Education Technology

What’s the Difference Between a 3% Fee and a 1% Fee? Over a Million Dollars!

Posted 11/10/2023 by Erick Archer, Market Strategy Manager at Texas Instruments

Retirement isn’t something most people think about when they are young. It just seems so far away. But if you start investing early, the reward will be much larger.

When TI’s President and CEO, Haviv Ilan, recently received a handwritten letter (yes, handwritten!) explaining why it is so important for high school students to understand retirement savings and investments, he knew exactly what to do with it. He passed it on to the Education Technology division with employees who also understand the importance of financial literacy.

An interesting and unique story unfolds of Retired Air Force Major Harold Peters, the 90-year-old author of that letter. After speaking with him, we realized that his passion for financial literacy was not only inspirational, but that he was on to something. We immediately agreed: Everyone, including high school students, should be as informed as possible about their retirement savings.

Meet Harold Peters. He started investing in the late 1950s and early ’60s, but at that time there were large commissions and fees … sometimes as much as 8% per trade! So, he started to study retirement systems and over many years he recognized that fees can really put a dent in your retirement “nest egg.” When Harold realized that investment fees can do a lot of damage to his own investments, he started to alert people to start saving as soon as you can and avoid investing with professionals that charge high fees.

Much of Harold’s original work happened by thinking about different scenarios using a pencil, paper and slide rule. When handheld calculators became available, he switched over to a TI BA-35 and eventually TI-82 and TI-83 graphing calculators. TI graphing calculators allowed Harold to use the program editor to write his own retirement programs, which were developed from his “engineer’s perspective.”

“My main purpose of making this offer is to get this knowledge taught in high schools. They need this!” — Harold Peters

A picture of Harold Peters around
his 90th birthday in 2023.
About Harold Peters

Harold was a flight instructor in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s. He trained new pilots on T-33, T-38 and T-39 aircrafts. He also attended the University of Oklahoma and earned a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering and Space Technology. This led to other Air Force duties such as working for the Air Force Foreign Technology Center and the Space and Missile Systems Office. After 22 years of active duty, Harold retired with the officer rank of Major.

Throughout his working life, Harold had an eye on retirement savings. He realized every bit helped to ensure a more comfortable life after his working years were through.

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Harold’s mission: Get students thinking about retirement early

Even though retirement isn’t something most people think about when they are young, if you start investing early the reward can and likely will be much larger. How fast a nest egg grows depends on many factors, but one major factor that can shrink growth is commissions and fees that are often paid to organizations managing your money.

Little percentage fees make a huge impact over time.

For example, let’s take a look at the “retirement planning” program that Harold and his son-in-law created.* You can easily see what kind of impact fees can have on your final nest egg.

Consider two scenarios where all inputs are the same. However, the first scenario is with a 3% annual fee and the second with a 1% annual fee. In the example of a 3% annual fee, a person will retire with $1.86 million. With a 1% annual fee, the total nest egg is over $3 million!

Compare the nest egg between a 3% annual fee to a 1% annual fee.

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Introducing Garry Beckham, Harold’s son-in-law

Before we close out this blog post, it wouldn’t be fair for us not to mention Garry Beckham, Harold’s son-in-law. For the past 33 years, they have worked together to improve the algorithms and methodology. Garry is also a retired U.S. Air Force officer and flew F-4 fighter jets during his career. The images above depict Garry with his F4 Phantom fighter jet in the 1970’s and a more recent image of Garry in retirement.

Finally, we must include a disclaimer that Texas Instruments Education Technology division does not give financial advice to investors. However, we are excited to bring Harold and Garry’s approach to retirement planning to students. They are helping students understand how money works and why saving a part of every paycheck can lead to a nice retirement down the road.

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Retirement planning activities using TI graphing calculators

You can find Harold and Garry’s retirement calculator on the TI Financial Literacy resources webpage under the “Lessons” tab.

These financial literacy resources also feature a lot of lessons to engage students in understanding money, as well as helpful how-tos and even some professional development opportunities. Helping teachers help their students learn these concepts just makes “cents”!

A screenshot of the retirement planning lesson for high school students.

Download the retirement activities for your TI graphing calculator:

Activity files for TI-84 Plus CE Python graphing calculators

Activity files for TI-Nspire CX II graphing calculators

*Special thanks to John Hanna, the programming expert who converted the programs to Python. The programs are optimized to run on the latest TI products: TI-84 Plus CE Python and the TI-Nspire™ CX II graphing calculators.

About the author: Erick Archer is a Market Strategy Manager at Texas Instruments Education Technology and former science teacher.