Students get real stake in stock risks and rewards

SLEEPY EYE — While simulated investing in the stock market is a staple of economics curriculum, one class in Sleepy Eye is investing for real.

A $10,000 donation to Nicholas Kaminsky’s class at St. Mary’s Catholic School is giving high school students an early real exposure to the risks and rewards of the stock market.

If the 20 students in the yearlong economics and personal finance class have made a profit come spring, they will get to spend it on a party or another group reward. If they lose money, they will have to work off their loss doing community service.

Kaminsky said a donor who doesn’t want to be publicly named approached him with the idea, and he jumped at it.

Kaminsky, who is in his second year of teaching at St. Mary’s, had his first class of students make simulated stock buys. Having real money has made his second class more engaged, he said.

“It gives them a stake in what they are learning about.”

Student John Miller agreed.

“I don’t think that we would have been as engaged if the project was just a simulation,” the junior said. “Using a real platform to invest in definitely has made us feel more prepared and likely to invest our own money in the future.”

The enhanced engagement has extended beyond the stock market itself, Kaminsky said. Students are paying more attention to current events as well as they consider how those events might impact their stocks.

Some of the companies the students are choosing to invest in have products they already know a lot about.

Senior Laurence Simonsen said one of his team’s investments is in Nintendo.

“We decided to invest into Nintendo as, after doing research, we found that the company’s price was under what it should be for quite some time,” he said. “This coupled with the recent releases of new games that they produce made this stock extremely enticing to us.”

That stock is earning them a profit. “We are sticking with this company and maybe will invest more into them,” Simonsen said.

His team also researched and invested in a less expected company. They learned Tecnoglass, a specialized glass manufacturer and installer, had just won a contract that “made the stock worth buying,” Simonsen said. They sold the stock for a profit a few weeks before it started to decline.

The students have gotten to spend most of the year planning what kind of party to hold to celebrate their success. More recently they’ve been thinking about their community service options. They, like so many adults, are seeing their portfolios take a hit from the impact of inflation worries, COVID-19 case spike and other current events.

“Currently the stock market is fluctuating quite often as the prices of stocks are constantly shifting from good to bad and sometimes from bad to worse,” Simonsen said.

But he said he and his classmates have learned that “even if a stock drops, it is not the end of the world.”

Along with playing the stock market for real, Kaminsky said he is teaching his students about mutual funds and other lower-risk investing opportunities.

Junior Abigail Schwartz said she has learned the importance of diversifying her portfolio and not to expect to earn a profit overnight.

“It is very important to have a realistic view on the stock market and your money,” she said. “It’s also important to keep in mind that there is more to life than money and it is very dangerous to get too obsessed with your stocks.”

Junior Samantha Ibberson said she learned the importance of doing research before investing.

“Investing in the stock market can benefit you tremendously. However if it is not done correctly, you could lose a lot.”