BROOKSVILLE — The stock market is a complex system of wheeling and dealing that can baffle many adults. So why not start explaining it to youngsters as early as elementary school to give them an edge in the world of finance?
That was the reasoning behind Stock Market Game, a nonprofit organization that teachers can use to educate students about market complexities.
Students work in teams with $100,000 in virtual dollars to invest. Winning teams are those that make the most money.
A Chocachatti Elementary School team of gifted students, guided by teacher Kelly O'Connor, 31, recently earned $7,435, a 10.5 percent gain on the Disney stock they chose, and a third place in the North Florida region.
Kristen Ballard, Meagan Lisa, Caroline Johnston, Ashley Tirado, Kelsey Morrill and Brenna Fischer won certificates, ribbons and investment know-how. The Florida game was sponsored by Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and Foundation for Investor Education.
Kristen, 9, is a third-grader who also entered a related contest, InvestWrite, sponsored by the Foundation for Investor Education. She decided to use the same company her team used in the Stock Market Game, the Walt Disney Co.
She had to write an essay about what kinds of things could cause her chosen company's stock to increase in value and balance that with ideas about what could make it drop. Kristen considered that the stock could benefit by expanding its television market to include older audiences.
She figured the stock could suffer from the current staggering gas prices. People might be less inclined to visit parks or, she added, "the venues where they have concerts." Also, as people struggle with the economy, Disney cruise sales might drop.
Kristen's efforts won her a first place in the elementary level competition. She received a backpack, trophy, a $100 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble, a certificate and a pen and pencil set. She was recognized at the Garden Ballroom in Winter Haven in May.
"The students who participated on the competition worked very hard on their essays,'' O'Connor said. "It was inspiring to see them applying the data they collected to a 'real life' investing situation.
"All of us at Chocachatti are so proud of Kristen. She captured several catalysts for Disney in her research and did a superior job explaining why it would be a good investment for the future."
Kristen said it is likely all this research will help her when she is older. "I would use the stock market to get more money," she said. That, she added, could help her buy gas and home mortgages.
Before this school year, she did not know much about the stock market.
"I heard about it," she said. "I heard how it was falling." Now she knows what that means.
Kristen already has ambitious plans for her future. "I want to be a lawyer," she said. Corporate law interests her. She hopes to attend Harvard University.