Tuesday’s opening bell on Wall Street was like a starting gun for investors after a long holiday weekend. Same goes for kids at the Greenhill School in Dallas.
They’re back in class and back to watching the market. But when you’re investing $100,000 in real cash, playing the stocks is more than a game.
Here are three things probably unique to the Greenhill School. Middle-schoolers take engineering classes, peacocks roam the campus, and the high-school business club has 100 grand to play the markets.
Club co-president and senior Hank Golman gives members the cold hard facts. As of Wednesday’s closing bell, they were down about $2,000, a big shift from being $500 to the good just 48 hours earlier.
The club used to play with monopoly money. But students tended to go all in on risky stocks or just invest in name brands. It was Hank’s older brothers who first had the idea to use real money. Now Hank’s making it happen.
“It’s pretty stressful at points because I mean obviously it’s not my money and it’s a lot of money,” says Hank. “I mean, I’ve never dealt with probably anything more than, like, $1,000. That’s the most I’ve ever seen or had control over.”
Greenhill’s board was so impressed with the students’ idea that members raised money for this project specifically.
Some of that cash goes into the industrial sector, led by Christian Holmes, a junior.
“The biggest thing about my sector that I didn’t really realized is how interconnected it is to politics and everything else that goes on outside of the U.S,” Christian says. “Now I’m also looking at Europe and China and seeing how things over there can affect my stocks as well.”
The sector leaders cruise the internet for investment news, obsessively check their CNN money apps, and keep up with social trends that might influence the market. While faculty advisors say research is the most important skill these kids are learning, there are still checks and balances to keep this project from tanking. Take it from faculty advisor Mike Krueger.
“If they lose $100,000, then the economy has fallen apart. Because they’re in big companies,” Krueger says. “The parameters are they have to have a market capitalization of $1 billion, I believe.”
His co-advisor Katie Robbins is Director of Finance for Greenhill. She makes sure the kids have an appropriately diverse portfolio.
“So we’ve got financial services, technology, industrials, health care, consumer cyclicals, different sectors. So the market might be up for one of those sectors and might be down for one of the other sectors,” Robbins explains. “Therefore our portfolio as a whole doesn’t have the peaks and valleys.”
And students have certainly noticed the difference between playing for fun and playing for keeps. Angela Hillsman, a senior, oversees the utility sector.
“I think we’ve all just learned so much because it’s real money and we have to take it seriously,” Angela says. “So I think it surprised me how much you can really learn by just keeping up with your stocks and keeping up with your company, because it’s like, we’re in the real world now.”
As Hank wraps up the year’s first club meeting, the scuffle of chairs, backpacks and chatter is definitively high-school. But he’s got more on his brain than homework and gossip.
“I had a dream once that it crashed and we lost a lot of money. I guess that’s more of a nightmare,” Hank laughs.
So it looks like real money comes with real world stresses.
KERA checked with the national organization that oversees independent schools and as far as they know, Greenhill’s real-money approach to student investment is unique.
There is a school in Las Vegas that’s doling out micro-loans; read about those students here.