Learning the market at an early age

Somewhere inside the computer room at Wilton Library is the new Warren Buffet.

OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but a junior version of Mr. Buffett, playing with pretend money, might be sitting in the room.

Students in grades seven through 12 are playing the Stock Market Game, a simulated market game played online at stockmarketgame.org. They come to the library every Monday afternoon for nine weeks to review and build their portfolio.

Working in teams of two or more, they are given $100,000 to build a portfolio. Students can buy stocks, mutual funds, and more. They can also trade socks and mutual funds.

Tracey Morgan, the assistant teen librarian at Wilton Library, serves as the instructor for the program. Ms. Morgan is a former senior trader of foreign exchange derivatives.

“I traded for about 10 years. I was a market maker on the floor — the people who wear the jackets and scream,” she said. “I retired when I had kids. When I started working in the teen area, they asked me to teach this course.”

Ms. Morgan said she tries to keep the information simple for the students, many of whom are getting their first taste of big business and stocks. She said she, and the class, are learning as they go along.

At the same time, she laughed about the variety of students in the room, which stretch from those who want to learn about bonds, to those who don’t know the first thing about stocks.

“The whole point is to get through the learning phase,” she said. “Soon they’ll be asking what happened in the market, studying the newspapers, and wondering what happened to their stocks.”

The game produces winners, as portfolios are reviewed and judged based on the equity. Students in Wilton can compete against those throughout Connecticut.

“Most of them have it as an everyday part of their curriculum,” she said. “I’m trying to squeeze all this stuff into once a week. Most kids are getting it for an hour a day per semester.”

Ms. Morgan keeps it light and fun in the classroom, occasionally tossing chocolate candies to the class. A large TV screens CNBC, and students huddle around their computer monitors, discussing what transactions they want to make. Some look to tech stocks, such as Samsung, while other glance to see what shoe manufacturer Steve Madden is up to.

Stocks such as Google and Facebook are also talked about among the young traders, but ultimately aren’t deemed the best purchases, given factors such as cost or performance.

“Think about it,” Ms. Morgan said. “How is this world affecting my stock, or my portfolio?”

“I like your way of thinking,” she said to a student.

Asked what made students want to get involved, most gave the same answer.

“Well, my mom signed me up,” Holden Converse said.

“I did it because I want to get really rich,” George Murphy said.

“I thought it might be interesting, because I don’t know much about stocks,” Emma Likly added.

“You guys, buy a ton of stocks,” Ms. Morgan said. “Buy them up. You can’t win if you don’t take any risks.

The game is a program of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), and is presented locally by the Connecticut Council on Economic Education. The association said the idea behind the game is to encourage students to play the game, with the hope that they’re also learning the market and, more importantly, picking up economic and financial concepts that will help them in their careers and lives.