People often describe investing as “playing the stock market.”
While that real-world play can have serious financial costs, the SIFMA Foundation’s Stock Market Game allows students worldwide, from elementary school to high school, to learn about financial literacy by playing an online simulation of global capital markets without risking actual money.
Matthew Kellogg and Erik Gulmann, 6th graders at Morse Pond School, were the Massachusetts 2019 session winners in the middle school division, out of more than 300 teams statewide.
Matthew took first place, ending with a virtual $121,955 over the eight-week program, and Erik took second place, ending with $119,308. They each started with a virtual $100,000.
The students, both newcomers to the game who speak about their experiences with the insight of veteran investors, are part of Ann Goulart’s math enrichment program.
“Morse Pond School has played the game for about 25 years, and it used to be done with paper and pencil, but the computerized game is so much better because students get the results the next day through real-time updates from the New York Stock Exchange,” Ms. Goulart said.
The school also won its division during the 2016-17 school year.
As a reward, all winning teams are invited to attend an awards luncheon in May at Fidelity Investments in Boston.
“It’s a great program to do in the 6th grade because it flows beautifully with the math curriculum. It works well with doing percents, large numbers, estimating and multiplying with decimals,” Ms. Goulart said. “These guys take it a step further because they’re using real financial information. There are 42 students in my 6th grade class, and we talk about short selling, mutual funds, good risk and bad risk, diversification, reading charts and historical data. We go a lot deeper than they do in a math book.”
With some stocks Matthew and Erik invested together. With others they worked individually.
“I did not have a very complicated plan. I knew the game was upcoming and had looked at some stocks,” Matthew said. “My dad had suggested a certain sector of genetic engineering, and so I looked at some sites of companies to invest in.”
Matthew chose to invest in the Swiss company CRISPR Therapeutics, a pioneer in the CRISPR method of genetic engineering.
“I found out that there was a trial going on for sickle-cell disease, and I decided if that worked, it could be a huge asset to that company. And it ended up working,” he said.
The other companies Matthew invested in did not perform as well as CRISPR Therapeutics.
“They were kind of last-minute things. My CRISPR stock didn’t go straight up. It had periods when it wasn’t doing well, so I was hoping my other stocks would be substitutions for my primary stock lowering so that I could keep the wealth that I had,” Matthew said.
Erik chose to invest in the US-based Generac Power Systems primarily.
“With the amounts of wildfires that were shutting down the power, I decided that people would want more generators if their power was going out more often. That was a very successful stock for me,” he said.
While the two boys said it might be enjoyable and beneficial to invest in the stock market as adults, they have become aware of the costs and the risks.
“I think it would be fun to invest in stocks, but it has also showed me where it can dip down. In the beginning I wasn’t making much money,” Erik said, noting that he is considering becoming a scientist.
Matthew, who might want to become a lawyer, said that investing might be a possible subsidiary business if he were to amass enough wealth.
“It’s hard to earn money on the stock market if you don’t possess much money yourself, so if I found that I had enough money to invest some of it, I would probably use that to my advantage,” he said.
Ms. Goulart said it was interesting to see how the rankings moved with the other teams and schools.
“You didn’t always stay up at the top. Sometimes you moved quite far down and then it will come back up. You can see how the stocks, depending on what’s happening around the world that day, are volatile compared with a more stable bank account,” she said.
Watching their stocks drop even a few points was difficult for Erik and Matthew.
“I invested about $33,000 in CRISPR Therapeutics, so dropping a point would be pretty costly. It was pretty intense for me watching that,” Matthew said.
“Some kids would panic and sell it all off when a stock crashed. They’d lose their money and have to pay the broker’s fee. Lots of people do that in real life, don’t they?” Ms. Goulart said.
Matthew admitted he sold all of his primary stock in one day before buying it back the next day.
“It actually ended up benefiting me a little bit. I think I earned about $50 from that,” he said.
“We bought a lot of short-term stocks due to the short amount of time of the game. We had to make a lot of money, so we bought and sold very quickly,” Erik said.
Matthew said he chose not to invest in any bonds because he felt “they moved too slowly to make a huge difference.”
“Bonds don’t show much gain in the time frame of the game,” Ms. Goulart said.
Matthew noted that most teams statewide ended up making some money, but about two-thirds did not make it above the average growth of the stock market.
“It was great for them to see not everybody makes money in the stocks. Most people didn’t,” Ms. Goulart said.