Playing the stock market is all about taking risks.
In Heidi Olson’s Economics and Investing class, Stevenson students utilize their research skills by looking at stock tickers, company CEOs, products, competitive position, market cap, and historical performance in order to make informed decisions when playing the SIFMA stock market simulation, a nationwide competition. Each participating student is given a one hundred thousand dollar budget to invest in a portfolio. There are requirements regarding how to invest the imaginary money and how to diversify.
For Marshall, one of Olson’s students, many of the skills learned in class paid off, as he finished second in his district (of about 700 students) and top-20 in the state (of about four thousand students).
“When I was playing the stock market game, I didn’t think I would make it so far,” Marshall said. “So to be able to make it to second place — and at one point first place — it felt like an achievement to me.”
Marshall’s gamble on Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), a stock that was near bankruptcy, paid handsome simulated dividends when the stock rebounded.
“I think every kid who gets a big win gains confidence in a skill that’s larger than just getting an ‘A’ in class,” Olson said. “Marshall also became really confident in helping other people…I think there was a buzz. There was a buzz in the school, in the class, about his performance.”
“This was my first time trading stocks, so I learned how to do that, first and foremost,” Marshall said. “But I also learned how to look at a product or company and understand what’s happening within the company and get an idea of whether I should invest or not.”
“He followed directions,” Olson said of Marshall. “He met all of the goals for getting invested throughout the term…There were hurdles along the way and he hit all those hurdles.”
Olson credited Marshall with going in on big positions early in the process in order to maximize profit while other students remained reluctant.
“I definitely think, seeing what the potential is, it’s something that’s important to know how to do,” Marshall said of investing. “And I don’t think I’d make a career out of it, but I think I would invest and participate.”
Marshall’s classmate Kiran also finished in the top ten percent in the SIFMA simulation competition. Olson credited both students with assuming a leadership role in the class, verbalizing concepts to their classmates.
“There’s a lot of energy in the class,” Olson said. “And I think that these kids with their concepts can have a conversation about what’s going on in the economy in a holistic way.”