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Financial camps pay off for teens; summer programs encourage young people to safeguard their financial future through money management. (Teenpreneurs).

TO THE AVERAGE KID, SUMMERTIME MEANS NO SCHOOL, VACATION GETAWAYS, AND CAMP. BUT there are groups of young people who are actually getting schooled during the summer, and they are having a ball. Welcome to "investment camp," where young people learn to recognize stock market trends, invest in steady growth companies, evaluate mutual funds, minimize and recognize risks, and build a balanced and diversified portfolio.

Acquania Gibbs of Clarkston, Georgia, says her curiosity was piqued when she received an e-mail newsletter from Dollar Divas (www.dollardiva.com), a Website for young women, highlighting a financial camp for girls ages 13 to 21 called Summer Stock. Because the camp is somewhat pricey at $850, Gibbs applied for a scholarship based on financial need. "I had to write an essay telling about myself and prior experience or lack thereof," says Gibbs, who was awarded $650 (leaving her $200 to pay out of pocket).

Some 26 other girls joined Gibbs this past summer at the camp, held on the campus of Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. "I really liked the format of the program. We attended workshops as a group, we ate meals and lived together in a dorm-like fashion, and we did interactive games to make the learning fun," says the 19-year-old sophomore at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Gibbs decided to attend Summer Stock in part to better understand her Both IRA, which she opened at age 16. She currently has $1,000 in her account and plans to add $1,000 by year-end. Taking her Christmas gift money and pay she earns from work-study, Gibbs plans to invest in some of the companies she researched at camp, including Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG), Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS), Pier 1 (NYSE: PIR), and Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV).

"I will forever be thankful to Summer Stock for teaching me how to read the financial pages of newspapers and research stocks," says Gibbs. "I know now to look at more than the trading price. I know to look at the P/E ratio and a company's history, using resources like The Value Line Investment Survey."

There are some 40 camps around the country that teach students how to invest or even start a business. Such camps are vital given that financial literacy among young people is on the decline--down to 41.6% in 2002 from 47.4% in 1997, according to nationwide surveys of high school seniors conducted by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. While most young people know very little about saving, investing, and handling personal finances, the number of students who own mutual funds or stocks rose 33.4% in 2002, reports Jump$tart.

ARE CAMPS WORTH IT?

If you are wondering if investment camps are worth it, the answer is yes, says Joline Godfrey, founder of Independent Means, the Santa Barbara, California-based company that operates Summer $tock. It also offers Camp $tart-Up, which teaches leadership skills and business concepts, as well as "Who's Behind the Noise," a coed program that focuses on the business side of the music industry.

"I see investment camp as more of a school of self-defense for young investors," says Godfrey. Until the Enron scandal, people didn't question their retirement accounts or company 401(k) plans. "Now it doesn't matter if you are a janitor or a Wall Street broker, you've got to be able to understand your own financial tools and resources in a way that may have been less important 30 years ago," she says.

Investment camps can help teens avoid some of the mistakes of their parents. There is a huge tendency in the United States to spend what we earn. "The financial time reference for most people is two weeks, because that's typically how often they get a paycheck," says Brad Dodson, a lead instructor with YoungBiz Better Investing Camp. In turn, "that's how far ahead they plan their finances. We are teaching kids how to handle their money for the long-term."

Investing in your child's financial future does come at a price. A week at Summer Stock costs $850, five days at YoungBiz Better Investing is $395, and one week at Bentley College's Wall Street 101 in Waltham, Massachusetts, is $650. Placement in investment camps is hard to come by, so apply early. Each year, Summer $tock receives scores of applications as early as Jan. 30. And early applicants have a better chance of getting awarded scholarships to attend camp.

YoungBiz Better Investing, held each summer in Atlanta, Houston, New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Orlando, Florida, and Chicago is open to students ages 12 to 17. The camp is run by YoungBiz, an Atlanta-based organization that develops youth programs, and the National Association of Investors Corp., a Madison Heights, Michigan-based group of investment clubs. Campers are drilled in areas such as money management, stock research, and responsible credit card use. They execute simulated trades and create mock portfolios of their favorite stocks. They also take field trips, play games, and participate in other activities, as well as compete for prizes throughout the five-day camp.

FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE

Although Wall Street 101 continued to espouse its message of long-term investing, the investment camp revised its curriculum in light of this year's corporate scandals and market turmoil. A newly added ethics in finance course taught campers how to sniff out bad business practices. Unchanged were courses on security valuation, portfolio construction, and simulated real-time trading. Wall Street 101 is open to high school juniors and seniors.

Seventeen-year-old Adeyemi Owolewa attended Wall Street 101 this past summer to learn more about the world of business. In addition to learning stock market terminology, he got a real feel for what it was like being on the trading floor. "At the camp, they have a [real-time] trading room," says the Boston Latin High School senior. "We would watch the ticker and up-to-the-second reports. At the end of each session, we broke off into teams to play a Jeopardy-like game, answering questions about the stock market. The team with the most points would get a prize (hat, mug, T-shirt, etc.). They rewarded us for learning." Owolewa says he intends to invest $1,000 he saved up over the summer in addition to $500 given to him by his father. He wants to sit down with a broker to review his options.

Owolewa was among roughly 100 teens who applied for 45 slots at this year's camp. He was awarded a $650 scholarship to attend. Participants are chosen based on an application, letters of recommendation, and a written essay, explains Patrick Gregory, program director and professor of finance at Bentley College. "We are looking for students who have a sincere interest in finance, have some prior knowledge as part of their high school curriculum (e.g., stock market games), or have some trading experience through, for instance, their parents or grandparents (who may have purchased stock or mutual funds in their names)," he says.

While you can buy your children stocks, that alone isn't likely to improve his or her investment knowledge. Financial literacy can be intimidating for adults and kids alike, but it doesn't have to be. Sending your children off to investment camp is an exciting real-life approach to helping them learn how to grow and manage their money.

Investment Business Camps

* YoungBiz Better Investing and Entrepreneurs camps, 888-543-7929; www.youngbiz.com

* Camp Start-Up, Summer Stock, and Who's Behind the Noise, 805-965-0457; www.dollardiva.com

* Wall Street 101, 781-891-2598; www.bentley.edu/camp

* Black Enterprise Teenpreneurs/Kidpreneuers Conference, 800-543-6786; www.blackenterprise.com

* The Enterprise Center Youth Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, 215-895-4000; www.theenterprisecenter.com/forentre/youth/biz_camps.asp

For a directory of summer camps and youth programs throughout the country, check out Kids Camps at www.kidscamps.com
COPYRIGHT 2002 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Author:Brown, Carolyn M.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Words:1298
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