- Hannah Brawley of Vestavia Hills High School, Vestavia Hills, AL wins national distinction in the SIFMA Foundation’s InvestWrite® essay competition with McGraw Hill Financial.
- InvestWrite, made possible in 2013 and 2014 by McGraw Hill Financial, challenges 4th - 12th graders to analyze investments and recommend portfolio allocations targeting financial goals.
- Hannah Brawley is among 20,000 students nationwide who take the InvestWrite challenge each year, developing the personal financial savvy needed to make real-world financial decisions.
- Brawley and teacher Jane Schaefer will be recognized at an event at Vestavia Hills High School on February 18, 2014. It will be attended by students, faculty and representatives of the SIFMA Foundation and the Alabama Council on Economic Education.
Vestavia Hills, AL, February 18, 2014 – It takes years to build up the financial savvy to navigate the markets. But Hannah Brawley is decades ahead of the game. She just won distinction as the first place national winner in the SIFMA Foundation’s InvestWrite® essay competition with McGraw Hill Financial. Brawley, a senior at Vestavia Hills High School, Vestavia Hills, AL claims this recognition in the high school division in the Fall 2013 competition.
The SIFMA Foundation's InvestWrite competition, launched in 2004 is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The program, made possible in 2013 and 2014 by McGraw Hill Financial, challenges 4th - 12th grade students to analyze an investment scenario and recommend portfolio allocations targeting short- and long-term financial goals. The competition serves as a culminating activity for nearly 600,000 students nationwide who compete in The Stock Market Game™ program each year.
InvestWrite invites students to develop the personal financial savvy needed to make real-world financial decisions with confidence and a deeper understanding of opportunities, consequences, and benefits. Students consider real-world economic events and trends, conduct research online, develop investment recommendations and, in the process, gain the skills to prepare for their own financial future. They work in groups during the Stock Market Game program but then write essays individually about their experience. Brawley is one of 20,000 students across the nation who take the InvestWrite challenge each year.
In her essay, Brawley described the extensive research she did to develop a 10 year plan and to set goals to save and invest to purchase her first home. She discussed risk and return and incorporated a discussion about choosing investments with an eye toward minimizing the personal time it would require to manage her portfolio effectively. Brawley researched index funds and also became interested in socially responsible funds. “To combine social responsibility with index investing, I chose the Vanguard FTSE Social Index VFTSX mutual fund based on research from the website Morningstar.com. Vanguard FTSE Social Index VFTSX tracks the FTSE4Good U.S. Select Index, which excludes firms with unfair or unsafe labor practices, poor environmental records, or firms that produce alcoholic-beverages and tobacco products. The Morningstar website also shows that year-to-date the fund has outperformed the S&P 500 Index with a return of 33.64%. The fund's five-year rate of return is 20.08%.”
The Fall 2013 winning InvestWrite essay composed by Brawley was chosen through rigorous judging by thousands of teachers and industry professionals who evaluate students’ understanding of asset allocation, the stock market, and factors that drive investments as well as their expression of investment ideas in essay form. Brawley and her teacher, Jane Schaefer, will both be invited to New York City for a “Wall Street Experience” that includes tours of financial landmarks and a chance to visit the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
"Teaching students at a very young age the basics of finance and the stock market is essential to their broad education and to being well-informed investors later in life,” said Douglas L. Peterson, President and Chief Executive Officer of McGraw Hill Financial. “As financial markets become more complex and more global, investors of all ages can benefit from learning how to save, spend and earn money wisely—what we call ‘financial essentials.’ We are delighted to support the SIFMA Foundation and congratulate Hannah on this achievement.”
“SIFMA Foundation’s Stock Market Game and InvestWrite are transformative programs that prepare students like Hannah for college, career and life,” said Melanie Mortimer, Executive Director of the SIFMA Foundation. “Our students do measurably better on math, economics and personal finance tests. They also learn to work in teams, manage change, monitor and analyze the impact of global business and economic activity, and become smart consumers. We are proud to partner with McGraw Hill Financial and applaud their longstanding commitment to providing young people a better understanding of the capital markets and a better future.”
The SIFMA Foundation’s InvestWrite competition bridges classroom learning in mathematics, social studies, language arts, business and economics with the practical research and knowledge required for long-term personal financial planning. Students are, in fact, building on what they have learned through their participation in the Stock Market Game, which has reached more than 15 million students since its inception in 1977.
An independent study by Learning Point Associates found that students who participated in the Stock Market Game scored significantly higher on mathematics and financial literacy tests than their peers who did not participate. They also found that teachers who taught the Stock Market Game reported that the program motivated them to better plan for their own financial futures. The Stock Market Game has been named the only program that successfully increased scores on the Jumpstart Coalition’s test of high school students’ financial literacy. The Spring 2014 InvestWrite program is open to teachers and students registered in the Stock Market Game. The session is currently underway and runs through April 23, 2014. Teachers can find the essay questions and information they need to participate at www.investwrite.org.
The SIFMA Foundation’s Stock Market Game and InvestWrite programs are delivered in Alabama by the Alabama Council on Economic Education. Brawley is currently president of the Spanish Club at Vestavia Hills High School and her hobby is photography. Schaefer teaches AP Economics and Government and Politics. She has been teaching the Stock Market Game in her classrooms for many years and participated in InvestWrite for the past six years.
Brawley and Schaefer, along with three other nationally ranked InvestWrite students, will be recognized at an event at Vestavia Hills High School on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 10:15 AM CT.
Text of Hannah Brawley’s Winning Essay: 10-Year Investment Plan
I established an investment goal of $20,000 in 10 years to fund the down-payment for my first house. I chose this as my primary investment goal because it is something I know I want to do, and I am more likely to achieve this goal if I start planning now. As an investment novice, I first researched the basics of investing to achieve my goal. I did the initial research using Yahoo Finance. This gave me a basic understanding of investment options and strategies. The first thing I learned was investments that offer the highest potential return also generally have the highest risk; therefore, my first decision was to determine my tolerance for risk. Because I am young and have time to recover from investment losses, I am willing to accept a higher risk now than if I was someone close to retirement. I decided that stocks offered the best return for the level of risk that I am willing to accept.
The next decision that I needed to make was how much time I am willing to devote to managing investments. Since I am not a professional investor and expect to have other educational and career demands on my time, I wanted to minimize my direct involvement in picking individual stocks. Mutual funds allow me to invest in stocks without researching individual companies. I could restrict my research to the initial choice of one or more mutual funds and then periodically review their actual performance. I learned that various mutual funds offer a range of risk allowing me to pick one that meets my own level of tolerance.
Although I wanted to minimize the need to research every stock in my portfolio, I still wanted the ability to choose a few individual stocks. I also recognized that I might need the ability to use my invested money in the event of an emergency; therefore, I chose the following mixture for my investments. I would allocate 70% of my invested money to mutual funds, 20% to individual stocks, and 10 % to a money market account for emergencies.
The article “How to Choose Mutual Funds Like a Professional” on the Yahoo Finance website helped me learn more about finding the right mutual funds. The article raised an important consideration for me – socially responsible investing. I realized that I wanted to be sure that the mutual funds that I chose did not invest in companies that damaged the environment or victimized workers. Because the process of choosing a mutual fund is complex and time-consuming, I decided to start with a single fund until I have more experience. In the article “How to Choose a Mutual Fund” on the The Motley Fool website, Bill Barker makes a strong case for choosing an index fund over an actively managed fund. Another article on The Motley Fool website states that “most actively managed stock mutual funds have underperformed the S&P 500 Index, the most popular and prominent benchmark for index funds.” The Forbes online article “Lies About Index Funds” by Rick Ferri makes a similar case for the wisdom of index funds. I was persuaded by these articles to avoid the higher fees associated with actively managed funds by choosing an index stock mutual fund.
To combine social responsibility with index investing, I chose the Vanguard FTSE Social Index VFTSX mutual fund based on research from the website Morningstar.com. Vanguard FTSE Social Index VFTSX tracks the FTSE4Good U.S. Select Index, which excludes firms with unfair or unsafe labor practices, poor environmental records, or firms that produce alcoholic-beverages and tobacco products. The Morningstar website also shows that year-to-date the fund has outperformed the S&P 500 Index with a return of 33.64%. The fund's five-year rate of return is 20.08%.
After significant research, I decided to initially include only one stock in my portfolio of personally managed stocks with the plan to add more as both my experience and my invested funds increase. My initial choice, UPS, was based on research and personal knowledge. Yahoo Finance lists UPS trading at 102.38 per share - up from 72.71 per share one year ago. UPS has outperformed the S&P 500 year-to-date and has a P/E of 67.00 and EPS of 1.53. 7 The CNN website projects UPS will have 5-year earnings growth of 11%. 8 Rich Smith reports in “5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About UPS” 9 on The Motley Fool website that in addition to delivering more than 4 billion packages a year, UPS is engaged in green initiatives and pays the highest wages in its industry. This supports my goal of socially responsible investing.
In addition to independent research, I also based my decision to make UPS my sole initial choice for my self-managed portfolio on knowledge learned from my father's employment with the company. I know that almost all managers at UPS own UPS stock. I believe this gives them motivation to manage the company well.
I used research from many sources including Yahoo Finance, The Motley Fool, Forbes, Morning Star, and CNN to plan a portfolio with seventy percent of the funds invested in the Vanguard FTSE Social Index VFTSX mutual fund, 20% percent invested in UPS stock, and the remaining 10% in a money market account. I believe this portfolio will allow me to ethically achieve my goal of $20,000 in 10 years while maintaining an acceptable level of risk.