How Dan Otter Built 403bwise.com

Updated: May 26

Dan Otter is a father, husband, teacher, author, and executive director of 403bwise.org, along with being a doctor. 403bwise.org is a website designed to educate and empower teachers and school employees about their retirement options.


In 2012, Money Magazine named him a “Money Hero” for his "extraordinary efforts to improve others' financial well-being." Dan has appeared on National Public Radio and the Bob Brinker Show. He is the author of several personal finance books: Teach and Retire Rich, Financial Literacy for the Young (and Young at Heart), and The 403(b) Wise Guide. He co-hosts the Teach and Retire Rich podcast with friend and CFP® Scott Dauenhauer.


Investing in Yourself


Dan was a first year elementary school teacher in 1993 when a woman popped into his classroom after school and asked “Do you care about your financial future?” Since then, Dan began educating himself on investing. He started to see the weakness of the 403b and wanted to educate other people on it and he started to meet other advocates for it.


He then wrote the book Teach and Retire Rich so that teachers could learn to retire comfortably if they take advantage of certain penchants and plans. The New York Times did a series of articles on the 403(b) and connected Dan with Tim Ranzeta, an entrepreneur who started a nonprofit to make free personal finance curriculum available to teachers.


Dan was an associate Dean at a University and quit his job to pursue working on 403bsmart.org full time. He started out college as a business major, hated it, switched to a journalism major with a political science minor and graduated and got a job at a magazine company. He started interviewing teachers and it interested him so much he got his credential and became a teacher himself.


His first year he taught a 4th/5th grade combo class that got a new student every week, and he said it was the hardest thing he has ever done, but he loved it. He and his wife both had tenure, moved to Washington D.C. for a year, came back and a year later, his wife sadly died from breast cancer. While staying at home with his two-year old daughter, he launched the 403bsmart website.


Teachers should have it all!


One of Dan’s main message is for educators to look at their 403b and their vendors and start evaluating their options. Dan describes some of the different plans and what he advises of people depending on their options to save the most money and have the most comfortable retirement.


Teachers should have a Roth IRA, a 403b with a great vendor, and a 457b with a great vendor. Dan talks about the benefits of compound interest and why it is your best friend when you are an investor and your worst enemy when you are the debtor.


There is an amount of risk when investing but Dan explains the difference between saving and investing and he says investing isn’t always for everyone, but saving is. The longer you invest, the less risky it is. Dan is willing to bet on low cost index funds over long periods of time and dissuades his students from individual stocks.


One piece of advice Dan has is: if you want to have a side hustle to make extra money, find a niche that you are passionate about that allows you to create a curriculum, service or product to sell.

 

Dan Otter 0:02 I was just, you know, so focused, we were both so focused on Julie's treatment. But then the website gave me this this other endeavor to, for a short period of time focus on something else. So I would literally go into our garage in Orange County. And I would just work on copy the fact that the FAQ is what is A 403 B. You know how much just all the nuts and bolts of the plan and it was my escape. Sean McCormick 0:33 Welcome to the Earn More Tutoring podcast. Here you will hear the real stories of teachers tutors and other educators who took ownership of their time and money. If you want to earn more with your tutoring skills. This podcast is for you. Today's guest is Dan Otter. Dan otter is a father, husband, teacher, author and Executive Director of 403 B ys.org. Along with being a doctor 403 B why's that org is a website designed to educate and empower teachers and school employees about their retirement options. In 2012. Money Magazine named him a money hero for his extraordinary efforts to improve others financial well being Dan has appeared on National Public Radio in the Bob Brinker show. He is the author of several personal finance books, teach and retire rich financial literacy for the young and young at heart and the 403 B wise guide. He co hosts the teach and retire rich podcast with friend and CFP Scott, down our welcome. Dan Otter 1:33 Hey, great to be here. Man. I'm really looking forward to this. Sean McCormick 1:37 Absolutely my myself included I was I was telling you, and also my wife that was just thrilled to have you on the show. Because for teachers who are looking to better their financial situation, the work that you're putting out is is a lifesaver and is truly incredible. So I wanted to start with the question. Tell us about your different ventures. I know you've got the books, the podcast, could you just give us an overview of your different ventures? Dan Otter 2:03 Sure. And I think I'll start with how I got into this. And again, it was very serendipitous. I was a first year elementary school teacher, way back in 1993. It was I was probably on the job about three months, the kids had left for the day, I'm at my desk, just you know, as a first year teacher is scrambling to get ready for the next day. And a woman pokes her head in my door and I'll never forget what she said. She said do you care about your financial future? That is a jarring comment to hear anytime but especially in your classroom. And I really think there's only one answer. Yes, I said, she took that as an invitation to come into the room. And she started talking Sean about all these investments that I had no idea about. She talked about how she helped the third grade teacher next door, the sixth grade teacher down the hall. And I just politely listened. And I remember a couple things really been kind of mad that someone come into my classroom and tried to pitch me something. But I hated being ignorant about what she was talking about. I had some vague understanding of the pension I was part of, but I had no idea about she was saying things like TSA annuities did not know what she was talking about. So politely listened said if I was in interested, I'd get back in touch. And I never did. That was lucky because I began to self educate myself about saving for retirement investing. And I learned that the 403 B, the K 12 403. B in particular was a bad plan, because of all the high cost investment products pitched by salespeople, like this woman. So as I began to educate myself, I started talking to my colleagues about it. I remember one woman said, Well, I really appreciate all this information, you know, you should do workshops. This was 1999 I can tell you're a young guy, Sean, but this is pre internet, you know, this is pre Google pre Instagram, pre Facebook. And, you know, I thought wow, I could start a website. You know, it was almost like remind me of like punk rock, you know, a generation earlier with anyone that knew two chords can start a band. I'm like, I'm gonna start a website. And I want to help teachers understand the 403 B. So I did and just the most amazing thing happened. I met other advocates, I met a Los Angeles Area School teacher named Steve Chu Lo, who had been advocating to improve his 403 B plan for years. So we call him the godfather of the 403 B movement. And then I met Scott down Hauer who since became, you know, a co author with me, a presenter around the country, my podcast partner and now my partner in 403 B ys.org. So that's how it began. And I gotta tell you, Sean, I would wake up every day so empowered from the emails I would get from teachers saying I'm getting ripped off, I think take a look at my investment. And we'd be like, Yeah, you're paying 3%. And fees, you need to try to get a company like Fidelity or Vanguard or T Rowe Price. And so it just grew from there. And then it made sense, boy, we should probably write a book to supplement the webpage...


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