April is Financial Capability Month. To help mark this occasion, two students offer their perspectives on their very different experiences in obtaining financial education.
Growing up, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a father who has educated me on fundamental financial principles. In my house, terms like P/E ratios, EBITDA, ROI and diversification are a part of our regular vocabulary.
From selling lemonade as a young child to buying my first stocks at age twelve, business, entrepreneurship and finance have always been a part of my life. Seeking to expand my love of investing to others, I co-founded an investment club at my school called “The Blake Asset Management Group” in an attempt to give my peers and me a chance to test our investment acumen in a real-world setting.
While I expected our club’s first meeting to revolve around potential investment ideas, I was surprised to see that most of those in attendance actually knew little about stocks, and even fewer knew how to analyze a stock at the most rudimentary level. Most surprising was the number of students who lacked an understanding of broader and more important general financial literacy concepts like interest, diversification, and the importance of saving.
Recognizing that it would be difficult to run a club where few members possessed the necessary knowledge to invest, the leadership team and I restructured our club’s focus. We decided to measure our success not by the investment profits we generated but rather by the number of students we educated. Consequently, I designed and created a financial literacy course and made it available to all students at my high school.
The initiative, which was taught through the club, was a major success. Due to strong demand, what was initially intended to be a 5-week course turned into a 12-week class with interactive lesson plans and guest speakers. Students gained a thorough knowledge of basic financial concepts.
We began the course by educating our peers about general financial literacy concepts: compound interest and the importance of saving were the two most prevalent concepts we examined. After students understood the importance of investing as it pertains to wealth accumulation, we redirected our focus toward actual equity analysis.
Slowly but steadily, the members of the club learned how to evaluate companies and build a safe portfolio conducive to growth. For many of our students, the thought of investing in real companies before their eighteenth birthday seemed like wishful thinking. Our club, however, turned this aspiration into a reality.
While the Blake Asset Management Group has been fortunate enough to actually buy more than ten different stocks and make a substantial investment profit, real money is not required. There are plenty of resources everywhere, such as online investment simulations, that accomplish the task just as well.
Ultimately, the real return on investment comes from turning students into financially literate young adults. Though the undertaking of such an initiative is difficult and time-consuming, it provides these students with skills and knowledge that will benefit them and their families for the rest of their lives. It is incredibly rewarding to improve people’s lives by increasing their financial prospects through education.
Sam Gelb is co-founder and co-president of investment club at his school, The Blake Asset Management Group (BAMG) 2016 – 2018.
Through my childhood and early teens I was never taught about investment concepts or financial literacy. I had little to no exposure to these topics; at the time, I was barely familiar with the concept of a share of a company. Not until the summer between my freshmen and sophomore years did I begin to develop a devoted interest in finance and economics; I began to realize the paramount importance of learning to be financially independent and literate.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, I joined the school’s investment club, The Blake Asset Management Group. Shortly thereafter, I took a genuine interest in what the club had to teach.
In fact, I became so immersed in the topics that I began to supplement the club’s investment, finance and economics instruction by exploring various online resources in my free time. I gradually progressed from understanding basic financial concepts to acquiring the more nuanced knowledge required to analyze individual stocks. Eventually, I gained enough knowledge to not only set up my own brokerage account to begin investing money from my summer job but I also possessed the level of knowledge required to become The Blake Asset Management Group’s next president.
My progression from being completely ignorant to becoming knowledgeable enough to become the next president of my school’s investment club demonstrates that becoming financially literate is not impossible. While it may not be easy, anyone, no matter their background and their current knowledge, can become learned in the areas of finance and economics. Whether or not I end up pursuing a career in finance remains uncertain, but I rest assured knowing the knowledge I have gained and the skills I have developed will be beneficial to my financial well-being, regardless of which career path I may choose.
In the coming years, as I transition into my role as president of the group, I hope to use The Blake Asset Management Group as a vehicle for financial education. I will strive to encourage and inspire members to truly become interested in finance, economics and investing. Most importantly, I will continue to work toward making this goal resonate beyond the walls of my high school by continuing to highlight the positive effects that such a program can have on students.
Financial literacy is of the utmost importance and being financially literate is invaluable. I strongly encourage everyone to become financially literate. Regardless of whether you use online resources, join a school club or find another way to learn, the benefits are immeasurable.
My journey to financial literacy taught me to be a creative and independent thinker, an inspired and driven person and a person who is prepared for the financial responsibilities of adulthood. I hope to continue my work as a member of The Blake Asset Management Group by inspiring and teaching others. I hope to show others that becoming financially literate is truly for everyone, no matter who you are.
Timo Hemphill is the president of The Blake Asset Management Group (BAMG) for the 2018 – 2020 term.