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Dan's Blog

Principal Who Cares About His Staff’s Financial Future 💵

August 17, 2021

I have met a lot of principals in my time. I have never met one like Joe Peccia Jr., principal at Eagles Landing middle school in Boca Raton, Florida. Most principals begin the school year with teacher meetings. So did Joe. Most principals try to make these meetings engaging. So did Joe. Most principals begin with new policies, rules and testing. That is not what Joe did. 

Putting Teacher Financial Lives First

Joe dedicated the first morning of the school year with his staff to their financial future. He brought in three presenters to teach his staff about...

  • The state pension 
  • The 403(b) and 457(b)
  • What to know when working with an advisor

Why?

Joe in his own words: “The person that I have in my school is only as strong and as supportive as they are outside the school. When they come into this building, if they’ve got a good piece of mind of where they are and what’s next, I truly feel that comes out in their classroom.”

Along with my podcast partner, Scott Dauenhauer, CFP, I was lucky enough to be one of hte presenters. We were joined by Aaron Standish, financial literacy coordinator for the School District of Palm Beach County (who we interviewed in episode 133 of our podcast). 

Covid Concerns 

I am not going to lie. Scott and I, despite being vaccinated, were nervous about traveling to Florida given the spike in Covid cases in the state. Ultimately, we felt that what Joe was doing was so important, that the calculated risk was worth it. Double masking it for up to 8 hours while traveling was a minor inconvenience. 

Say What?

We gathered in the large multiuse room at the start of the morning. Joe greeted the staff — his first all staff, face-to-face meeting in two years! As he explained what was in store, I couldn’t tell if I heard groans from the staff or creaks from the tables and chairs. Financial topics can be boring. I know when I was a teacher attending these first-day back meetings, my mind was on the myriad of tasks ahead as I scrambled to get ready for the students. 

As Joe was speaking, Scott, Aaron and I made our way to our respective rooms. In no time, a group of 30 plus staff members filled the seats in front of me. It’s hard to express the elation I felt at being in front of teachers again. It’s the best part of my job. We love addressing teachers face-to-face. Our weekly free Zoom sessions are a blast, but there’s just no substitute for in-person sessions.  

 


(Aaron Standish, Joe Peccia Jr., me, and Scott Dauenahuer before speaking to staff)

Good News/Bad News 

I brought good news to the teachers and staff members. They were lucky. They not only had a 457(b) available, they had a terrific low-cost option for both the 403(b) and the 457(b): Fidelity Investments. Unfortunately, like so many districts around the country, most of those I addressed had signed up with the sales agent who had swept through their school and filled up their email in-boxes. See district vendor list here.

I showed them the following hypothetical example:

2 Palm Beach County Teachers

  • Both age 22
  • Both earn $47,500
  • Both contribute $4,750 a year to a 403(b)
  • Both earn 7% annual return
  • Both contribute until age 60
  • One accumulates $499,733
  • One accumulates $866,966
  • Why?

Answer is Simple

Costs matter. The teacher with the higher balance in the above hypothetical example invested in the Fidelity Freedom Index 2045 Investor Fund charging 0.12%. The other teacher, despite investing in the exact same kind of mutual fund — a 2045 target date fund — paid 2.3% in fees. Costs matter. John Bogle, founder of Vanguard, described this as “the tyranny of compounding costs.” 

Bad Day for Some “Advisors”

As I spoke to the three groups and shared the impact of costs I heard some version of the following:

  • I am calling “so-and-so” immediately
  • I was told there were no fees
  • I am pissed. I trusted her/him. 

Principal with Staff First Principles

If you are an administrator or school decision maker, be like Joe. Put your staff first. It will pay off for them and you. Scott, Aaron and I were blown away by the compliments we received afterward. Many shared that they had already talked to spouses and partners who work at other schools in the district. They were not only appreciative of what we shared, they were thankful for what Joe had done for them. 

No One and Done

Rest assured this is not a one-time deal. Not only will Joe do this annually for his staff, he's launching a financial literacy program for the students. 

Stay wise and well (and see our podcasts with Joe and Aaron below).

Related Podcast:

Principal with Teacher First Principles Florida middle school principle Joe Peccia Jr. began the school year by helping his staff get wise to their pension, the 403(b), the 457(b), and what to know when working with an advisor.  Listen Now »

Related Podcast:

Directing Financial Literacy Aaron Standish is the Financial Literacy Coordinator (K-12) for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida. It's a position every school district should have.   Listen Now »