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Yearning to learn: Miami youth put stock-picking skills to the test.

When Better Investing trustee Ann McNeill showed up last summer at the organization's annual conference with more than 50 young people in tow, she put her youth club on center stage by the sheer strength of its numbers.

Formerly the National Association of Investors, Better Investing (betterincesting.org) is a national trade group of more than 200,000 individuals; it also publishes Better Investing magazine. McNeill, founder of an investment ministry at New Birth Baptist Church in Miami, started the youth club about a year ago with five young people, ages 8-17.

Today the club, Unlimited Investors, has 25 members who meet every Tuesday for an hour and every other Saturday morning for two hours. Members meet to read articles, study stocks, and research investments. In fact, 12 members are active investors.

Unlimited is considered a "traveling club," which means there is no legal partnership agreement. Common stock purchases are made through individuals (via custodial accounts). The group focuses on education: members learn how to analyze and then buy stock; the average purchase price is $50 a share, McNeill says.

"We try to focus them on taking a 'hot tip', like Burger King, and analyzing the company," to see if it's really a good buy, she says. After researching and following Burger King's IPO, members were hot on the stock, which now represents about 50% of their holdings; other top favorites owned include AFLAC, Wendy's, and Kellogg's. Collectively the youth club members' holdings are valued at a little less than $1,500, with about 35 shares in six companies.

Samantha Thomas, a 13-year-old club member, began investing at age 11. In addition to owning stock valued at $225, she has $500 in personal savings. The middle school student looks up companies using stock selection and performance materials created by Better Investing. She also plans to participate in the organization's dividend reinvestment program as an inexpensive way to purchase shares.

Recently Thomas researched Home Depot's stock and, despite her age, her analysis sounds right on: "It's an OK company, but I wouldn't buy it. It's up and down. If you compare it to Lowe's, it's not that good. That one keeps going up."

Unlimited Investors enjoys a modest 5% total return overall. The potential to lose money "is a reality when you invest, but we try to encourage them to buy stock with a good track record [for the long haul]," says McNeill. She points out that consistency is key; explaining that the members need to learn the power of small amounts saved, invested, and capitalized over time.

Unlimited Investors members say they have learned a lot about the value of money and about the basics of researching and investing. The main lesson is grasping the importance of getting an early start on building wealth.

High school senior Mark Russell, 17, resisted the idea at first. "Originally, my morn would go to entrepreneurship classes [at New Birth Church]. But I wanted to hang out with my friends. I was like, 'I'm going because my mom's making me.' But then when I learned about how to make your money work for you and not you work for it, I [was hooked].
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Title Annotation:INVESTMENT CLUBHOUSE
Author:Sabir, Nadirah
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Words:529
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