Duo posts high stock market scores

June 2, 2009

By Christopher Huber

Discovery Elementary School fifth-graders Erika Shing and Jingyu Jenny Yang placed third in the elementary-level competition in the statewide Stock Market Game. By Christopher Huber

Discovery Elementary School fifth-graders Erika Shing and Jingyu Jenny Yang placed third in the elementary-level competition in the statewide Stock Market Game. By Christopher Huber

Discovery Elementary School fifth-grader Jingyu Jenny Yang did so well in the statewide Stock Market Game that she said her mom half-joked about letting her invest the family’s money.

Yang and classmate Erika Shing were among about 40 Washington students recently recognized for their high marks in the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s annual Stock Market Game.

The goal of the game was to have the top portfolio value at the end of the 10-week investment period. Participating teams, with members ranging from fourth to 12th grades, started out with a virtual cash balance of $100,000. Nearly 1,000 teams and 3,300 students participated across the state.

“I’m pretty happy,” Yang said. “Macy’s and Nike were the best.”

The students placed third in the elementary category after finishing the game with a balance of $110,223.88 — a 10.2 percent return.

What makes Yang’s and Shing’s accomplishment even more impressive is they made that money in just five weeks. They, along with the rest of teacher Jessica Daly’s class joined the game about halfway through the competition, Daly said.Yang and Shing tallied their earnings April 24. Throughout the five-week investment period, participants studied the real-world stock markets and invested their fake money based on news and trends.

“Everything I know about stocks is from the news,” Shing said. “It’s like real life.”

The girls said they read books about money and finances, but the students also learned basic financial management skills.

The game was one of three parts of Daly’s Money Savvy Kids financial literacy unit. Daly was able to conduct the program thanks to a grant she received from the state Department of Financial Institutions. The unit also integrated math curriculum with lessons about investing and being money-savvy in general, she said.

“The key thing was we weren’t just emphasizing investing. We were emphasizing saving,” Daly said.

In fact, she brought in Stacy Allred, Merrill Lynch’s director of Wealth Structuring Group, to work with the class on financial literacy.

“It’s great to have somebody with that knowledge in our classroom,” Daly said. “She really brought it to their level. It’s unique, but I also think it’s really practical.”

They learned the concepts of balanced money management, giving, saving and other aspects of a budget. The unit highlighted the importance of teaching youths about money matters early on.

“If you look at the state of the economy … it’s very clear, as a society, that we are lacking financial literacy,” Allred said. “This is going way beyond the math of money, and it’s teaching you how to make smart choices.”

The hands-on Stock Market Game exposed the students to market volatility and risk, as well, she said.

“Investing isn’t as easy as it looks,” she said. “They want to make smart choices.”

It engaged students like Yang and Shing, who checked their stocks almost every day. They invested in companies like Microsoft, Safeway and others whose operations affect their day-to-day lives.

“We were always surprised, every time it changes,” Yang said.

Yang and Shing said they were happy to win recognition for their strong returns in the Stock Market Game, but didn’t make a big deal about it. They enjoyed the experience and said they want to use their newfound knowledge to keep up with the stock markets outside of school.

“I know this’ll last a lifetime,” Shing said.

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