UNIVERSITY OF TAMPA — Under a shelf stocked with chicken-flavored ramen noodles, in a messy college dorm, Chris Sacchinelli finishes a blog entry just before 1 a.m. • It Takes Money To Make Money ... Or does it? he writes. • It is important to understand that you can learn just as much from the market trading with $300-500 as you would with $1,000. • After all, we are all young investors here and we have plenty of time to be raking in those millions once we pound out our ace strategies now! • The University of Tampa economics major speaks in exclamation points, too, with eyes so wide you can almost see dollar signs in them. • On top of an 18-hour course load, which he hopes will help him graduate a year early, Sacchinelli spends his days analyzing stocks and discussing them with friends on the social networking Web site he launched last fall, SuccessfulYoungInvestor.com. • The 19-year-old hosts a campus radio show, leads an investment club and is penning a book he hopes to self-publish this summer, all about what he has learned in a decade of investing.
That's right, a decade.
Sacchinelli thinks he was in first or second grade when it happened, although his mom thinks maybe fourth. Either way, she was cleaning his room one day and came upon what she said looked like a squirrel's nest in the corner of his closet: dollar bills, from years of birthdays, balled up and hidden.
She asked him about it. He didn't want to spend it at Toys "R" Us, he told her. He wanted to watch it grow.
In the fifth grade, his dad took him to see a financial manager, who laid out a bunch of pamphlets with payment schedules and told him if he started investing, he'd grow up to be a multimillionaire.
Wow, he thought.
Growing up in Fairfield County, Conn., he'd seen a lot of multimillionaires — hedge fund families planted along the state's "gold coast."
His wasn't one of them. His dad taught a high school automotive class. His mom worked in medical billing.
They didn't start investing in a retirement fund until their 40s, because they didn't think they could afford it.
At age 10, Chris opened a mutual fund and challenged himself to invest $50 each week. The following year, a neighbor hired him as an assistant at an insurance company to help him meet his goal.
But for young Sacchinelli, the afternoon job wasn't enough. He bought candy in bulk and sold it out of his middle school locker. He sold Pokemon cards and Beanie Babies and mowed lawns.
By high school, he was partnering with his boss on small businesses — scrapbooks, Web domains. He got a wholesaler license and bought in bulk from Canal Street in Manhattan.
He'd buy a zipper tie for $2 and flip it for $40.
Fast-forward to UT, freshman year. Sacchinelli didn't have a job. His old boss was up North. He could no longer sell candy out of his locker.
In his longing for a money-making hobby, Sacchinelli realized he was finally 18. After years of playing with fake money in stock simulators, he was old enough to buy into the real market.
He invested $100 his uncle had sent him to spend at school. It grew by 33 percent in the stock market.
So Sacchinelli wrote a check for $33, put it in an envelope and sent his uncle the return on his investment.
Then he tried again.
He'd buy and sell in the same day, making what he said was upward of 20 percent each trade — and sometimes doubling his money.
He won't disclose how much he has made in the stock market, but says he's supporting himself and paying his tuition.
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Sacchinelli was so successful because of the research he put into his choices, scouring the Internet for buzz on stocks, then reading company statistics to solidify his choices.
He found himself spending more than seven hours each day doing his research. If only, he thought, there were a one-stop shop where young people like him could go.
Last fall, he launched SuccessfulYoungInvestor.com, a social networking Web site now more than 100 members strong. Though members hail from across the world, the core group consists of University of Tampa students.
They scour news headlines and try to translate how current events will look financially. For example, this recent blog entry garnered discussion:
Looking to Capitalize on Swine Flu.
Sacchinelli says he cares a lot more about the sport of investing than the actual money he makes. He hopes to start a charity in which young people can learn about investing the way he did.
He wonders if drug dealers might change their business tactics if they learned how to make money legally.
"These are ambitious kids," Sacchinelli said. "They're using the opportunities available to them."
Sacchinelli goes to bed late. He wakes up early. The investment game always on his mind.
He sat in the front row of a speech class taught by Chris Gurrie last fall.
"This kid is going to be a millionaire," Gurrie said.
Before the end of the semester, Sacchinelli had the professor and a few classmates taking stock tips from him.
"Get on it," Sacchinelli said of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. "The government will keep them afloat."
Gurrie bought a few stocks. But a friend he told bought 2,000 shares.
That friend sold them last month, got double his money back and used the cash for a trip to Korea.
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3354.