Investment club pays educational dividend

November 21, 1993|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,Staff Writer

Playing the stock market requires smarts, guts, savvy and, yes, a little luck. Actual money is optional.

That, at least, is how the Bryn Mawr School Investment Club plays the market -- each of its members "invested" a cool, yet pretend, $1,000 last year in the stocks of her choice and, after a couple of months, they saw whose risks paid off the biggest.

"I just thought because of health care reform, it would be a good idea," says Sara Nelson, 17, of Guilford, of her picks of pharmaceutical stocks. They rose about $100 during the several months that the club members tracked their stocks.

But no one actually lost: What the club members are really investing in is their future. A future in which they know something about financial planning -- and its corollary, financial independence. And, perhaps, a future in which women are equally represented on Wall Street.

"We're all going to be in business in some way, so we have to know about this," says Jenifer George, 18, a senior at the private girls school, who started the club. "And we need to focus on the role of women in the financial world."

Indeed, two magazines, Money and Working Woman, recently found that men get better treatment and advice at brokerages than women. Both magazines sent women and men posing as potential clients to firms in several cities, and found that men got more information and encouragement to invest than the women did. Yet, some studies have shown that women's investor clubs often outperform men's groups.

Jennifer began casually tracking stocks with her father and wanted to learn more about it. After finding several of her classmates had a similar curiosity, she started the club. The members research different companies as potential investments, and often bring in speakers from the financial community to help them learn more about market forces.

"It seems like everything's a factor," says Mimi Homes, 17, who lives in Ruxton. "Sometimes it's just the luck of the draw."

Indeed, to test how their study of the market stacks up against plain, dumb luck, the club plans to throw some darts at a board with about 15 stocks, and see how those randomly selected companies do against their own picks.

They've considered the ethics of companies as well, saying they'd be against those that, for example, pollute the environment. But these tough businesswomen-to-be can see how such considerations can hurt their bottom line.

"If you invest ethically, you don't make as much money," Jennifer says. Sara agrees: "It really puts you at a disadvantage."

While the club is only investing fictional dollars these days, studying the market has made them more fiscally prudent with their real money as well. They find themselves asking that familiar question, Where does it all go?

"One day, I'll have money, and then the next day I won't. I look at what I spend money on a movie, something to drink, and I have nothing to show for it," says Mimi, who gets an allowance for doing chores around the house and works about 15 hours a week at a store in Towson. "So I've started budgeting more."

"That's why it's important," Jenifer concludes, "to try to make make money while you sleep."

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