What if a few years of extra work could earn you $300,000-$500,000 by the time you retire?

I first heard about National Board Certification when I was a university student. I was in a middle school placement before student teaching and was in awe of the masters I got to witness teaching every day. One afternoon the principal made an announcement congratulating a teacher on her achievement of National Board Certification. I remember where I was standing in the building–it made that much of an impression on me. I thought, “Wow, she must be REALLY good.” It sounded so impressive and special.

Fast forward seven years. I had just finished my Master’s degree and was barely keeping my head above water. I was a new teacher surrounded by incredible veterans. Not only did I feel like I’d never be as good as them, I was overwhelmed just keeping up with daily lesson planning and trying not to be run over by my students.

In the midst of this high-stress season in my career, National Board Certification came onto my radar again. I learned that my district would pay me $2,000 a year for 10 years if I got it, and that my state would pay me a one-time stipend of $3,000. I thought about how far $23,000 would go towards paying off our student loans. Then there was the added benefit that by going through the process I’d become a little bit more like those veterans I admired. Exhausted and overwhelmed already, but determined to pay down our debt and get a better handle on teaching, I began the process.

I’ve now been a National Board Certified Teacher since 2007. Our student loans are long gone. Thanks to a recent state legislative session, my stipend is now $3,000. That extra money is helping us pay off our mortgage and fund our retirement. Over the 20 years that I’ll be certified, I’ll have earned an extra $45,760 after taxes. But how could I turn it into $390,000? Keep reading!

Let’s say I invested my annual stipend ($2,288 after taxes) in a low-cost index fund that earned a conservative 6% each year for the 20 years that I was a Board Certified teacher. Then I let it ride, adding nothing more. By the time I was 65, that $45,760 would be worth $219,292. By the time I was 75, it would be worth $392,719. Knowing that I was building a solid nest egg and that all of my hard work would pay off exponentially made the extra effort so much easier to justify.

To further sweeten the deal, the stipends and benefits that we can earn for getting certified have increased in recent years. 25 states now offer stipends of up to $6,000 a year. Nineteen states now offer some sort of financial support to cover the cost of getting certified (about $2,000). My own state of Montana has increased the stipend by up to two thousand dollars depending on the school you teach in, making it even more profitable for teachers to do it now than when I did it. Here’s a link to see what you could be earning. Remember: your district may offer an additional benefit on top of what your state offers!

I’m not gonna lie. Getting National Board Certification is a lot of work. There is a significant amount of writing and a lot of parameters to fit said writing into. It’s similar to taking a few graduate level courses. You’ll also have to video your teaching. But don’t let the workload intimidate you! It’s gotten SO much easier over the past decade. I did the videos for my renewal a few years ago on my iPhone. (Compare that to the enormous VHS tripod and plug-in mic of my original submissions! Trying to get 6 year olds not to knock it all over and trip over the cords?!) And now all of your work is submitted digitally, saving tons of time over organizing and mailing a hard copy.

So, if you’re in a district that rewards you financially and you’re interested in digging down into your practice to earn some extra income that could grow to hundreds of thousands of dollars over time–I can’t think of a reason not to go for it.

Here are a few tips to make the process a bit easier:

  1. Everything is better with friends. See if you can get a colleague to do it with you! You’ll have a built-in partner to bounce ideas off of, read your writing, and test out video strategies with. 
  2. Start early. Know what your timeframe is and give yourself PLENTY of time. Our state offers a 3 day course in the summer called Jump Start. See if something like that exists where you are. If it doesn’t, you’ll still be fine. Just plan things out and set some benchmarks in your timeline so you can pace yourself. 
  3. Or wait until the last minute! Procrastination makes me break out in hives, but some people work better under time pressure. If that’s you, go for it! A ridiculously smart and talented colleague of mine did just that for his initial certification and his renewal. I was literally panicking for him, but he sailed right through. 
  4. Timelines and buddies aside, be organized. It’s a big project and a little organization goes a long way. Again, all of this is made so much easier today with tools like Google Drive (which also didn’t exist during my initial certification!)

The bottom line: monetary bonuses are usually reserved for corporate America, and this is one way teachers can get in on that action. While National Boards doesn’t provide a huge annual bonus, it adds up BIG TIME if we use the market. This is one lever you can pull that could have a big impact in your financial fitness!

To get started, check out the NBPTS website.

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