Semester of Finance for all WCDS Seniors

As part of the curriculum expansion for the 2022-2023 school year, Head of School Paul Larner and Katie Hill, Finance, are teaming up to prepare students for life with a new, required elective: Finance. Beginning Fall 2022, all seniors will complete this semester-long course for graduation. We sat with Mr. Larner and Ms. Hill and asked them a few questions about the new class.

What is the inspiration behind creating this course?

PL: "Learning basic finance is important because it's a skill necessary for life. To me, finance and investing are no different than History or English. Without some basic education in these areas, you enter the adult world distinctly disadvantaged."

Is balancing a checkbook a thing of the past?

KH: "I still balance my checkbook. I know I'm super old school, but I keep track of everything I spend. I think it's a necessary skill to understand bank statements and to be somewhat fastidious about the credits and debits on your bank account. There are helpful apps like Mint and YNAB that we’ll discuss but it’s similar to doing a math problem by hand before you’re allowed to use a calculator."

PL: "We are still working on topics to include, but I expect to teach them basics such as Ms. Hill just described. In addition, I expect students to learn some critically essential concepts. Understanding and applying a few basic concepts will carry students a very long distance, and they will be ahead of 95% of their peers. For example:

  1. The future value of money
  2. The present value of money
  3. Leveraged return
  4. Unleveraged return
  5. Positive leverage vs. negative leverage
  6. Concept of a firm
  7. Understanding and valuing risk

PL: "I also would like to teach them how to evaluate an investment and underwrite it:  Is it a good investment? Or is it a deal I should walk from?"

KH: "That's where Mr. Larner's expertise lies. I'll probably sit in on those classes and take notes myself!”

Among other endeavors, Mr. Larner has owned a chain of car washes he built from the ground up while working full time.  "Those car washes paid for my children's education," he comments.  A huge proponent of education, Mr. Larner received his B.A. from Haverford College, graduating with honors, his M.A. with distinction from the University of London, and then attended the University of Virginia, where he received his J.D.

With over thirty years of real estate experience as an entrepreneur, real estate attorney, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Administrative Officer in public and private real estate companies, Mr. Larner is looking forward to sharing this expertise with WCDS students.

Ms. Hill, graduate of James Madison University, brings a fresh perspective to students as someone who worked at Freddie Mac during the 2008 financial crisis and, more recently, as a small business owner.

Mr. Larner and Ms. Hill hope to take students on field trips for experiential learning opportunities, visiting potential investment sites like the Post Office in Flint Hill, River District Arts Center, and other parcels of land for sale in Rappahannock County. Then, together as a class, they will discuss whether these real estate investments could be profitable or not.

This new and unique elective has the makings of lifelong memories and teachable moments that students will carry with them for the rest of their lives -- which is what a Wakefield Country Day School education is known for.

For those who'd like to learn more about personal finance but aren't sure where to start, Mr. Larner and Ms. Hill share their favorite books and financial inspiration with us below:

KH: "The first book from a family perspective that got me thinking about more than just my paycheck was Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I also adhere to Suze Orman’s philosophy that “You must first value people.  Then money itself.  Then finally, the things that money can buy.  We’re teaching finance to contribute to the solid education students receive at WCDS and give them one more tool to succeed."

Mr. Larner recommends learning from Ray Dalio, Mohammad El-Erian, and Sam Zell and leaves us with a few parting thoughts: "The advice I would give to anyone, in addition to the basic principles, is to understand how compound interest works. As Einstein said, 'It's the most powerful force in the universe.'  It's never too early to start saving.  It doesn't matter what amount you save. You've got to be consistent. Every month, every week, whatever it is, work on your savings."


Finance, along with our Advisory Program, Life Skills Week, Senior Internships, and the introduction of our Adjunct Faculty, is another programmatic offering WCDS has introduced in recent years to help WCDS students gain an advantage and prepare them for life after graduation.