Seniors Explore Finance

Seniors Explore Finance

When Chapin students leave 100 East End Avenue, they have built myriad skills, gained extensive knowledge and become well-rounded, analytical, independent, curious and creative global scholars.

To ensure this, Chapin supplements our rigorous “traditional” academic courses with robust offerings such as Class 12’s “Finance and Investment” FOCUS course, offered during the spring term, to help further develop our students’ expansive tool kits.

During this course, Upper School Math and Computer Science teacher Anthony Larson helps prepare students to oversee their own finances and understand the workings of the financial system. Seniors explore real-world simulations involving consumer psychology, budgeting, credit, taxation and insurance. They also learn the basics of how to invest in the market and buy or rent housing.

During a recent lesson in Room 313, students were conducting a “financial role play.” After looking at the fictitious Amelia’s finances, the students had to determine the benefit of Amelia forgoing a summer job to take an unpaid internship that would lead to a higher-paying job in the future. “So, is it worth it?” Mr. Larson posed.

Students examined her various monthly costs including rent, college tuition and credit card payments. (It was also determined that taking the internship would have a 50% chance of raising Amelia’s income after college by 10%.)

Using their mathematical skills and tools like the “Compound Interest Calculator,” (through Desmos, an advanced graphing calculator implemented as a web application) and “Credit Card Payoff Calculator,” the seniors determined that it would, indeed, be worth it in the long run.

Next, jumping ahead a few years, Mr. Larson asked students to evaluate Amelia’s four different job offers. Students were encouraged to consider location (NYC, San Francisco, Bethesda, MD; and Des Moines, Iowa), salary, benefits including HSA (Health Savings Account) with employer contribution, a 401k with employer match, stock option bonus, and loan forgiveness after 10 years; as well as vacation time and health insurance options.

Each student drew a number to determine the job for which they would advocate for. “Try to spin some of the ‘cons.’ Make the best case for that job and determine the value of all the pieces coming into play,” encouraged Mr. Larson.

The seniors thoughtfully analyzed the multifaceted offers and, if confused, didn’t hesitate to ask important questions and lean on their teacher for guidance.

During a supplemental class, the students had advanced to an invigorating new challenge: compensation negotiation. Team-teaching this lesson with Mr. Larson was Upper School English teacher Amber Bryant, who, through her additional role as Chapin’s Coordinator of Internships, is especially knowledgeable about this topic.

“As you move through your professional lives, remember the people you work for are human beings, but you have to drive the bus,” Ms. Bryant emphasized to the Class 12 students sitting around her.

Their teachers had sent them background materials, including various parameters employers must follow (for example, only increases of only 2-3 percent and benefits that don’t cost the company additional money are allowed) and life scenarios that might inform an employee’s decisions (for example, a staff member dreams of leading the company, which would require additional and costly leadership training, or another plans to start a family but needs health insurance as part of a comprehensive benefits package).

“Choose knowns and unknowns, said Ms. Bryant. “You can always know your hopes and your needs. You can’t always know how much an organization can pay you or what’s going on behind the scenes.”

As recommended, the students teamed up with classmates they knew less than others to lend more authenticity to the exercise. “Now make a pitch,” she implored them.

Assuming the roles of supervisor and employee/candidate, the students jumped right into their mock salary negotiations, demonstrating impressive maturity, conviction and strategic-thinking skills. Mr. Larson and Ms. Bryant circulated, listening in, and answering questions that arose.

“I bring a lot to the table every day, and I’m a team player,” one student emphasized in her discussion. “What value do you bring to our organization?” another countered in a separate negotiation.

After a few minutes of energetic discourse, the students switched roles, allowing the supervisor to play the employee/candidate and vice versa. Although time ran out before the class could share as a group, they tackled each part with verve and agility and seemed eager for more exchanges.

“Your negotiations don’t have to end right now,” Mr. Larson reminded his students. “Leave the door open. You might succeed down the road or you might look for another job.”

Ms. Bryant added, “Let this pique your interest and not be the end of learning about salary negotiations for you.” Their confidence surely boosted, the seniors gathered their belongings, with a few stopping to chat with their teachers about this practical and enriching class.