Tenth Grader Aaron Gilbert Places 5th Nationally in the SIFMA Foundation’s Fall 2023 National InvestWrite® Competition

New York, NY, May 15, 2024 – Echoing the immortal words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” Aaron Gilbert defied the odds by creating a high-powered investment portfolio that could make Wall Street proud. Currently enrolled in 10th grade atPaul D. Schreiber Senior High School in Port Washington, NY, Aaron developed a diversified investment portfolio aimed at securing long-term financial success.

Aaron’s investment strategy placed him 5th in the nation in the SIFMA Foundation’s Fall 2023 InvestWrite competition. Aaron triumphed among thousands of participants nationwide for his astute insights into the dynamics of capital markets in the high school division. In recognition of his accomplishment, Aaron and his teacher,Jennifer Herber, were honored by the SIFMA Foundation during a special ceremony held on May 15.

The SIFMA Foundation’s InvestWrite national essay competition serves as a vital bridge between classroom education in mathematics, social studies, language arts, and the practical application of research and knowledge essential for saving, investing, and long-term financial planning. The competition is a culminating activity for the acclaimed Stock Market Game™, a curriculum-based financial education program challenging students to manage a hypothetical $100,000 online portfolio of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and cash. InvestWrite empowers students to apply their hands-on learning in real-world scenarios that teach the fundamentals of investing.

SIFMA Foundation’s programs are proven to enhance participants’ test scores in math and economics, foster financial planning skills, promote teamwork and interpersonal social-emotional learning, and better prepare students for future academic and professional endeavors. With a steadfast commitment to closing opportunity gaps in society, the SIFMA Foundation equips young people from all backgrounds, with a particular focus on underserved youth, with a robust understanding of financial markets.

A number of studies have emphasized the critical need for financial education to navigate today’s complex economic landscape. Investing in financial education yields long-term benefits, both for individuals and for society as a whole, by fostering economic stability and reducing financial vulnerabilities, according to Financial Literacy and Financial Education, a recent study by Tim Kaiser and Annamaria Lusardi. It emphasizes the need for comprehensive and accessible educational programs from an early age. SIFMA Foundation’s programs are leading the way in reaching and engaging youth and their teachers and families.

“It brings me immense joy to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Aaron and his teacher for a remarkable achievement in InvestWrite,” said Melanie Mortimer, President of the SIFMA Foundation. “Aaron’s essay details a very thoughtful and compelling plan for long-term financial independence. His achievement signals the value of early financial education in setting youth on a path to positive financial life outcomes.”

The Fall 2023 InvestWrite competition posed the following challenge to 4th-12th graders: ‘Which of your Stock Market Game investments performed well or poorly, and why? Using at least one of your Stock Market Game investments, how would you build a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds aimed at achieving a personal, family, or community goal by 2033.’

Thousands of volunteer financial professionals from hundreds of financial firms select the winners of InvestWrite each year. Aaron captivated this panel of expert judges with a compelling and insightful essay.

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Aaron Gilbert, tenth grader at Paul D. Schreiber High School, Port Washington, NY.

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Dr. Geri Weinstein (Assistant Principal), Ms. Jennifer Herber (Teacher), Aaron Gilbert, Dr. Kathryn Behr (Principal).

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Aaron Gilbert with his family.

Winning Essay

My perspective on investing has shifted throughout my experience with the Stock Market Game. Initially, I felt that my team's ambitions and willingness to take heavy risks could put us far ahead of the other teams, but my instinct was far from right. On October 9th, the start of the Stock Market Game, our eyes were on stocks, and stocks only. Our portfolio sat at almost 95% stocks for most of the game. Over the next few weeks, we watched our portfolio fall over $10,000. We needed to make a change in our strategy. There was one thing we could easily see: we lacked diversification entirely. 


Observing other peers and even ourselves, we realized that strategizing your stock investments based on world events was not providing sufficient results. Most people, including ourselves, had their eyes on things like the conflict in Israel and Palestine and the development of new A.I. programs. Although emerging events like these can result in substantial growth of certain stocks, world events, and developments are much too vulnerable to change to create a solid investment. For example, if an A.I. company gets sued or the two warring countries come to an agreement, your investments based on these events will dip down. After thinking long and hard about changing our portfolio, we knew that buying into ETFs, mutual funds, and bonds would be our safest play. After making 11 trades, we saw our portfolio break even for the first time. Although diversification was always an issue for us, we knew our risk factor was what truly set us back. To bring diversity to our portfolio and change our vision, we began to aim for only low-risk investments. Instead of going for first place with harsh and aggressive investments that could spike up, we took this opportunity to learn more about how high-risk investments could greatly damage personal finances. 


One financial goal I have for the next 10 years is to own at least one duplex apartment, separate from my own residence, as an investment property. With the duplex purchased in cash, even with debt on the purchase, I could easily break even on this investment by renting the property out and hopefully purchasing even more properties to use as a wealth-growing asset. 


Going through the ins and outs of the Stock Market Game has given me a great head start to know what I want to invest in. Most people would consider stocks as the foundation of a strong portfolio. However, I strongly believe that as a young investor who aims to be in a safe financial position, aiming for the lowest-risk investments is the ideal decision. Considering this, I would feel comfortable with a portfolio with mutual funds and bonds outweighing stocks. If I was given $10,000, I would put 30% into real estate investments like I mentioned before, 30% into low-risk stocks, 35% into mutual funds and ETFs, and 5% into higher-risk stocks. I'll apply the following filters: Beta (0.2 - 0.8), which will reveal stocks that move less volatile than the market, only large and mega-cap companies, since they tend to be more established and older, which results in a less volatile and risky investment, and I'll search only in the basic materials and utilities sectors because these companies will always have an increasing or constant demand. For mutual funds, I would also use a screener and the following filters: BlackRock and Vanguard-issued funds because they are the two most reliable (in my opinion) asset management firms, and a Morningstar rating of five, which signifies that these funds have performed well in the past and are reliable. For bonds, I would research Treasury (government-issued bonds) between one and 10 years. Currently, treasury bond yields sit at 4.25% - 5.08%. These statistics will provide an extremely low-risk portfolio that retains solid diversification through the balanced distribution of stocks, bonds, and funds. This portfolio could help me achieve my goal for 10 years because it would slowly grow my money over time and allow me to invest my profits into things like real estate to grow my wealth further. 


Investing in the stock and asset markets can be a dangerous decision if you choose to make it one. The Stock Market Game has taught me that taking an aggressive approach to investing without sufficient and professional research and planning, especially in stocks, is almost like gambling. Despite any company's optimistic projections, anything can happen to the company- financially or legally. When my team and I decided to take aggressive positions in the market, we observed a loss of nearly $11,000. Only when we decided to take a step back and realized that we needed to use a lower-risk strategy did we shoot back up, breaking even. Our portfolio now sits at nearly $104,000. 


When investing in any market, it is vital that you and your fellow investors make your goals clear for your investments. Without a clear vision, your ego can get the best of you, leading to under-researched investments that can be a detriment to your portfolio. 


About the SIFMA Foundation

The SIFMA Foundation is committed to closing the opportunity gap by fostering greater knowledge of the financial markets for young people of all backgrounds. Drawing on the support and expertise of educators and the financial industry, the Foundation provides financial education to strengthen economic opportunity across communities and increase awareness of the benefits of the global marketplace. Since 1977, the Foundation’s flagship program, The Stock Market Game™, has guided more than 22 million students on their path to financial independence by attaining stronger life skills, improving academic achievement, and boosting their social-emotional learning. For more information on the SIFMA Foundation, visit www.sifma.org/foundation.

About InvestWrite®

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. More than 275,000 student essays have been evaluated by their teachers and over 50,000 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 including laptops, classroom pizza parties, trophies, plaques and banners, and certificates.

For more information about InvestWrite®, visit www.investwrite.org