I’m being RIFfed, what do I do?

If you are new to the world of teaching, being RIFfed is one of the most soul-destroying things that can happen to you.

You’ve worked hard in one district, built a reputation as a great teacher, earned tenure, and then a bad economy hits.

No matter that you’ve earned tenure, the job cuts are coming. Based on seniority in a school district and economic conditions, teachers will lose their jobs based on how many years they have until a budget is balanced by saved salaries.

This situation does not happen in good times – only bad economic times – but it pays to be informed as to the best things to do in this situation.


Understand if you will be re-hired

Many districts will lay off staff, only to rehire some when the new hiring season rolls around. Ask your administration what their thoughts or intentions are, and if you will have a slot in the new school year. If not, now is the time to start looking for a job. Pull up those names in your network that may be able to help you, and try to attend any last-minute conferences to meet some new people. Reach out to everyone you know in the education field and explain your situation. Most likely, someone will know of a hiring position before it goes public, and they will able to help you on your journey.


Determine if you are going to stay in teaching or switch careers

For those teachers who have a lot of years, it is going to be difficult to get re-hired at their current salary. Review your tenure and determine if you are willing to accept a pay cut to move to a new district, look to move into administration (if you have the qualifications), or think about other career options you want to explore.

For those that have a love of teaching, a pay cut will be manageable, but for those dependent on their current income, it may not be possible to entertain. In understanding your personal financial situation, it can add a new dimension to this decision.


Understand your pension and 403(b) options

By understanding how many years you’ve been teaching, you can determine if you are vested in your state pension plan. For a young, newer teacher who gets RIFfed and changes careers, they may be able to take a refund of their unvested pension contributions and move it to an IRA. The same goes for a 403(b) – now you are separated from the district, don’t leave your 403(b) with your current provider. Move it to a more cost-effective IRA custodian and have more control over your retirement savings.


Assess your financial situation and determine what has to happen

For many teachers, losing their job once they get past tenure is not something they imagine happening. It can be a shock to go through and also come to grips with. However, you have to press on and make financial and career decisions quickly. By knowing what income you need to earn, or how long you can take in finding a job, the more control you have over the situation. If you’ve already been RIFfed, make this the first thing you do – understand what position your personal finances are in, and then design a game plan with that in mind.