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Financial literacy courses and advisors teach that once you’ve paid off debt and saved an emergency fund with at least six months of your living expenses, it’s better to make your money work for you rather than keep it in a savings account.
However, according to Pew Research Center, households with incomes less than $35,000 have a median amount of less than $10,000 in the stock market. Broken down by demographics, the study reveals that families headed by White adults are more likely to be invested in the stock market in comparison to families headed by Black or Hispanic adults.
Financial knowledge in the stock market from an early age can help individuals build long-term wealth. First Generation Investors is a non-profit focused on teaching low-income high school students investment strategies, using real money. With an army of 150+ volunteers, co-founder Cole Mattox has empowered nearly 500 students with basic concepts of stock ownership through real-world examples.
Mattox shares what drove him and his friends to create this organization, success stories, and what’s next for the growing company.
The ‘aha’ moment for Mattox came when he and his fellow co-founder, Dylan Ingerman, were playing a simulated stock market game in AP Economics.
Mattox divulges, “Dylan and I went to different high schools, and both noticed we got little to no personal finance or investment education in our respective classes. We realized we were thrown into something for a number of weeks, but what we really needed to learn was how to look at stocks for the long term.bOnce we began to realize how many others felt this way we started looking into developing our own program that met this need.”
They started the program with three students, who each came back hungry for more information. “We knew we were onto something and from there. We began reaching out to schools in the Philadelphia area that would be willing to teach students with our program,” Mattox shares.
Utilizing real money, FGI kickstarts students’ financial portfolios and teaches high schoolers how to help their investments grow. The students are provided with $100 invest in mutual funds over the course of eight weeks. First Generation Investors provides the students with a list of “safe” investment products while teaching them the foundations to investing.
“Almost all of our students remain cognizant of the market and their portfolios after they graduate. Many of them add money to their portfolios from their jobs,” Mattox reveals.
As of Spring 2021, FGI is present on 25 college campuses, including Ivy League schools like Cornell University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as top universities such as Duke University and New York University. For Fall 2021, FGI will expand to 30 more colleges, including HBCUs and state schools, increasing the accessibility of the program.
“This fall, we have some public schools teaching our lessons directly to their students,” Mattox proudly states. The program is also taking on more of a community approach to reach the underserved.
Mattox adds, “We are partnering with financial firms, civil rights groups, and other professional firms to have their employees volunteer time and teach in the communities in which they aim to serve.”
If you are interested in helping to grow this program by volunteering, partnering with FGI, starting a chapter, or even enrolling in the program, you can reach out to the organization here.
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