For the middle school students involved, the lessons were about personal investment and budgeting. For the college students, the lessons were about communication, planning, time management, and the benefit of volunteerism. Nine students from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University donated their time in local classrooms over a six-week period this fall to teach middle school students basic lessons on personal finance and stock investment.
Students from two local middle schools visited the Reliant Energy Trading Center as part of a field trip mark the end of a six-week course on personal finance and stock investment led by Mays students.
“It’s always good to have a diverse group of students coming in to tell them about college,” said Amanda Mann, a teacher at A&M Consolidated Middle School, one of two schools to participate. In addition to science, Mann also teaches the class that Mays students visited, the AVID class, or Advancement Via Individual Determination. Economically disadvantaged but academically gifted, many of the AVID students will be the first in their family to attend college. Mann hopes the class will prepare them for the rigors of advanced courses in high school that will propel them into college. Mann says that her students respond differently when she tells them they should start planning for college than when A&M students tell them the same thing: they take it more seriously when the Aggies say it.
The Mays course and stock contest was the brainchild of Brett Muller ’09, a Professional Program in Accounting with concentration in finance student. He had heard of a similar program at another university and was inspired to try organizing one at Mays himselfâ€”not for class credit, but because he wanted to do something that would help others. Muller led the team of Mays students as they prepared the lessons, presented each Wednesday at A&M Consolidated and College Station Middle Schools. His co-leader was Silvio Canto ’09, also in the Professional Program studying finance.
Part of the course focused on stock investing. Each of the middle school students followed a few stocks throughout the course to chart its gains and losses using www.updown.com. They had the opportunity to trade once a week. Muller says they didn’t get into financial statements or ratio analysis. Instead they instructed the middle schoolers to take a very common sense approach: “What products do you like? What company makes those products? Chances are if you like a product, somebody else is going to like it, too, and it will be a good investment.”
When they weren’t watching the DOW, the students were learning how to budget and save, how the economy affects them, and some very basic business etiquette, such as handshakes and phone calls.
Muller says he hoped the students would come to understand that business isn’t all stock swaps, it’s about every day investments. He held Warren Buffet up as an example, telling students about Buffet’s first investment when he was 14. He and a friend bought a pinball machine and placed it in a barbershop. Soon they had enough money to buy a few more machines. That lesson made sense to one participant, who, when asked what she learned through the course replied, “I learned that I should budget my money wisely and not spend it all so that I can be rich when I retire.”
“Interest is good for your savings,” another student added. “And make money, don’t spend it.”
The course concluded with a visit to Mays and a final lesson and awards ceremony in the Reliant Energy Securities and Commodities Trading Center.
“It was a ton of work and I’m glad it’s over, but I had a fantastic time doing it,” Muller said. “The kids were amazingâ€¦they exceeded my expectations in every way.”
Muller interned with PricewaterhouseCooper’s office in New York City in Spring 2009 and will return for a job when he graduates this December. Thanks to his connection to the firm, he was able to secure sponsorship from PwC, which provided prizes, tee shirts, and a pizza party for the 27 middle school participants.