When new suites were being built at Advest's office in Boca Raton, Fla., Stacy Englander could have easily moved into a spacious corner office with a striking city view from her window.
That's because Englander needs walls, not windows, so she can display college pennants and photos of children that she has helped put through school via her “generational” college investment program.
Englander, a broker for 32 years, is working with her fourth generation of clients — the great grandchildren of some of her original clients.
One of the walls in Englander's office features about 40 pennants from colleges such as Harvard, University of Michigan, Wharton and Columbia. With each pennant hangs a photo of the child who went to the university and an inscription of the year they graduated.
The adjacent wall, aptly named the “My College Will Be Fully Funded” wall, features photos of younger children whose parents and grandparents are gifting assets to them yearly for education purposes.
Englander's list of college grads stands at 74 — and it's rapidly rising. “Thirty-six more will be coming through in the next few years,” she says, proudly. That includes 11 grandchildren of original clients.
A Special Program
The majority of Englander's work is tied to her generational planning process, which she calls “Investing in the Future, Investing for the Future.” She started it 15 years ago, shortly after she left a long-time position at a New York firm to go out on her own. Basically, Englander saw a need that wasn't being fulfilled and seized the market.
“I didn't know of any brokers doing it, and as my two sons were getting older, I realized there would be a serious need for this,” she says.
Sure, Englander knows people who gave stocks as gifts to newborn babies. “But giving a baby a few shares of Exxon is not a plan for college,” she says. “There was — and still is — a need to educate parents on what it costs to send kids to school.”
Youngsters need instruction, too, she notes. “When they get to college, they aren't going to be taught about money and investing, but there will be display booths set up asking them if they want a credit card.”
Englander fills that void by meeting with clients' children. She asks them general questions about money and investing. “Then I hammer home the power of compounding,” she says.
During meetings, children can make some profound statements. “One young teen said, ‘Nearly all of my friends have Nokia phones, so I looked the company up on the Web. The stock looks awfully cheap, so I'd like to buy some of that,’” Englander recalls. “So I said, ‘Instead of buying Nokia, maybe you'll be better off buying a telecom unit trust with Nokia as one of 25 stocks.’”
An important component of Englander's program is an annual College Scholarship Essay contest, now entering its fourth year. There are four categories: elementary school, middle school, high school and college. Each age group receives an essay question with a required word count. The winner of the 1,000-word college essay receives $1,000. The winners in other categories get $500 each. (Englander asks for 50 words from elementary school kids, 250 from middle school students and 500 from high schoolers.)
A four-person panel, including Englander, selects the winners after reviewing answers to essay questions such as “Should Social Security be privatized?” (for college students); “If I was given $10,000-$5,000 to invest, $5,000 to spend — what would I do?” (for high schoolers); and “Who is my hero and why?” (for elementary students).
“We've received some spectacular essays,” Englander says. “Last year, the question for middle schoolers was, ‘Should tobacco be illegal?’ One child wrote the essay from the point of view of someone who died of lung cancer. I cried as I read it. It was amazing.”
Englander says that of the 12 winners so far, 11 placed the money in their college investment plan.
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Written Resources for Kids
Every year Stacy Englander spends more than $12,000 of her own money to buy “age-appropriate” books and videos for her young clients. The materials educate them about money and investing.
Five-year-olds receive the book “Smart Little Saver.” Children who are 7 get “The Totally Awesome Money Book For Kids” and “The Ultimate Kids Money Book.” For young adults, Englander selects “Get a Financial Life.”