By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Tremendous return
Monroe ninth-graders Dan Baker, left, and McKenzy Foley recently took first place in a statewide virtual stock market game beating out 1,269 other teams. Their prize was an all-expenses-paid trip last week to New York City, funded by Economics Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization that encourages financial literacy. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - A team of two ninth-graders at Monroe High School beat out 1,269 other teams across the state this spring in a virtual stock market game by earning more than 37 percent return on a hypothetical $100,000 investment.

The achievement won Dan Baker and McKenzy Foley first place in the statewide contest. Their prize was an all-expenses-paid trip last week to rub shoulders with hot-shot investors at the New York Stock Exchange.

Big deal.

What their fellow students really wanted to know upon their return to class Monday was, how early did they have to wake up?

At 3:45 a.m. last Wednesday, to catch a flight from Milwaukee to LaGuardia, their teacher Sherri Hendrickson said. The 48 hours that followed were a blur of excitement.

At the airport, "We got picked up by an Escalade," said Baker, 15.

The driver assured them he hadn't gotten into an accident in 16 years of driving cab, but the ride to the hotel, the Westin at Grand Central Station, still felt "like we were in Grand Theft Auto," said Hendrickson. She chaperoned them on the trip along with Social Studies teacher Jim Tostrud.

They ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, took in a Blue Man Group performance, got tours at the 9/11 Memorial and shopped for souvenirs.

The highlight came Friday morning with a trip to the New York Stock Exchange, where they witnessed the bell ceremony at the opening of the trading day.

The prize trip and contest were funded by Economics Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization that encourages financial literacy and education in free-market economics. Economics Wisconsin board member Chuck Revie accompanied them on the trip, as did Rick Rieder, assistant vice president at Madison investment firm Robert W. Baird.

The trip hasn't inspired Baker or Foley to pursue careers on Wall Street. But they both want to start investing soon, using real money.

"I'm thinking about it," said Foley, who turns 15 next week. "Maybe 100 dollars, see how it goes."

They both have the income to start investing. Baker works part-time at Baumgartner's. Foley helps out at his parents business, T & B's Performance and Machine, which makes engines for race cars.

At the start the virtual stock market game in early February, Baker and Foley had $100,000. Ten weeks later, on April 12, they had $137,097.83, narrowly beating out teams from Dodgeville High School and Brookfield Academy middle school. The top ten teams will be honored at a banquet in Johnson Creek this Wednesday, May 22.

Baker and Foley attribute their win to diligently watching the ebb and flow of graphs at Yahoo! Finance and staying away from popular stocks. Their mantra is "buy low, sell high."

"We're graph people," Baker said. "I even put an app on my phone."

The game was an activity in their Personal Finance class, taught by Hendrickson. It is one of three choices students have for fulfilling a financial literacy requirement to graduate. Students in the class participated in teams of two to four people.

Baker and Foley did so well because they took the game seriously and monitored their account closely, Hendrickson said. She stresses that the game, while educational, doesn't mirror real life since it requires extremely high-risk investing. Still, it's a tool to teach personal responsibility when it comes to finances.

"We talk a lot about the fact that most of us will be longterm investors," she said. "A lot of people have come to recognize, with the bad economy, they should know more. The days of pensions are gone."

She's encouraging Baker, Foley and others in the class to join the school's Investment Club, which invests with real money and donates the profits to charity. Most recently the club donated earnings to Rainbow Childcare in Monroe and to the high school's engineering program to buy ink for a 3-D printer.

Even if pensions aren't a sure thing in their future, Baker and Foley are sure about New York City. Fun place to visit, but they won't be moving there to live anytime soon.

"No thanks," Baker said emphatically.

"No. I like being outside," Foley said.