RCHS wins second in financial competition

FINANCE CREW: Rappahannock County High School’s personal-finance team for the Governor’s Challenge in Richmond last week (clockwise, from top left): Maddie Kopjanski, Nich Hipple, Ben Estes and Matt Lombardi.Melissa Delcour | Rappahannock News
FINANCE CREW: Rappahannock County High School’s personal-finance team for the Governor’s Challenge in Richmond last week (clockwise, from top left): Maddie Kopjanski, Nich Hipple, Ben Estes and Matt Lombardi.

More than 1,000 students from throughout Virginia participated in the Governor’s Challenge in Economics and Personal Finance this year. For Rappahannock, the first round of the competition was an online quiz on economics and a second online quiz on personal finance.

Based on the quiz results, Rappahannock County High School was one of 12 teams who qualified for the David Ricardo Economics Division, and one of 12 that qualified for the Personal Finance Division. Only one other school in Virginia qualified for both. The Panther scholars traveled to Richmond last Friday (April 20) to take their spot among the state’s excellents.

Because both categories of competition took place at the same time, the team chose the Personal Finance Competition, and pitted themselves against 10 other schools, including Centreville High in Fairfax County, Washington-Lee in Arlington County, King William County and Western Albemarle.

Before the competition, the Panthers received a case study of the mythical Martinez family. The study included the family’s financial goals, a personal balance sheet and an income statement. Teams were expected to prepare a 10-page written financial evaluation for the Martinez family and submit that document to the judges three days before the Richmond competition.

At Virginia Commonwealth University, the setting was a room with four judges, a computer and a screen for PowerPoint, and enough room for four presenters. The judges represented the faux family. “I sat behind the judges and observed,” said instructor Brad Weeks. “Ben Estes, Maddie Kopjanski, Matt Lombardi and Nich Hipple did a great job, with the judges nodding their heads in agreement throughout the presentation. Feedback from the judges after the competition was overwhelmingly positive.”

During lunch, the two finalist teams were announced: Rappahannock and Western Albemarle. The two teams were led away to be given some new information to incorporate into the second round presentation.

“The second and final presentation was a repeat of the first with the additional information,” Weeks said. “The audience was bigger, about 125 people. The students again gave a great presentation, thoughtful and logical. Unfortunately, the judges liked Western Albemarle better, and Rappahannock was the runner up.”

“I was the only girl on our team,” Kopjanski said. “My focus was how to save for college. I learned that I don’t like 529 Plans with all the fees and penalties that can happen.”

Hipple was the team’s mortgage expert. “I discovered that the 30-year fixed rate is the cheapest in the long run.”

“I chose to research about retirement,” said Lombardi. “Unfortunately, I basically had to tell the ‘family’ that they couldn’t reach their financial retirement goals.”

Estes took on the challenge of insurance and estate planning. “I discovered that the ‘family’ needed more insurance.”

The team members had similar perspectives on the entire experience. They were confident that they would do well, and they did. “It was a lot of fun!” Kopjanski said.

The entire team took one solid lesson away from the event: “The sooner you start saving, the better.”

The Panthers are already refusing to settle for second place in the state competition. “We are already planning ahead for next year,” Weeks said, “and we are planning for our winner to advance and compete at the national level.”

Brad Weeks also contributed to this report.