Buy low, sell high.
Paying close attention to that time-tested advice earned three Handsworth Secondary students top provincial honours in a contest aimed at challenging the financial moxie of junior investors.
In just six weeks, the three teens – Shay Harrison, 14, Kaden Johnson, 14 and Fin Tugwell, 15 – managed to turn an initial investment of $100,000 into $172,000 by riding the wild rollercoaster of cryptocurrency stocks.
The catch: the money they earned wasn’t real.
But the lessons they learned about investing: the value of information, when to take risks and when to play it safe, were ones the students can take to the bank.
The trio were among several teams from business teacher Jordan Dickson’s classes at Handsworth, who took part in Junior Achievement’s investment strategies challenge last fall.
The online competition connects students to a virtual investment portfolio linked in real time to the New York, Toronto and NASDAQ stock exchanges.
Students research companies through sources like the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News and decide when to buy and when to sell. During the contest the progress of different teams was tracked through an online leaderboard.
At the beginning of the contest, the teens said they played it safe, investing in “blue chip” technology companies like Amazon and Google.
But they soon realized that wasn’t going to give them results in a quick time frame.
That’s how they started watching the Marathon Patent Group (MARA), a smaller company linked to cryptocurrency like bitcoin that was seeing skyrocketing highs combined with plunging lows.
“Their stocks were spiking and dropping,” said Harrison. “We bought it when it was dropping and sold it when it went back up.”
Their risky investment strategy paid off – the team placed first in the province and second in Canada in the investment challenge, which students at Handsworth have taken part in for several years.
Harrison may come by his investment savvy honestly – both his father and his grandfather have traded in the stock market.
But the teens said nobody told them how to invest – other than general advice from their teacher about the importance of diversifying, avoiding transaction fees and researching investments.
While Dickson has a masters degree in financial math, he said his own involvement in the stock markets has been mostly theoretical. “I’ve never done a lot of heavy investing myself.”
Despite winning big in the virtual stock market, the teens said they are in no big rush to race in there with a lot of real money, pointing to some anxious moments that came even when their fortunes of the fake money dipped.
“It’s not just putting money in and getting money out. You can also lose money,” said Harrison. “It’s harder than it looks.”