your story

Tim McCarthy and Michael Theine

Tim is a band teacher with 36 years of career wisdom who has been a financial mentor to many colleagues. Michael was one of Tim’s mentees who received his guidance over the years. Learn what Tim and Michael are up to today and the advice both of them have to share with others.

The case for mentorship

Michael and TimTim McCarthy and Michael Theine

Tim McCarthy is a band teacher at Glendale with 36 years of career wisdom. He was among the unsung heroes in a 2012 your$ article featuring educators who serve as financial mentors to their colleagues. The common goal of heroes like Tim is to share knowledge and information about how one can do good as an education professional and do well financially.

Tim’s mentoring strategy

As an active member of the local teachers’ association, Tim had a tradition of inviting the new teachers to dinner at his home at the beginning of each school year. The purpose was to familiarize them with their contract/handbook and the financial aspects of their benefits, as well as resources available for getting and staying on the right financial track.

Getting to them early was a strategy Tim was familiar with. He had been on the receiving end when he first started teaching and understands the impact that made on his own financial security. He’s been paying it forward ever since.

Spring 2012 magazine cover with Tim and Michael

One of his mentees, Michael Theine, participated in the 2012 interview. He expressed how important it was to have someone like Tim sit down and talk without judgement or pressure to buy something. “It’s about knowing what you have, what you can do with it, and then making your own decisions,” he explained.

At the time, planning for the future was top of mind for Michael. He was getting married and thinking ahead to starting a family. “I’m thankful for Tim’s mentoring now, but I have a feeling I will be thanking him even more when it comes time to retire!”

The landscape in 2012

You may recall that in 2012 when we met with Tim, Act 10 had just been passed—dramatically changing the financial landscape for public educators. For Tim, it became more important than ever for new educators to take control of their finances right out of the gate. “You need to open a 403(b) and build up personal retirement savings,” he would tell them. “Your 403(b) money is yours alone. It’s the one constant you have.”

Nine years later…

We reached out to both Tim and Michael to catch up and learn what has transpired in their personal, professional, and financial lives.

Q&A with Tim McCarthy

Can you give us an update on your personal and professional life?

I’m still working as the band director at Glen Hills Middle School in Glendale. I’m entering my 36th year of teaching and continue to value membership in WEAC. I currently serve our local teacher’s association as the Handbook Chairman.

My wife Lyn and I have been married for 26 years. Our daughters are grown—one is in her senior year of college and other is in her third year of graduate school.

When we interviewed you in 2012, you were hosting dinners at your home for new educators as an introduction to the benefits of union membership. Are you still doing that?

Since ACT 10, our association has taken a new approach to connecting with our potential new members. Our district starts off each year with a three-day new teacher orientation. The association sponsors a lunch which is a nice way to introduce the benefits of membership. Plus, it offers a sense of community and support.

Additionally, during the first week of professional development, our local association hosts another luncheon for all staff—teachers, support staff, and administration—followed by a union meeting. The leadership team is introduced so teachers can put a name to the face and make connections. It’s a positive way to start the new school year and allows the union to a maintain positive relationships with our administrative team.

What other ways are you mentoring new educators? Do you still hear from colleagues you have helped/mentored?

Yes, I have on-going mentoring relationships with colleagues who have questions or concerns about financial planning and decisions that I can help with. I willingly share my experiences and refer colleagues to Member Benefits for detailed and personalized financial assistance.

A lot has changed in the world since we ran that article. As you mentioned, Act 10 was the big challenge in 2012. Now that the dust has settled on that one, what has been the impact? What do you see as the greatest financial challenge for educators today?

The financial impact of ACT 10 has been huge—presenting additional financial challenges for those choosing a career in teaching. The biggest change I’ve noticed comes in the number of teachers who are working additional jobs to try to get ahead financially.

Educators who are new to the profession often don’t really appreciate or understand the significance of what happened with Act 10. Most don’t realize the giant financial steps backward our profession took because of it. They see their employment as a career path where the district controls all the finances and they have no power.  There’s a need for educators to stay vigilant with regard to protecting and enhancing compensation and retirement benefits.

Personally, what’s been your greatest financial challenge over the last nine years?

I’ve scaled back some major purchases, delayed my retirement, and have started an LLC in landscaping to help supplement my income.

And the most important financial decision you have made?

I’ve continued to contribute the maximum annual amounts into my WEA Trust 403(b) and WEA Member Benefits IRA retirement accounts, setting me up for a more comfortable quality of life and financial security in retirement.

What’s the future look like for you?

I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching but am considering retirement. My options include staying engaged with WEAC and relocating to central Wisconsin.

We also interviewed and wrote a story in 2015 about your parents’ experience with financial planners and some predatory practices that target seniors. How are they doing? Did things work out for them?

My parents are still enjoying life. They’ve relocated to a senior apartment in Platteville and have made some great friendships at their new place. They’re comfortable and thriving in their living situation. WEA Member Benefits has been a huge part of that security and they’ve reaped the benefits of personal planning and the various resources available to them.

Q&A with Michael Theine

Michael and familyWhat’s happened in your personal and professional life over the last nine years?

I am currently teaching third grade in Cedar Grove-Belgium Elementary school. I moved on from Parkway Elementary in Glendale after 10 years. It was hard because I had the most amazing second grade team to work with. I had the honor to be recognized with a few various teaching awards in my time there. Since then, I earned my master’s degree in Education Instructional Technology (man, that came in handy when the pandemic hit!). This year, I’m going to take on the challenge of earning my National Board certification.

As planned, I got married in 2012. We bought a house, and now have four sons: Greyson (8), Boone (6), Fielding (3), and Orion (8 months).

The topic of the article was Unsung Heroes featuring Tim and his passion for helping educators do well financially while doing good in the profession. You spoke of his help in getting you on track with your finances and understanding your benefits. What actions did you take as a result of Tim’s mentoring? What was the one piece of advice from Tim that has really resonated with you?

Tim has given me and my wife such great guidance that has helped us live comfortably and have what we need. Following Tim’s advice, we have an organized monthly budget, great plans for insurance, and investments for our future. One thing that Tim taught me was to stay stable and be ready for the unexpected…hopefully nothing scary or unfortunate happens but be ready for it just in case. This goes for health, home, kids, family, and the future. He also reminded me to look carefully at all the information and options. Break it down in mockup budgets and look at it from all angles to make sure it is what you need.

Do you still get advice from Tim? Have you had an opportunity to pay that forward and share financial tips with your colleagues? Mentor new educators?

Sure have! When changing jobs, I was worried. I knew what I had where I was and was comfortable. Changing schools meant a new start, but also new pay, insurance, and benefits. I talked through every piece of the change that I could think of, and Tim brought more ideas and helped us run numbers on monthly benefits. He guided my wife and I through the choices to ensure it was right our family.

I have talked with many colleagues about our benefits. Most of the advice I give to colleagues lately is around budgeting for kids and understanding the health benefits regarding kids—looking at saving time off, saving money, insurance and how that works both for before and after the babies come, as well as budgeting and ensuring you have what is needed when it comes to giving everything you can to your little ones. Raising a family with four kids on a teacher’s salary gives me a unique perspective and a great appreciation for the power of budgeting.

I also have talked with friends and colleagues about our retirements. It’s great having coworkers about the same age and in the same boat as I’m in. We’ve discussed at length what our retirements and investments look like and how to use resources offered to stay on track for the future.

What’s been your greatest financial challenge over the last nine years?

The largest financial challenge in the past nine years was changing jobs. There was a switch from 20 to 24 pay checks, a pay difference, and health insurance benefit and deductible change. On top of all of this, there was a good span without paychecks that I knew would come. Things got tight for a bit, but we were prepared for it. We had to really look at what was most important and prioritize where our money would go.

What has been the most important financial decision you have made over the last nine years?

That would be our decision to be a single income family and wanting a big family. When we were planning our family, we looked at the costs of day care and insurance and decided my wife Beth would be a stay-at-home mom. We knew we could make it work, but to be successful we needed to make adjustments to our financial priorities and follow a budget. Tim talked us through it and gave us some great advice on what to do with her benefit package, which will pay off in the long-run. We have not looked back. It has been our best decision yet!

Finances between spouses can often be a struggle. And it’s not uncommon for one spouse to take charge. How do you and your wife share the responsibilities?

We look at it like this: I bring home a paycheck and make sure the monthly bills are paid on time. Beth may not earn a paycheck, but the work she does for our boys everyday saves us a ton of money. Not to mention it places my mind at ease knowing they are with her while I am at work. She also takes care of the day-to-day household operations: meal planning, grocery budgeting, and budgeting for everyday spending. She even plans ahead for the special things like buying Christmas gifts, so we spread out that cost and don’t blow our December budget.

Do you have tips or pointers for others?

Make sure to share your worries and concerns and TALK about it all. No secrets. Discuss your plans, agree on priorities, and make sure you are on the same page. Communicate about upcoming spending like budgeting for gifts, home renovations, repairs, and holidays. Be willing to do some give-and-take and stick to what you both decide on. It can and will get stressful at times—but knowing your partner is on your team reduces the stress.

What’s the future look like for you and your family?

Professionally, my goal is to be board certified and plan for an administrative degree.

For myself and family, the future for us is hopefully on a farm! My wife would love to sell some homegrown eggs, honey, and produce. The boys will have space to run around and play and help with the farm chores.

Financially, after we purchase a property, we plan to look at investing more into the stock market and building a more diverse investment strategy.