Financial Literacy Work — Dan Otter launched 403(b)wise in March 2000 with fellow educator John Moore because they were fed up with the lack of objective 403(b) information available to participants.
403(b)wise

403(b)wise has been called "the leading source for news and information on the 403(b) retirement plan."  view site

In fact, Dan first learned about the 403(b) when a representative waltzed into his classroom one afternoon pitching something called "TSAs." He declined to enroll. It was only several years later that he learned this salesperson was selling high-fee variable annuity products.

In 2002, Dan co-authored The 403(b) Wise Guide with planner Scott Dauenhauer, CFP. This book was updated and expanded upon several years later with the release of Teach and Retire Rich, which was lauded by Vanguard founder John Bogle.

Today, 403(b)wise is operated solely by Dan Otter. John left several years ago to pursue other endeavors. The goal of the site remains the same as the day it launched: education and advocacy.

Media Mentions

403(b)wise resonated with the public soon after its launch. In June 2000 the site was mentioned in U.S. News & World Report and Dan was interviewed on NPR's Sound Money. Since this time the site has been mentioned in numerous media outlets including Kiplinger Personal Finance, The LA Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today. Jane Bryant Quinn "highly recommends" 403(b)wise, while Money Magazine calls it "The leading source for news and information on the 403(b) retirement plan" for teachers and non-profit workers. About.com calls 403(b)wise a "Best of the Net."

Doctorate

As part of his dissertation work, Dan conducted research on teacher attitudes about teaching financial literacy (including policy implementation and professional development questions) and teacher understanding of core financial concepts. His goal was to add teacher voice to efforts to improve personal finance instruction.

Dan surveyed classroom teachers in two school districts in two states. Among his findings: this population of teachers was very supportive of the inclusion of finanical literacy in the K-12 curriculum; teachers at all grade levels (elementary, middle, and high school) believe finanical literacy instruction should begin at the elementary level; teachers strongly support professional development that improves their finanical literacy; teachers are not sufficiently financially literate.

Pollinate, the Teacher Financial Literacy Project

View video from the first Pollinate workshop.

He also found evidence of curriculum saturation overload. While supportive of finanical literacy, some teachers in this investigation expressed concern about adding more curriculum requirements. One participant remarked: "When do we get to say uncle?"

Pollinate, the Teacher Financial
Literacy Project

During Dan’s doctoral studies, he participated in the National Writing Project (NWP), one of the longest running, most successful, peer-to-peer professional development institutes in the country. The experience was transformational as he saw first hand the value of allowing educators extended time to engage in deep, collaborative work focused on improving classroom practice, in this case writing instruction. This experience led him to consider how this model could be applied to learning and teaching financial literacy. With this in mind, he launched Pollinate: The Teacher Financial Literacy Project in January 2010. The goal of the project is two-fold: improve teacher financial literacy, and the instruction of personal finance concepts in schools.

You can learn more about this initiative and view video from the first workshop at the project website, pollinateproject.org.

Dan Otter, Ph.D.