New York, NY, September 20, 2021 – We could all learn something from 18-year-old Mike Zvon. The extraordinary 12th-grader from Ridgefield, Connecticut has charted his life goals and developed an investment strategy to fund them. Moreover, Zvon developed his plan in the months that a pandemic created unprecedented challenges for his family and school life. For his brilliance and hard work, Zvon cinched an exhilarating win in the SIFMA Foundation’s Spring 2021 InvestWrite competition.
Beating out thousands of other students around the country competing in the high school division, Zvon, who attends Ridgefield High School, researched and composed an impressive short-term and long-term financial plan and now he is being recognized nationally.
SIFMA Foundation’s InvestWrite national essay competition bridges classroom learning in math, social studies, and language arts with the practical research and knowledge required for saving, investing and long-term planning. It also serves as a culminating activity for The Stock Market Game™ a highly effective in-person, remote learning and hybrid educational tool in which students invest and manage a hypothetical $100,000 online portfolio of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and cash.
“SIFMA Foundation’s programs provide youth of all backgrounds and especially in underserved communities the knowledge and tools for financial independence,” said Melanie Mortimer, President of the SIFMA Foundation. “We equip teachers to bring investor education into classrooms and prepare young people early in life to navigate the capital markets and financial decision-making. To date, we’ve transformed the lives of 20 million students like Mike through learning that is practical and fun.”
The Spring 2021 InvestWrite competition challenged students to write an essay about what is important for their future. They did research to determine how they would invest in the short run and in the long term to benefit themselves and others and how stocks, bonds or mutual funds can be combined to create a successful diversified portfolio.
Zvon developed a plan that would have an impact today and into the future and wowed the team of judges with his essay.
Mike Zvon and his teacher, Jesse Peterkin, were honored by SIFMA Foundation President Melanie Mortimer during a surprise virtual presentation over the summer.
Winning Essay by Mike Zvon
Creating financial goals is an imperative step in being financially successful in the short term and long term. That is why I have specific short-term goals: creating an emergency fund, paying monthly expenses, and saving money for college. My long-term goals consist of a retirement fund, saving for a house, and ultimately financial security. I learned in Personal Finance that saving for an emergency fund is essential. In case of a costly event, there need to be funds available to pay for the damages. Having enough money to pay for monthly expenses is important, therefore I do not have to worry about overdraft fees or have to withdraw money from my Roth-IRA and face a tax penalty. Having these goals will not only benefit me but others as well. I will benefit from knowing that I will always be financially stable. This also benefits others around me, because I plan on donating to charity and supporting my family in the future.
If I had a $100,000 stock market game portfolio I would structure it in a precise way. First, I would set aside $5,000 for an emergency fund. The $5,000 will go into 10-year treasury note bonds. Bonds are liquid assets, therefore in case of an emergency, I would be able to access the money fairly quickly. Bonds are often less risky than mutual funds and stocks. The benefit of having bonds is that they incur interest, unlike cash.
I would then put $35,000 towards a short-term strategy. I am fortunate my parents will help pay for college, but they want to teach me financial responsibility and expect me to contribute. I want a strategy that is safe but has strong potential upside. I would then put 80% of that $35,000 into mutual funds. There are certain mutual funds that have outperformed the S&P 500 over the past 10 years. One mutual fund I would invest in is the Morgan Stanley Insight I, which has a 10-year average annual return of 24% compared to the 14% of the S&P 500. I find the fund appealing not just because of its past performance, but its investment approach towards emerging companies, and focus on fundamental analysis.
I would then put the other 20% of the $35,000 into stocks. I am willing to have 20% of my short-term portfolio in a riskier investment. Stocks are more volatile than mutual funds and bonds, but the type of stock that I pick matters. Beta measures a stock’s volatility in relation to the market as a whole. If a stock has a beta over 1 that means that it is more volatile than the market, below 1 means that it is less volatile than the market. Semiconductors are a necessary part of the economy. Joe Biden in his infrastructure plan has allocated $50 billion towards semiconductor companies. Currently, the US is seeing a chip shortage because chip manufacturers scaled back production during the pandemic, and then saw a huge upswing in demand and currently do not have the supply to fulfill demand. Consequently, chip prices have been increasing and becoming extremely profitable. Micron is a memory chip manufacturer. Its five-year beta is 1.29, which implies that the stock is more volatile than the market but is not as volatile as other stocks like Tesla that contains a 5-year beta of 2.01. The company’s earnings are also going to grow 60% per annum over the next 5 years. Micron is a company that stands to benefit from this chip shortage and that is why I would have it in my short-term portfolio. In summation, I would set aside $35,000 geared towards a short-term investment strategy. $28,000 of that will go towards mutual funds and the other $7,000 would go towards stocks that are in the technology sector like Micron.
For the last $60,000 in my portfolio, it will be geared towards long-term strategy. My main financial goal is a retirement fund. My strategy for the long-term is to gain compound interest. One of the best ways to incur compound interest is ETF investing. An ETF has lower fees than a mutual fund, and most mutual funds do not outperform the market. There are all sorts of ETFs and some of them like leveraged ETFs are not an appropriate long-term investment. They are far too risky and large compound losses can destroy a long-term portfolio. That is why I would put the full $60,000 into the S&P 500 (SPY ETF). The most important rule in investing is to invest in what you know. Over the past 10 years, the average annual return of the S&P 500 is 13.88%. The S&P 500 does not have a manager trading the stocks as a mutual fund does. Stocks are simply listed and delisted from the S&P 500, which contains 500 large-cap US companies. Compound interest is a powerful benefit of a long-term strategy. The 13.88% has been over a 10-year bull market which may be unrealistic. I ran the calculations with a 10% per year return, which would result in nearly $5,300,000 after 47 years--a colossal gain from a mere $60,000 investment. This strategy does not consist of trading stocks or worrying about money managers outperforming the market. Instead, I am putting the money in the market and letting it gain interest on interest.
My plan is set up for me to obtain my short-term and long-term goals. It is paramount for me to manage risk while investing. My strategy enables me to manage short-term risk, as well as allowing me to become financially stable in the long run. My financial plan grants me the ability to help others through charitable giving and while at the same time ensures that I reach my financial goals.
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 involvement and expertise of educators and 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 enabled more than 20 million students to become financially prepared for life, the InvestWrite® national essay competition, the Capitol Hill Challenge™, and Invest It Forward®. For more information on the work of the SIFMA Foundation, visit www.sifma.org/foundation.
InvestWrite® is a culminating activity for Stock Market Game students extending their classroom learning with a written challenge to address real-world financial issues and situations. Students must analyze, think critically and problem solve about a long-term saving and investing scenario. Nearly 250,000 student essays have been evaluated by their teachers and over 40,000 financial professionals have served as volunteer judges. Essays are judged by financial professionals who volunteer their time each year to ensure young people are exposed to the essentials of personal finance early in life. Judges 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. Winners locally and nationally rise to the top to earn exciting awards and prizes including laptops, classroom pizza parties, trophies, plaques and banners, and certificates. For more information about InvestWrite®, visit www.investwrite.org.
SIFMA is the leading trade association for broker-dealers, investment banks and asset managers operating in the U.S. and global capital markets. On behalf of our industry’s nearly 1 million employees, we advocate on legislation, regulation and business policy, affecting retail and institutional investors, equity and fixed income markets and related products and services. We serve as an industry coordinating body to promote fair and orderly markets, informed regulatory compliance, and efficient market operations and resiliency. We also provide a forum for industry policy and professional development. 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.