Helping Public School K-12 Educators get a Fair Shake from our Tax-deferred 403(b) or 457(b) and Working Families with their 401(k) plans.
(My husband and coauthor, Dan Robertson, died in 2015)
The voices of experience.
We have a personal finance story to share that we believe will be valuable for your retirement planning. We are Steve Schullo and Dan Robertson, retired public school educators who experienced the worst and best of tax-deferred retirement plans.
Early in our careers, we were ripped-off by 403 (b) insurance products, not by Madoff-type crooks, but by 403(b) legal options. Most educators have met the smartly dressed salesperson several times during their careers. Why? Because they are everywhere in an overly trusting educational culture. These salespeople could sell Kryptonite to Superman with a straight face to get that commission. They are good at multitasking by evading your cost questions while giving you information that will only make you feel comfortable.
With the nearly universal abandonment of ethical advice, the sales force continue to sell fixed-indexed annuities to 22-year-old teachers. The sales force do not care that this product is a wholly inappropriate. They excel at selling these terrible products as they reinforce fears of losing in the stock market or of dying broke. Sadly, many educators buy into this and unknowingly pass on the earnings that they should get but are reaped by the insurance company and their agents instead. You would agree with us that this system is wrong. That’s where we came in. In our opinion, insurance companies should not be in the retirement business during the accumulation phase. The costs are too high and the only people benefiting are the person who sells these products. I am not the only one saying this, it is pretty much agreed with the vast majority of fiduciary fee-only financial advisers.
As we realized their true intentions, we searched for alternatives. Our initial success hit a wall when the tech bubble burst in 2000 and we lost a bundle. At that time Dan retired (age 59) and Steve continued working until 2008.
Since the bottom of the tech crash in 2002, we reconstructed our portfolio and built an impressive nest egg. In this phase we discovered how a diversified, low-cost, long-term portfolio is constructed and immediately began our transition. Now we are both retired and committed advocates for assisting teachers in seeing that uncertainties in the stock and bond markets can be managed by understanding the guidelines we discovered and pass along for free.
We present each of our learning steps from getting (1) a healthy financial attitude, (2) where to find money to invest, (3) who to trust for your financial advice, (4) which funds consistently reward investors over time, (and 5) costs and media hype. We value living a good life, expanding opportunities so that we can do the things we want to do. We purchased electric cars and installed solar on our house not just for the free energy (although it was also an economic decision) for AC in the hot desert and energy for the cars, but as a green statement that benefits society.
It is our privilege to share the good habits we have found and, more importantly, hope that you will benefit as we have. We want financial freedom and we don’t think you have to go through what we went through to secure your balanced and low-cost retirement plan to supplement your pension. Please join in sharing this positive message. Thank you.
More information about Steve
Stephen A. Schullo, Ph.D. (UCLA ’96) taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for 24 years and UCLA Extension teaching educational technology to student teachers. Steve wrote investment articles for the United Teacher-Los Angeles (UTLA) newspaper for 13 years. Thrice featured retirement plan advocate in the Los Angeles Times and U.S. News and World Report. He co-founded an investor self-help group (403bAware with a colleague, Sandy Keaton) for teacher colleagues and wrote 6,500 posts in three investment forums since 1997. Frequently quoted by the media, testified at California State legislative hearings and honored with the “Unsung Hero” award by UTLA for his retirement planning advocacy. For the last ten years, he serves on LAUSD’s Investment Advisory Committee as a “Member-at-Large” and former co-chair. The committee monitors the district’s 457b/403b/PARS of 55,000 former and current LAUSD employees, worth $2.2 billion in total assets. Lastly, Steve and his late husband, Dan, were featured participants for the award-winning documentary, PBS Frontline: The Retirement Gamble, aired April 23, 2013.
FREE pdf download of my book
Steve is the author of an additional new book, released last year, “Fighting Powerful Interests: Educators Challenge Tax-sheltered Annuities and WIN!” A story of how a handful of LAUSD educators struggled for years to improve the 403(b) to no avail. But we never quit! We were instrumental in LAUSD’s implementation of the new 457(b) plan, and ended up with a “Plan Design” award.