Students learn about investing in the stock market, financial literacy

All but eight of 64 Catholic school teams beat the S&P 500 in a months-long competition in which the students invested $3,000.

SHARE Students learn about investing in the stock market, financial literacy
Charlie Bobrinskoy, vice chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund and an executive with Ariel Investments, meets with St. Philip Neri School eighth-graders during the 2019-2020 school year. Bobrinskoy, along with Big Shoulders Fund executive committee member Jim Hoeg, developed the stock market program that about 1,000 students in 64 schools participated in this past year.

Charlie Bobrinskoy, vice chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund and an executive with Ariel Investments, meets with St. Philip Neri School eighth-graders during the 2019-2020 school year. Bobrinskoy, along with Big Shoulders Fund executive committee member Jim Hoeg, developed the stock market program that about 1,000 students in 64 schools participated in this past year.

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For many adults, investing and the stock market are all a mystery.

Not so for Cordell Brown and his classmates at St. Catherine-St. Lucy School in Oak Park. They spent months this past school year tracking stocks in a yearly competition that ended with Cordell and his eighth-grade class placing third of 64 Chicago area teams after ranking in the mid-50s halfway through the year.

They came back from Christmas break determined to improve their standing in the Big Shoulders Fund program, which provides support to Catholic schools in Chicago’s neediest neighborhoods.

In a few weeks, another round of eight-graders at Catholic schools across the Chicago area will begin the competition, now entering its 13th year, and learn about saving and investing, how the stock market works and about careers in business and finance.

One of the lessons the teams learn is the importance of making changes in their portfolios, as the St. Catherine-St. Lucy team did.

“We felt we could do way better than we were doing, so we came together and discussed what stocks we had to drop,” Cordell said.

“They were very willing and interested,” said Arnette Young, a St. Catherine-St. Lucy’s eighth-grade teacher who’s been involved with the program for four years. “They knew what they were talking about.”

Playing a key role was Paul Goodworth of Goodworth Wealth Management, one of about 150 business people who volunteered as coaches for the approximately 1,000 students, teaching them how to evaluate a stock, when to buy or sell and the importance of doing research and managing risk.

At the start of the nine-month program, Goodworth gave the students a list of about 60 stocks, and the program provided $3,000 to invest. After much research and discussion, the students decided to buy stock in Amazon, Netflix and Google.

As they debated which stocks should be in their portfolio, Goodworth encouraged them to think about the products they use every day — the mattress they sleep on, the toothbrush they use, what they watch on their cellphones.

“Those are discussions which are really priceless,” he said.

Mid-year, they rebalanced their portfolio after more discussion and research, including looking at what the top-performing schools in the competition had invested in. That’s when the St. Catherine-St. Lucy team purchased BioMarin Pharma and Trex, Goodworth said.

By the end of May, their portfolio had a valuation of $3,606.23 — well above the S&P 500, which 56 of the 64 schools bested, Goodworth said.

Eighth-graders at St. Catherine-St. Lucy placed third of 64 teams in a nine-month stock market program.

Eighth-graders at St. Catherine-St. Lucy placed third of 64 teams in a nine-month stock market program.

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When the coronavirus pandemic hit, coaches and students moved their classroom meetings to Zoom. The previous year, the students participated in an end-of-the-year presentation at Goodman Theatre, then went to Goodworth’s downtown office for pizza. This past year, the celebration had to happen virtually.

Still, the students learned invaluable skills, said Joshua D. Hale, president and chief executive officer of Big Shoulders Fund, who’s hoping they’ll consider careers in finance.

“There’s such an underrepresentation of minority members in any financial firm or bank,” Hale said. “Anything we can do to change that, we will.”

Learning the value of investing and of compound saving and that everything has a cost can make a difference in the students’ lives now and as they grow older, he said: “We want them to be an informed buyer, saver and investor.”

Arianna Pumphrey, a recent St. Genevieve Catholic School graduate, learned, said she used to spend money freely. Now, after completing the stock market program, she said she understands the value of saving.

Cordell Brown and 17 other eighth-graders at St. Catherine-St. Lucy School placed third of 64 teams that competed in the Big Shoulders Fund’s annual stock market program.

Cordell Brown and 17 other eighth-graders at St. Catherine-St. Lucy School placed third of 64 teams that competed in the Big Shoulders Fund’s annual stock market program.

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“I was very careless when it came to spending money,” said the Belmont-Cragin resident, who will be attending Alcott College Prep this fall and hopes to be a mechanical engineer.

“This class really helped me,” she said.

She said she recently opened a savings account — something she would not have done before taking part in the stock market program.

Her eighth grade class at St. Genevieve won this year’s competition with a portfolio of Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Sony and Tesla — “really good stocks,” she said.

When the next round of eighth-graders begins picking stocks. Cordell Brown advises each group to work as a team.

“It’s all about communication,” said Cordell, a freshman at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep who hopes to become anentrepreneur. “It’s all about coming together and discussing what stock you want to invest in. Why do you think it’s a smart investment? Your research on the stock is very important, and, if you do it as a class, it’s actually pretty easy.”

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