A group of sixth-grade math students from Fargo's Oak Grove Lutheran School are making headlines for achieving something quite extraordinary - Generating better portfolio investment returns than students from some of the country's most prestigious universities.
It all began when the youngsters were paid a visit by Ross Almlie, a local Investment Advisor who explained to them the basics of investing in shares of public companies and also, introduced them to Motif Investing, a company that allows customers to create and purchase custom baskets of stocks with as little as $250 USD. The Motif platform then tracks the performance of the entire group of stocks or portfolio, so that investors know exactly how they are doing, at any given time.
The class of thirteen students was so intrigued that their math teacher Dave Carlson, who had invited the guest speaker, decided to allow them to create their own 'motif' which they dubbed 'Carlsons Math Minions'. Each student was allowed to pick his/her favorite stock that was hypothetically invested for about five months - From September 16th - February 28th, 2014.
Unknown to the class, around the same time, Motif Investing had also launched a competition for universities all around the USA to create mock motifs of their favorite stocks, the winner of which, would receive $5,000 USD.
Not surprisingly, the competition, which was held from November 1st to February 28th, 2014, attracted investment clubs from many prestigious universities. University of Virginia's Mcintire Investment Institute took home the cash prize with an impressive portfolio return of 18.5%. However, while they outperformed all the other universities, they were unable to outdo Carlson's Math Minions, whose portfolio picks returned a whopping 21.6%. The founder of Motif Investing, Hardeep Walia, was so impressed that he made a special trip to Fargo to congratulate the young students in person.
So how were these young kids who have no idea how to perform complicated financial analysis able to come up with such great investment ideas? By looking for companies that had good track records and then using the knowledge they had about them, to make their investment decisions.
Carlson minion, Eloise Baker, chose athletic apparel maker, Under Armour as her pick, because she loves their clothing and thought that like her, many kids and adults would want those under the Christmas tree. In addition, she figured that seeing their favorite athletes wearing the company's apparel during the Winter Olympics would also help increase sales. Her thesis proved to be right and the stock ended up being amongst the best performers in the Carlson motif. Other stocks that did well were those of popular companies like Facebook, Amazon, Priceline and Google Inc. What's even more heartening is that while the kids are thrilled at their newly-found fame and investment genius status, many are attributing it all to 'pure luck'.
STOCK INVESTING 101
For those of you that know little about stocks and how the investment process works, here is a little tutorial. In order for companies to keep growing, they need money. They can either get it from their local bank through a conventional loan or sell a portion of the company to the public. This means that everyone that wants to own part of the company can do so, by buying some shares, each of which represents a claim on the company's assets and earnings.
Once the shares are sold, the price fluctuates depending on how well or badly the company is doing financially. If it continues to grow and remain profitable, the company's value increases as does the price of its shares. However, if for some reason the business is not as solid as everyone had first believed, than the stock price could go down to even zero, leaving the investor with nothing more than the paper the stock certificate is printed on. And since no one has a crystal ball on what is going to happen to any one company, investors often hedge their bets by buying a collection or 'portfolio' of shares in disparate companies. This way, they have a better chance of not losing all their money if one company goes bankrupt and maybe even making a lot more if most, as seemed to be case with 'Carlson's Math Minions', do well!