Two Rhodes students earn honors in InvestWrite contest

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On a Friday afternoon in February, just before the end of the day, Rhodes Elementary School students Livia Leary and James Conway got quite the surprise as they were honored during a school assembly for placing in the top 10 in this year’s InvestWrite Essay Competition.

The event is a surprise each year, and family members of the winners are invited to join in the celebration. This year, Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner was also on hand to meet and congratulate the winners.

According to a press release from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or SIFMA, InvestWrite is a “national essay competition that bridges classroom learning in mathematics, social studies and language arts with the practical research and knowledge required for long-term personal planning, enhancing students’ ability across important academic and life skills. The competition serves as a culminating activity for participants in the SIFMA Foundation’s Stock Market Game program.”

James and Livia are both students in James Gemma’s fifth-grade class. Each year, his students compete in the game and take part in the essay contest, and members of the class have consistently won high honors.

This is the first year there have been two top winners from the class, and it threw James off a bit when he first saw Livia get called up as a winner.

“There were a lot of writers in our class this year, and when I saw Livia go up, I figured I didn’t win,” he said.

The prompt for this year’s essay contest asked students to select an entrepreneur they admire, research their company and explain how they would advise the entrepreneur to invest the company’s assets.

James selected Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Livia selected JK Rowling, an entrepreneur, author and founder of Lumos Charity.

“Warren Buffet was a popular choice,” James said. “A lot of kids chose him.”

Rowling was a less common choice. According to Livia, she was one of just two students who chose the famed “Harry Potter” scribe.

“JK Rowling has all of those books and she also has a promotional line and the theme park,” she said.

Once the students had made their choice of entrepreneurs, they had to advise them on stocks, bonds and mutual funds. To do that, they needed to research which stocks the entrepreneurs already owned.

“I just Googled Warren Buffet’s stock portfolio and a lot of what I would suggest, he already owned,” James said. “He owned a lot of everything.”

Livia took some of what she had learned in the Stock Market Game and offered her advice to Rowling based on that newfound knowledge.

“Sometimes the lesser-known stocks, the ones with smaller names, are better stocks to buy than the big-name stocks,” she said. “Our group bought AutoZone and it has done really well.”

It was that stock that she would recommend to Rowling if she had the chance.

“According to Nasdaq.com, they rate AZO as a conservative to moderate investment,” Livia wrote. “Over the last five years, AZO has risen roughly $400 or 85 percent per share. An investment in AutoZone over the last five years would have ensured that JK Rowling would have made money. Buying this stock will keep her wealth growing well beyond the Harry Potter years.”

Livia also recommended investing in the 10-year Apple Green bond as a source of guaranteed income.

James wrote his essay knowing that the opportunity to advise Buffet was “almost ridiculous to even think about,” but gave him solid advice anyway.

“If I had the opportunity to talk to Warren Buffet, I would suggest that he invest in Proctor and Gamble as a stock because in the last five years it has gained over $15 per share,” he wrote. “He should also invest in J.P. Morgan as a bond because I’ve noticed it makes a lot of money. As a bond, the company takes the money and holds onto it for five to 30 years. The company uses that money to improve their business, then they usually give you 5 percent to 10 percent back.”

Both Livia and James agreed that they will be taking away a great deal of real-life knowledge from their experience.

“We have learned what days are good days to buy stocks and which days are not so good,” Livia said. “We learned not to rely on just one site for our research and not to spend all of our money blindly.”

Conway put his knowledge to good use when he was asked by his mother if he would like to receive some shares of stocks for his birthday.

“I almost said no because they could be too risky,” he said. “But then I changed my mind and said yes and she got me five more shares of Proctor and Gamble, because my grandmother had already gotten me five. Now I’m obsessed with the Proctor and Gamble stocks and I want to buy it. Proctor and Gamble is the kind of company where when the world ends, everyone is still going to be buying their products.”

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