Once upon a time, I found myself a 40 year-old, pregnant kindergarten teacher with thirty needy students to instruct, a spirited toddler at home, an unfathomable winter commute and a husband constantly away from home. I’d love to tell you my days were spent floating about the classroom sprinkling rainbows and stars amongst the laughter of children; but actually my days packed full of body aches, memory loss, exhaustion and frequent dashes to the washroom.
I was frazzled! I worried I could never do it all. I agonized: how will I keep track of marking, preparing my classroom for a new teacher, preparing my students for my departure, preparing my daughter for a new sibling, preparing my finances for the hit from maternity leave? The list of worries kept me up at night! Did you know when you are on a parental leave, you aren’t paying into your pension and not paying that leave back can have a big impact. One more thing to make my anxiety skyrocket!
Thankfully, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) has a great website called “The Scoop”. It’s a new online experience to help Ontario teachers navigate the impact of paying for a leave. The site is easy to use and tames those nagging concerns.
I remember during my first parental leave when someone called me to talk about paying for my leave and the figure was startling; it can cost between $6,000 - $12,000.
But don’t panic! If you’re like a typical teacher, paying for a $10,000 leave now could increase your pension by about $1,880 each year. Most retired teachers collect a pension for around 30 years, so paying for that leave today could mean you’ll get as much as $56,000 more throughout your retirement.
There are many ways to pay this back and The Wallet section of The Scoop lays them out for you. It eased my mind to know I can pay for buy back all, some or none of my leave and can work out a reasonable payment plan to do so. Phew.
It can be hard to even imagine being a pensioner when you are just starting or growing a family, but I quickly found out how much faster the years zoom by once kids appear in your life. If my pension is a delicious ice cream sundae, I will be taking a big bite out of it each month. The size of my sundae is based on the time I actually spent at work, right down to the day. I like having the opportunity to fill in the gap for the time I was on leave, so I’ll have more pension to live on when the time comes. Being an older mom, I’ve managed to make my retirement age coincide with my kids’ university years, so I’ll be needing as big a sundae as I can get.
Building that human inside me was exhausting. Looking after the two year-old running amok in my house was exhausting. Trying to teach, guide and encourage the gaggle of kids bouncing around my classroom added a whole new level of exhaustion. Having some guidance around financial choices, tax implications and pension lightened the load.
Parenting is hard. Financial planning is hard. Share this with any teachers who need to know the scoop on their parental leave!