GILFORD — Joe Biden was likely to win the presidency, figured Owen Richardson. If that turned out to be true, then certain industries and companies would stand to benefit. So, he took his $100,000 and invested it. Two-and-a-half months later, he netted a profit of $65,000.
Those dollars weren’t real, but the stocks were, and so was the contest that Richardson was competing in. He was one of hundreds of students in a regional Stock Market Game, sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association Foundation, and Richardson’s stock picks performed better than any other of the 550 or so teams he was up against.
Richardson, a 16-year-old junior at Gilford High School, participated in the game as part of teacher Steve O’Riordan’s business class. A total of about 45 other Gilford students also joined in, but, said O’Riordan, “No one was close to him.”
Most students earned a return of between 5% and 7%, O’Riordan said, which would normally be a good ten-week stretch for a trader. Richardson, though, outperformed that margin ten-fold.
Richardson said the contest started just before the U.S. Presidential Election, which he figured would be a significant disruption to the market. He decided to bet on Biden.
“I was investing in things like solar energy, things I thought would do better under his control,” Richardson said. Of course, the other dynamic element of the day is the global pandemic, and while many of his competitors invested in Pfizer, Richardson’s research led him to Moderna, which ended up being a big win for him. He bought Moderna at $69 per share, and when the game closed, those shares were worth $169 each.
Richardson’s portfolio also included 3M, maker of face masks, and SnapChat.
This marks the third time that a Gilford student has won the competition, O’Riordan said, but the first time “in recent memory.”
Richardson was something of a dark horse in the race. He only had a cursory understanding of the stock market prior to O’Riordan’s class, and, as someone who focuses his energies on art and design, doesn’t typically engage in competitions.
He didn’t behave like the typical day trader, either, holding stocks for days, or even minutes, before selling them for a quick return.
“Once I had spent everything I had, I waited it out,” he said.
Richardson said the contest gave him an understanding of how the stock market can be used to grow wealth, though he wondered how successful he would be without the twin explosions of a change of presidency combined with a global pandemic. He hasn’t yet determined what will be the next step for him after high school. He is most interested in visual art, graphic design and clothing design, specifically.
Anthony Sperazzo, principal, said adding the competitive element ignites a subject that can otherwise be hard to excite high schoolers about.
“We have kids who are interested in the stock market, talking about their stocks in the hall,” Sperazzo said.
“I love that I can start with these kids at a young age,” said O’Riordan, adding that the bigger takeaway is not what can be done by investing over weeks, but over decades. “The real lesson is to slowly accumulate wealth over the years.”
For his win, Richardson received a certificate for his wall, a medal to hang around his neck, and some other swag. He said he was pleased to come out on top.
“I was pretty cool,” Richardson said. “I don’t do any sports, so it’s nice to win things.”