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Whole Foods Makes A Portfolio Whole, 5th Grader Advises, Winning National InvestWrite Competition

11-year-old Neel Moudgal uses capital markets savvy to write award-winning essay, placing first in the nation for the SIFMA Foundation’s Fall 2016 InvestWrite® competition.


Ann Arbor, MI, March 22, 2017 – Researching how companies got started was a great start for Neel Moudgal. The fifth grader, a student at Emerson School, has become a national winner in the SIFMA Foundation’s Fall 2016 InvestWrite® competition #InvestWriteWinnerFall2016. Moudgal has been named the first-place winner in the elementary school division #ElementarySchoolDivision. The program challenges thousands of students across the country to consider an investing scenario and make recommendations that incorporate short- and long-term investment goals.

“Neel Moudgal’s research and analysis earned him the SIFMA Foundation’s ‘InvestWrite Genius’ title this school year,” said Melanie Mortimer, President of the SIFMA Foundation. “We commend Neel and his teacher, Ellen Chenier, for this achievement. Helping students better understand our economy, our markets, the role of investors, and how to make good investments will pay dividends for the students, their education, and the economy.”

InvestWrite serves as a culminating activity for 600,000 4th-12th graders nationwide who compete each year in the SIFMA Foundation’s Stock Market Game™, an online simulation of the global capital markets that reinforces STEM learning, 21st Century skills, economics, investing and personal finance. Since InvestWrite’s inception in 2004, over 200,000 students have submitted essays. Moudgal is among 20,000 students this school year participating in the InvestWrite challenge, which bridges classroom learning in mathematics, social studies, and language arts with the practical research and knowledge required for long-term personal financial planning.

The essay required Moudgal to recommend a business that would make a good long-term investment, describing how the business got its start and has evolved over time. Moudgal focused on Whole Foods, noting that many mutual funds invest in Whole Foods and that it was able to cost-effectively raise capital through a billion-dollar corporate bond issued at 5% interest in November 2015. About his selection of Whole Foods, Moudgal wrote, “I would cautiously recommend adding Whole Foods to your portfolio for the long term. My advice is based on the fact that this company has been in business for over three decades and has grown from a little store in Austin, Texas, to number 181 on the Fortune 500 list.” He added, “they have slowly increased their stock price from a little over $1 per share to $33 per share over the last two decades. The company is putting new products on the shelf all the time.”

InvestWrite enables students like Neel Moudgal to develop the personal financial savvy needed to make practical financial decisions with confidence and gain a deeper understanding of economic opportunities, consequences, and benefits. Students consider real-world events and news, conduct research online, and develop investment recommendations. They work in groups during The Stock Market Game™ program and then write their InvestWrite essays individually to reflect their critical thinking, analysis and creative talents.

Moudgal enjoys learning new things and spends his time on robotics, science, math, reading and writing. He has been a member of the school Writing Club since he was in third grade. He has also earned his black belt in Taekwondo. His teacher, Ellen Chenier, who teaches homeroom with Jennifer Kime, said, “InvestWrite allows students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they gained through participation in the Stock Market Game. The writing competition challenges them to produce high quality, authentic, expository writing.”

Winning InvestWrite essays are chosen through rigorous judging by thousands of teachers and industry professionals who evaluate students’ understanding of long-term investing, diversification, the global capital markets, and factors that drive investments as well as their expression of investment ideas in essay form.




Winning Essay by Neel Moudgal: The Whole Story of Whole Foods

You may think of Whole Foods as the large grocery store next door selling organic produce. You may think of it as a large building that is blocking your view of the park. You may think of it as the store that sells the best food possible. In reality, Whole Foods started out as a small partnership.

In 1978, 25-year-old John Mackey and 21-year-old Rene Lawson Hardy borrowed money from their family and friends to open a business named SaferWay in Austin, Texas, which eventually became the entity known as Whole Foods. SaferWay began as a natural food store selling organic produce. Organic produce is produce that is grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Shortly after opening SaferWay, Mackey and Hardy were evicted from their apartment for using the apartment storage for store supplies. The couple made the decision to move into their store. Since the store was zoned commercial, there was no shower. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, the couple used the Hobart dishwasher with an attached water hose to bathe themselves.

SaferWay was a success! On September 20, 1980, SaferWay merged with another natural foods business called Clarksville Natural Groceries and created Whole Foods, an organic supermarket in Austin, Texas with only 19 employees.

At the time, there were less than six natural produce supermarkets in the US. In fact, Whole Foods was the first certified organic grocer in the US. The store specialized in products that didn’t contain artificial preservatives, colors, flavors etc. The mission of Whole Foods is to sell the highest quality natural and organic products available. Their core values include supporting local and global communities, practicing environmental stewardship and promoting the health of communities through healthy eating education.

In 1984, the company expanded throughout North America and the UK by building new stores and buying other stores that sell natural produce. In 1992, Whole Foods became a corporation. Currently, there are 462 stores in North America and the UK. Whole foods is ranked number 181 on the Fortune 500 list. This means that Whole Foods is the 181st largest company in the USA.

Companies issue bonds to get capital. One of the advantages of issuing bonds is that the interest rate paid by the company to the bondholder is lower than the interest rate charged by the bank. The other advantage is that the company can raise capital without reducing the unit price of the stock. On November 10, 2015, Whole Foods issued one billion dollars’ worth of 10-year bonds with an interest rate of about five percent.

A mutual fund is a collection of stocks and bonds made into a single entity. One of the advantages of a mutual fund is that when the value of one stock goes down, the rest of the stocks and bonds that the fund consists of will keep the value of the mutual fund up. The other advantage of mutual funds is that they are not very expensive. The one thing to remember when buying mutual funds is to get the ones that have a reasonable number of both stocks and bonds. Whole Foods’ stocks are included in multiple mutual funds. Some examples of mutual funds that include Whole Foods’ stocks are Tarkio Fund, Goldman Sachs Dynamic US Equity Instl Fund, and HCM Dividend Sector Plus A1 Fund.

When looking at Whole Foods’ outlook, I could identify their strengths and weaknesses. I determined that their strengths include the sale of high quality products and brand recognition. Their major problem is that product prices are too high and the customers’ impression is that they are not getting a reasonable value for what they pay. Competition is the other problem they face. Regular grocery stores are starting to sell organic food at a lower price. Whole Foods’ strategy to address these problems include creating a new brand called 365 which is a less expensive Whole Food branded product. In fact, they are opening stores that sell just the 365 products. What is not clear is if this strategy will work.

After careful consideration, I have concluded that I would cautiously recommend adding Whole Foods to your portfolio for the long term. My advice is based on the fact that this company has been in business for over three decades and has grown from a little store in Austin, Texas, to number 181 on the Fortune 500 list. They have slowly increased their stock price from a little over $1 per share to $33 per share over the last two decades. The company is putting new products on the shelf all the time. However, their ability to face the challenges I have explained will determine long term success.

About the SIFMA Foundation for Investor Education The SIFMA Foundation is dedicated to fostering knowledge and understanding of the financial markets for individuals of all backgrounds, with a focus on youth. Drawing on the support and expertise of the financial industry, the SIFMA Foundation provides financial education programs and tools that strengthen economic opportunities across communities and increase individuals’ access to the benefits of the global marketplace. Notable Foundation programs include the Stock Market Game, which has served 16 million students since it began in 1977, the InvestWrite national essay competition, www.investwrite.org, the Capitol Hill Challenge, and Invest It Forward. For more information on the work of the SIFMA Foundation, visit www.sifma.org/foundation.

About SIFMA

SIFMA is the voice of the U.S. securities industry. We represent the broker-dealers, banks and asset managers whose nearly 1 million employees provide access to the capital markets, raising over $2.5 trillion for businesses and municipalities in the U.S., serving clients with over $18.5 trillion in assets and managing more than $67 trillion in assets for individual and institutional clients including mutual funds and retirement plans. SIFMA, with offices in New York and Washington, D.C., is the U.S. regional member of the Global Financial Markets Association (GFMA). For more information, visit www.sifma.org.

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