OK, the pay's not great, but thereare some excellent financial deals for teachers, writes Anthony Bailey
A job with a salary of nearly pound;100,000 can't be that bad. But teachers must reach the top of the scale as a headteacher in inner-London to achieve such wealth. In practice, though, the salaries of public sector workers often compares unfavourably with the pay of their private sector counterparts.
While teachers' starting salaries can be low, there is scope for taking on additional responsibilities and climbing the career ladder. While you're doing that, though, living within your means can be tough - especially if you have debt from years of study - so look out for the financial perks: they do exist.
Many organisations target specific professionals such as teachers with special offers and discounts, but tread carefully. A discount may be real - you pay less than other customers - but that doesn't necessarily mean it's competitive.
Some discounts for teachers are worth considering and all can act as starting points for comparison with other offers. For example, Teachers Building Society (0800 378669) offers mortgages to all comers, but there are certain deals that are exclusively for teachers.
One place to look for good deals is your teacher union.
* The National Union of Teachers and the Educational Institute of Scotland offer members personal loans from Bank of Scotland (0800 526823). They start at a typical APR of 7.4 per cent and have a Mastercard with 0 per cent for the first nine months. One Mastercard with a longer-term APR of 12.9 per cent is aimed at teachers who don't pay off their card in full every month. Another aimed at those who regularly pay off in full has an APR of 15.9 per cent. Bank of Scotland offers NUT Freeway (0845 769 7243) for car finance.
* The NUT promotes Norwich Union (0800 010199) which has car and home insurance deals for members. NUT Travel (0800 626928) offers discounts to members as well as access to Countdown discounts on a range of goods and services.
* EIS Financial Services (0141 332 8004) sells car, home, travel and life insurance, mortgages pensions and investments.
* The NASUWT provides financial and mortgage advice through Wesleyan (0800 358 0325), car, home and travel insurance through Endsleigh (0800 085 4567), discounted road rescue from Britannia Rescue (0800 591563) and personal loans with a typical APR of 7.4 per cent from Hamilton Direct Bank (0800 303000).
* The ATL offers a discounted road rescue service from Britannia Rescue (0800 591563), discounts at National Tyres and Autocare (0800 626666), credit cards from MBNA (0800 776262), discounts when you sell a property at Your Move (www.your-move.co.uk), discounts on gas and electricity at Union Energy (0800 027 9000), Norwich Union's Healthcare Cash Plans (0800 0155654), financial advice (0800 085 0410) and personal loans (0800 373 191) from Frizzell and discounted holidays from LeisureTime (08705 606070).
* The Professional Association of Teachers offers financial advice through Pro Act Financial (01384 361777), loans through The Co-operative Bank, a Visa credit card from HFC Bank, mortgages, insurance, a club offering cheap holidays and flights, discounts on airport parking and membership of the RAC and Ramblers Association.
* Union membership usually includes some insurance cover while you carry out your work - for example, personal liability insurance and cover for vandalism to your vehicle and damagetheft of personal possessions in the workplace.
Give The Teachers Pension Scheme (0845 606 6166) careful thought. You get an inflation-proofed pension from the age of 60 of up to half your pay before retirement, depending on how many years' membership you have. You get a tax-free lump sum on retirement of up to three times your first year's pension. There are benefits for widows and dependants, too, including a pay-out if you die while still in the job. The cost is 6 per cent of your salary before tax, which works out at less than 6 per cent once the tax relief kicks in - and your employer pays in more. There are options for improving benefits - buying added years' membership, making additional voluntary contributions, and transferring pension rights built up in other schemes.
Exclusive mortgage deals
If you're looking for a mortgage, get quotes from several lenders, including the Teachers' Building Society (0800 378669). Its best discounted and fixed rate deals are exclusively for teachers. A 2 per cent discount for three years reduces the rate to 3.89 per cent - one of the best around.
"We do not screen applicants but consider each call on its merits," says marketing manager Mike Hislop.