For Michael Carter, Mazi Woolery, Evan Jackson and Timia Hyman, trips to Home Depot, Target and Timberland mean more than a shopping spree or a Saturday afternoon hangin' at the mall. These high schoolers have a vested interest in those popular retailers. "Walmart was the first stock we looked at because everyone shops at Wal-mart," explains Michael, 17 and a senior at Jackson Memorial High School. "We checked it out and found the numbers weren't doing as well as they could be. As we were looking we found the numbers at Home Depot rising. It took us about four weeks before we bought 10 shares of our first stock."
That was three years ago. Since then, Michael, Mazi, Evan, Timia and a handful of other youths, ages 2 to 17, have added Timberland and Target to their portfolio and are on the path to becoming skilled investors through their investment club, Investments R Us. "I knew about stocks and that you could make or lose money from them by investing in them because I used to go to my dad's investment club with him when I was 8," explains Evan, 16 and a junior at Lakewood High School. "In our investment club I've learned how to research stocks and do the actual buying. We use a TD Waterhouse program to look at how analysts rate the stocks."
Twice a month Investments R Us members and their families, led by parents Brenda Carter and Wayne Brown, meet in the computer labs at Ocean County College in Toms River to research new stocks for their investment portfolio. Members are assigned different companies to analyze and must give a presentation to their co-clubbies in favor of or against adding their stocks to the group's investments. Mazi, 14 and a freshman at Central Regional High School in Bayville, was in charge of researching Timberland, a stock that most of the members of the group, especially the adults, didn't want to buy. But Mazi made a compelling argument that persuaded the majority vote. "Since everyone wears Timberlands, we just picked it and bought it," explains Mazi, who, with the help of his father, Vincent, analyzed Timberland's five-year statistical chart and checked for any insider trading. "It has ended up doing better than the other companies we picked."
Through the downturn in the stock market, agrees Wayne Brown, Timberland's stock price has risen, while the other two have dropped. It has been a valuable investing lesson. "We've learned how stocks will grow over time," explains Michael. "You shouldn't look at a company doing bad right now as doing bad. Think of it as a resting period for it." That philosophy of buy and hold, known as long-term investing, has helped the group's portfolio to grow to a value of several thousand dollars.
Investments R Us members are happy to see their monthly $10 investments pay off, as most intend to put their investment club returns toward paying for their college educations. They all have high aspirations. Michael plans to attend Morehouse University in Atlanta and start his own urban fashion retail store with the help of sister, Shaniqua, currently a graduate student at Fordham University. Mazi wants to get into Duke University's medical program to prepare for a career as a neurosurgeon. Evan is on track to study computer science at Pace University, and Timia, 16 and a junior at Jackson Memorial High, hopes to attend Princeton University and ultimately become CEO of her own law firm. "I'm a good debater," says Timia. No argument here.