Saratoga County

Teens play stock market, make out big

In the midst of an unsteady market, high-schoolers in the Shenendehowa district this semester def

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In the midst of an unsteady market, high-schoolers in the Shenendehowa district this semester deftly maneuvered the thorny path of stock purchases and sales, producing an overall 23 percent increase on their initial investments of $100,000, and taking the top three places in a regionwide stock-picking competition.

If only the money was real currency.

As part of Laura Tarlo’s finance investment class, the 10th- through 12th-graders played the Stock Market Game, a free online course available worldwide to enhance math, reading, research, technology and presentation skills. School teams trade common stocks and mutual funds from the NYSE, Nasdaq and AMEX exchanges. With their fictitious bank accounts, they earn interest on cash balances, pay interest if buying on margin and pay a commission on all trades. Since its inception in 1977, more than 10 million students have participated in The Stock Market Game program. The program is available in all 50 states and worldwide.

In the competitive component of the money game, the Shenendehowa students placed first, second and third out of 71 Capital Region team scores when tallied this spring.

“I have to give them credit, these kids across the board were real risk-takers,” Tarlo said. “But I was even more impressed by how much research they did, looking for information on companies whose work they support. They put a lot of thought into it. I actually found the kids that won in the competition were some of the shyest and quietest kids in my class.”

Chris Coppola, a Shen senior who plans to study music and business in college next fall, admitted he was new to the whole jargon of retractable securities, liquidity, equity options and capital gains.

“I’ve never even read the financial pages in the newspaper,” Coppola said. “I have an uncle who plays the stock market, but I’m totally unfamiliar with the whole thing.”

Coppola focused his research on companies developing alternate energy sources.

“I put my money on solar power stocks, because conservation efforts are really important to me,” Coppola said.

As for his trading strategy, Coppola said, he toed a very careful line between being impulsive and being conservative.

“I tried to hold on to stocks for the longer run to see how they did,” Coppola said. “I went with companies I had a gut instinct for, but most of it was just luck.”

Natasha Sakhichand, a sophomore, said she initially went with Apple and Google stock, but they proved to be a bumpy ride.

“Those stocks fell quickly, so we sold them a couple of weeks into the game,” Sakhichand said. “It’s really like a roller coaster, and they kept score of the teams every week. You could be first or second and then drop right down, but we tried to stay relaxed.”

Stock Market Game activities also reinforce knowledge of current events statewide and on a national level, market trends and how the economy works. The fledgling investors also put their math skills to good use to calculate their returns or unfortunate losses.

After completing the game, the students said they’d be a bit more cautious if they were playing with real bucks.

“It would be too risky, especially right now when you don’t know what the market will do,” said Sakhichand, who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school and on weekends and plans to study pre-med in college. “You work hard for your money, so it’s tough to take those risks.”

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