Finance Camps For Kids

Summer programs encourage young people to safeguard their financial future through money management

To the average kid, summertime means no school, vacation getaways, and camp. BUT there are groups of young people who are actually getting schooled during the summer, and they are having a ball. Welcome to “investment camp,” where young people learn to recognize stock market trends, invest in steady growth companies, evaluate mutual funds, minimize and recognize risks, and build a balanced and diversified portfolio.

Acquania Gibbs of Clarkston, Georgia, says her curiosity was piqued when she received an e-mail newsletter from Dollar Divas (www.dollardiva.com), a Website for young women, highlighting a financial camp for girls ages 13 to 21 called Summer $tock. Because the camp is somewhat pricey at $850, Gibbs applied for a scholarship based on financial need. “I had to write an essay telling about myself and prior experience or lack thereof,” says Gibbs, who was awarded $650 (leaving her $200 to pay out of pocket).

Some 26 other girls joined Gibbs this past summer at the camp, held on the campus of Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. “I really liked the format of the program. We attended workshops as a group, we ate meals and lived together in a dorm-like fashion, and we did interactive games to make the learning fun,” says the 19-year-old sophomore at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Gibbs decided to attend Summer $tock in part to better understand her Roth IRA, which she opened at age 16. She currently has $1,000 in her account and plans to add $1,000 by year-end. Taking her Christmas gift money and pay she earns from work-study, Gibbs plans to invest in some of the companies she researched at camp, including Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG), Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS), Pier 1 (NYSE: PIR), and Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV).

“I will forever be thankful to Summer $tock for teaching me how to read the financial pages of newspapers and research stocks,” says Gibbs. “I know now to look at more than the trading price. I know to look at the P/E ratio and a company’s history, using resources like The Value Line Investment Survey.”

There are some 40 camps around the country that teach students how to invest or even start a business. Such camps are vital given that financial literacy among young people is on the decline–down to 41.6% in 2002 from 47.4% in 1997, according to nationwide surveys of high school seniors conducted by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. While most young people know very little about saving, investing, and handling personal finances, the number of students who own mutual funds or stocks rose 33.4% in 2002, reports Jump$tart.

ARE CAMPS WORTH IT?
If you are wondering if investment camps are worth it, the answer is yes, says Joline Godfrey, founder of Independent Means, the Santa Barbara, California-based company that operates Summer $tock. It also offers Camp $tart-Up, which teaches leadership skills and business concepts, as well as “Who’s Behind the Noise,” a coed program that focuses on the business side of the music industry.

“I see investment camp

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