Middle School Financial Literacy Curriculum Wraps Up with a Trip to Wall Street (and More)!

This year's Middle School Financial Literacy curriculum recently wrapped for the year with some pretty nifty events: the final visit by professionals from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC); a seventh grade field trip to Goldman Sachs; and the upcoming eighth grade vote on their class gift to Speyer! For a full rundown, we have guest View writer, Speyer parent Greg Peterson: 

The Boulevard hosted small groups of students working with the PwC partners and staff to explore fraud, budgets, and investing. The fifth graders investigated current types of consumer fraud (including online scams and sweepstakes fraud) and identified actions a victim of fraud or identity theft should take to restore personal assets and security.  When tasked with creating a scam of their own, the sutdents came up with some pretty clever ones, including "Your grandfather died and left you $15M, click here and we will help you collect!".

Our sixth graders were engrossed with Budgeting 101 – delving into all of the ways to create and work with a budget, and analyzing and differentiating between needs and wants.  Overheard as they examined ways and ideas to save money and other observations on budgeting: "We have created a magical metro card that 4 people in our group can travel on making a big contribution to the budget."; "We can pool money like a money car pool.  Can we pool taxes?"; and "Starbucks is a necessity." 

Meanwhile, our seventh graders trekked to Wall Street!  The students spent a day at Goldman Sachs as the culmination of their investment management role as part of the Financial Literacy curriculum. Goldman Sachs, through Speyer parents, hosted the on-site event for the fifth year running. We began the day with an overview of the role of an investment bank and the different functions performed in the world of finance.

A centerpiece of the seventh grade curriculum is the students manage a real portfolio, which was a gift from a Speyer family (currently $265,000). Each incoming grade has a gift of $20,000 and over their nine years at Speyer, this portion will grow with investment returns. At the time of eighth grade graduation, the original $20,000 rolls forward to the incoming Kindergarten class, and the increase in total value from inception is quantified. This value is then split into two: with half designated by the eighth graders as a graduation gift back to Speyer, and the other half is gifted pro rata to the students themselves to further their education. 

We are now in the fifth year of the program! At the beginning of the school year, the seventh grade takes responsibility (with Speyer's Chief Financial & Operations Officer Scott Molin's input and advice from Wells Fargo Advisors) to review and rebalance the portfolio. This year, the student portfolio managers created an Investment Policy Statement to ensure diversification and limit risk in the portfolio by creating concentration limits on individual and aggregate investment levels.  The managers sold a position due to concerns over the impact of their operations on the planet and further diversified the portfolio, as certain investments have been doing very well and became a larger percentage of the portfolio, as well as harvesting some investments, which were not performing well.

Wells Fargo led a reveal of the results of the third year of the individual investment contest, where each student chooses three stocks to track with the ability to trade mid-year. The students discussed their choices, results, what they would have done differently, and why certain stocks they picked as individuals they did not add to the Speyer portfolio. In Academy Award fashion, complete with gold statute awards and gift cards, the following were the big winners:

  • Best of the Best – Jake (+23.7% overall return)

  • Missed it by that Much – Sasha (+16.8% overall return)

  • Don’t Quit your Day Job – Anton (-13.2% overall return)

  • Comeback Kids – Charlie and Sana (+33.6% second half return)

  • Stock Pick of the Year – Isaiah (+91.6% overall return in Shopify)

  • Switcheroo – Jake and Jay (+25.7% second half return in Shopify)

Of major note, the entire class returns were in excess of 4.9% for the contest period when the S&P 500 returned 2.1%!

At lunch, the students held a panel discussion with Goldman Sachs analysts from Investment Management, Securities, and Investment Banking, learning about their education, careers, and day-to-day responsibilities in their jobs. The time they came to the office, hours worked, and time they went home brought some notable reactions from the students.  

Next up, the group heard from the student portfolio managers for the year, which included Annika J., Brynn M., Jonah G., Ryan P., Anton E., Emerson C., for the first semester.  They shared how the IPS was derived as well as the turbulent marketplace they faced with the drastic declines in the market. They did not panic, which bode well for the hand-off to the second semester managers Lilly F., Isaiah G., Mica H-L., Caitlin M., Medha P., and Jake R..  

The second semester team described the background and context of the portfolio, the holdings, their investment deliberations throughout the year, and the returns. The discussion included debate on optimum asset allocation, what changes to make in the portfolio, how to manage the summer investing period, and lessons learned to transfer to next year's rising seventh grade.

 Year-to-date the overall portfolio hit a new high-water mark of $262,000 erasing the drop in December and returning the portfolio to a cumulative gain! 

Finally, the eighth graders have discussed and contemplated options for their class gift, an amount of approximately $6,000. They are still debating what their gift will be – stay tuned on that news! Previous years’ gifts have been donations to Speyer's Financial Scholarship Program as well as underwriting Middle School service learning initiatives.  

Huge thanks to all of the professionals and parents from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Goldman Sachs, Scott Molin, Michelle Cristella, Wells Fargo, and everyone who supports this wonderful and unique element of our curriculum at Speyer!