As Gail Perry Mason observed her investment club of 11- to 14-year-old boys, she thought to herself, "One day, they will own their own companies or sit on the board of publicly traded companies," she says. And she's probably right.
After all, the boys are part of a sophisticated group, considering their ages. The group does its own research and makes its own decisions, while Perry Mason, a broker with First of Michigan in Detroit, provides some stock suggestions.
The club, which includes Perry Mason's 13-year-old son, Brandon, appoints a director of research and a director of community work. In fact, the boys, who invest $7 a month, used some of their profits to take five homeless boys to the theater and McDonald's. "I teach them to give back," Perry Mason says.
Working with the boys is part of the way Perry Mason gives back. And she's starting a girls' group, too. Why? "Because I feel children need to learn about investing for their future and because they are our future," she says.
Perry Mason is part of a growing number of brokers teaching children about Wall Street and personal finances. Most say they do it for the reward of seeing inquisitive, young minds turn on to investing. And, brokers say, educating kids early is a good way to build a financially savvy customer base for the future. At the same time, brokers often get new customers in the present, too. For example, Perry Mason says she has picked up clients--some of the children's parents--by working with the boys' investment club.
Brokers' methods of instructing children vary. Susan Bradley's concern about children's financial future inspired her to develop her own curriculum and teach week-long summer "money camps" for kids ages 10 to 17. "I try to make financial literacy a cool thing for kids," says Bradley, a rep and CFP with Raymond James in West Palm Beach, Fla. "It's cool to have choices and security."
The camp usually brings about 20 kids together for classes in the morning followed by sports activities in the afternoon, Bradley says. During the classes, she focuses on sharing information about financial planning, rather than the stock market. "I want to teach them the basics at a young age to try to develop a long-term attitude toward saving and investing," she says. Bradley held the camps in previous years at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, but she may expand to offer the camps nationally.
Playing the Stock Market Game Games are another popular method of getting kids excited about investing. Carolyn Meakem, a rep and CFP with Legg Mason in Bethesda, Md., helps train school teachers to run the Stock Market Game, the Securities Industry Association's (SIA) national 10-week program in which children invest a hypothetical $100,000 (see "Tools for Schools," Page 117). She also visits the classroom and works directly with the children.
As a former elementary school teacher, Meakem does it for the affection she feels for children. "You couldn't feel the way I do about kids and not work with them. ... Kids keep you vital and involved with what's happening," she says.
And the kids have taught Meakem a thing or two over the years. At one point, they enlightened her about Blockbuster Video. "The kids made a lot of money on it in the game, and I invested in it for my clients," she says. "They understand how things take off."
Although kids understand something about capitalism and some are "pretty knowledgeable about the language and workings of the market, they are lacking in depth and fear," Meakem says. "I'm concerned they'll become day traders."
Meakem tries to combat that possibility by teaching them about long-term investing. And the children are eager to learn. She says the lights go on when she tells them they can put money to work to make more money. "It's a revelation. It can make dreams come true," she says. "Kids get on fire, excited."
The SIA encourages brokers to volunteer in classes using the Stock Market Game. David Keaveney, a broker with First American Equities in Phoenix, works with sixth, seventh and eighth graders, including his stepson, Anthony.
Keaveney's method is to encourage the kids to think for themselves. "In the fall, I ask them what they're thinking about, and they say Christmas toys--Mattel, Huffy," says Keaveney. "And clothes--Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren. You have to allow them to open their minds."
By participating in the game, kids learn about math and other subjects, Keaveney says. "There's an economic factor to the market, politics as well. And there's foreign economics, too."
In addition, the kids learn that "things don't always work out the way we expect them to," Keaveney says. "And they learn the value of money."
The fact that Keaveney is teaching their children impresses the parents, some of whom become clients, he says. "They're happy someone out there is teaching instead of selling." Most of the business from the parents is college planning for the kids.
Inspiring Children about Work Brokers' interaction with children isn't always strictly about investing. Some find ways to help children just by introducing them to the importance of work. Andrea Steinacher, a broker with Salomon Smith Barney in Miami, along with nine other brokers in her branch, teach fourth and fifth graders at Southside Elementary School as part of the KAPOW (Kids And the Power Of Work) program. The program is a joint effort by the National Child Labor Committee, Dade County Public Schools and private corporations.
The kids, most of whom are recent immigrants who speak Spanish or Portuguese, call Steinacher Mrs. KAPOW, and they clap when she enters the classroom. At the end of the program, she gets hugs and kisses from them, she says.
In addition to learning job interviewing skills, the kids learn about the brokerage business and participate in a stock market contest. The kids form groups of five and pick five stocks, Steinacher says. "They find the price, multiply it by 10 shares--there's no commission--and they sell it for net, too," she says, with a laugh. "They have to figure out fractions, including 16ths."
As part of the program, the children visit the Salomon Smith Barney branch. "Most of these kids have never been in an office before," Steinacher says. They enter the high-rise building in awe, she says. "And when the elevator says 'Going up,' they say 'Thank you.'"
It's a great opportunity to build team spirit in the branch as well. "Everyone's involved from the receptionist to the wire operator to sales assistants to brokers," Steinacher says. "The kids have to get quotes for their stocks off the Quotrons. And there are tubes all over the office, so they run from the tubes to the wire operator and back to see if they beat execution."
Educating the kids is "rewarding and fun," Steinacher says. "And the kids get a ton out of this."
Keaveney sees incredible learning potential in children, too. "Kids are starving for information," he says. "The more help you give, the easier their minds open, expand--and that helps all of us for the future."
If you're a parent, this story may sound familiar. A few years ago, Willard Stawski, then a stockbroker in Grand Rapids, Mich., came home to find his basement strewn with toys--around $1,000 worth--some of them broken. He gave his three young sons an ultimatum: Pick up the toys or he would throw them away.
After three warnings, Stawski made good on his promise. He tossed all of the toys in the dumpster behind his new home. "I flipped out," Stawski says. The part that really stunned him, however, was that his sons didn't even seem to mind.
As a financial adviser, Stawski taught people money management skills, but he had failed to teach his sons the value of money, he says. His "emotional tirade" motivated him to create a system to teach his kids about money and responsibility.
The system, which taught the kids goal setting, earning and budgeting, worked so well for his family, Stawski decided to produce and sell it. It's called Cash University Money Management for Kids!
The kit includes an audiotape explaining the program and an instructor's guide for parents. To start the program, the child reads a story about Cashew the Squirrel (the kit's mascot) who didn't save enough walnuts for the winter. Stawski recommends that parents spend 20 minutes explaining to the child how the system works.
First, the child chooses a goal--a desired toy, for example. The kit contains a Goal Reminder Sheet--an erasable board on which the child can write the goal, the amount required and saved for it, and can post a picture of it.
The kit also comes with The Allowance Calculator, an erasable board with a section to list chores for making money and a section for negative behaviors that lead to deductions. Each week, the child can track how much money he or she made and update the amount saved on the goal reminder board.
The child receives his or her own checkbook, which can be used to write a check to a parent for an immediate cash need (that way, the child doesn't lose the cash) and to track funds. In addition, there is a College Savings Board to list special chores for the child to earn college education funds.
A Family Fun Coupon Book provides nonmonetary rewards for a job well done. Some examples include a trip to the library, a picnic, the child's favorite meal, a bike ride or a nature hike.
The complete kit is targeted at ages 4 to 9 and retails for $24.95. But Stawski is offering it to brokers for $12.49. A mini kit that includes the Goal Reminder Sheet, the Allowance Calculator and a checkbook is available for ages 4 to 9 or ages 10 to 15 for $4.45.
To purchase the kits, contact Cash University, 4881 Kendrick S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49512; 800/209-4800, 616/957-1130; www.cashuniversity.com
Here are a few Web sites that teach children and young adults about finances.
Young Investor www.younginvestor.com
This site teaches the basic concepts of investing through character guides, which the child can choose. It includes a survey about investment knowledge, educational puzzles and games, Kid2Kid, which posts children's answers to investment-related questions, and a library with financial articles and a dictionary of financial terms. It also provides tips for parents on teaching their kids about investing. Liberty Financial created this site.
Kids Bank.com www.kidsbank.com
Developed by Sovereign Bank, this site teaches kids about money and banking. Characters including Penny, Dollar Bill, Interest Ray, Checks the puppy and Mr. EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer), teach the basics about where money comes from, as well as about saving, interest and checking. Decidedly slanted toward the use of banks, the site includes calculators for analyzing financial goals, links to other kids' sites and a game room with a quiz on topics covered.
Investing for Kids tqd.advanced.org/3096
Designed by kids for kids, Investing for Kids covers stocks, bonds, mutual funds, saving and investing. It's divided into three levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. In addition to a stock game, it has a bulletin board, a glossary and a stock learning center with useful information on investing.
This is an entrepreneurial Web site that teaches kids how to use skills they already have to make good financial decisions. There are three portfolios that contain companies kids are familiar with: youth, technology and blue chip. It also provides profiles of entrepreneurs who started young, such as Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Computers. A daily market update offers quotes and news.
Independent Means www.anincomeofherown.com
Targeted at girls under 20, Independent Means focuses on entrepreneurial skills, making money and mentoring. It includes newsletters, a calendar of events, a game, featured teen businesses, a Q&A and a business plan competition. Featured on the site is a book titled "No More Frogs to Kiss" by Joline Godfrey, with 99 action plans to financially empower girls (HarperBusiness, ISBN 0-88730-659-4, $12). This Web page was created by Independent Means, a company that sells products and services to promote girls' financial independence.
Young Investor's Guide www.investyoung.com
Created by 22-year-old college student, Gregg Fidan, this Web site educates young adults on the fundamentals of investing. It includes columns written by financial professionals, articles on finance, a bulletin board, a bookstore and a section in which viewers can ask investment-related questions.
SIA's Stock Market Game
Created in 1977, the Securities Industry Association's (SIA) Stock Market Game, is a 10-week simulation in which students in grades four to 12 invest a hypothetical $100,000 in stocks on the NYSE, AMEX and Nasdaq. The program is sponsored by the Securities Industry Foundation for Economic Education (SIFEE).
Student teams across the United States submit transactions daily and get weekly portfolio reports showing trades, holdings, fees, margin interest and team ranking. At the end of the 10 weeks, winning teams get plaques, certificates, and prizes and/or award ceremonies.
The program is administered by game coordinators who train teachers and are associated with the National Council on Economic Education and its affiliated State Councils and Centers for Economic Education.
Brokers can get involved by making classroom presentations, hosting an office tour or sponsoring an award ceremony. For more information on the Stock Market Game, contact SIFEE at 212/618-0519; www.smg2000.org; e-mail: [email protected]
NEFE's High School Program
In 1984, the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) introduced its High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP). The program is co-sponsored by the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Available free to schools, the program teaches the fundamentals of financial planning including goal setting, decision making, careers, income, budgeting, managing credit, insurance, saving and investing.
Financial advisers are encouraged to lead the program as a way of providing a community service. NEFE provides course materials and an extensive instructor's manual with ideas for introducing the concepts. For more information, contact Elizabeth Schiever, director of the High School Financial Planning Program, at 303/224-3510, e-mail: [email protected]