educators, he says.

Brophy, who serves Montgomery and Bucks counties, explains that Horace Mann provides “retirement-readiness” guidance to education professionals. One of the key things that educators should remember, he says, is that teachers and other educators should begin to plan early.

“The earlier you start, the better off you’ll be due to compound interest,” Brophy says.

While many teachers and educators have pension plans, Horace Mann suggests that they should also take advantage of other retirement plans, such as 403(b) and 457 plans. He says that these programs are good compliments to pension plans.

While some teachers may not think they can afford to sock away a little each month into these programs, Brophy says Horace Mann is there to explain how it can be done without placing the plan members into any financial difficulties.

For Brophy and other Horace Mann agents across the nation, it’s about more than explaining retirement options. One of the key areas that teachers, particularly those who are new to the field need guidance with, is student loan debt. Many of the young teachers are coming out of college with tens of thousands of dollars in loan debt. That kind of financial obligation can be frightening.

Brophy says that he tries to steer these educators toward participation in federal programs that can help reduce student loan payments or reduce other associated debt through government agencies. On average, Brophy says he sees debt loads of $35,000 to $50,000 carried by the teachers he works with in Pennsylvania.

It’s important to get a handle on that student loan load, he says, because the savings from those federal programs can then be redirected into retirement programs.

“I’ve seen teachers who have $600 per month in student loan payments. They’re shocked and delighted when we show them how we can help them save that money,” Brophy shares. “It’s really a dramatic thing and as long as these programs are in place, we want to alert teachers to their existence.”

Throughout a teacher’s career, Brophy says that workshops in the district are sponsored by Horace Mann to continue to provide financial education for educators.

“We want educators to know that we’re here to help them. We understand the challenges they face. We share the same consistent message of letting teachers know that there are options for their future,” Brophy says.

By providing that kind of financial assurance, Brophy notes that educators benefit from having those nagging concerns lifted off their shoulders.

Michelle Eccles, public relations manager for Horace Mann, notes that the century-old agency has a strong working relationship with the school districts in which it operates. One program that is proving popular that the company partners with an outside organization is a sort-of Go Fund Me program for teachers who need classroom supplies for certain projects.

The Donors Choose program allows teachers to share ideas for their projects on a website and provides a way for people from across the country to chip in their financial support to fund those projects. By providing that pathway for teachers, Eccles says their hope is that teachers will be able to redirect the money they may have spent on that project to their retirement plan.

“It’s really important that people understand we’re here to help,” Brophy says. “We’re here to help the teachers get an understanding of what their expenses are and how they should be set up to ensure a solid financial future.”

Eccles agrees with that notion. She adds that Horace Mann “offers education to help teachers get to where they need to be or where they want to be, financially.”

“We’re always here and we want the teachers and educators to know they can reach out to us with their concerns,” Eccles says.

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