Is Your Kindergartner Learning About Stocks?

Today I spoke with John Rogers, founder and CEO of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, a B.E. 100s company. Rogers is also known for founding Ariel Community Academy, a public school—not a charter—on the South Side of Chicago that teaches neighborhood youngsters about the intricacies of investing.

 

(Image: iStock/eli_asenova)

 

The 20-plus-year-old K-8 school has reportedly produced graduates that have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and financial services professionals—not bad for an urban, predominantly black school that doesn’t use any selectivity criteria to screen its students.

But maybe introducing stocks to kindergartners and equity investing to fourth graders has something to do with the alumni’s remarkable successes.

Rogers spoke to me about his goals for partnering with Chicago Public Schools to open Ariel Community Academy.

“First, we wanted our students to be really comfortable with the stock market,” Rogers told me, explaining that now that traditional pension plans have all but disappeared, putting most Americans “in charge of navigating their own financial ship,” as Rogers says, it’s critical for young people to start out with a sound financial footing.

“We wanted the students to grow up to be good investors, to prepare themselves for retirement, for college tuition, and for a first house.”

Second, Rogers wants Ariel students to start thinking about careers in financial services. Because the students work with professional analysts, “they learn about career paths that they might have never been otherwise exposed to.” Two graduates work full time at Ariel Investments.

 

(John W. Rogers. Image: File)

 

A third goal of the school is to produce better, more effective entrepreneurs. “We need to have strong minority-owned companies,” Rogers says. He told me about one grad who has an online business teaching financial concepts.

Rogers’s fourth goal isn’t for the students, but for other successful businesses: “We want to be a role model for other financial services companies, to show how they can partner with urban public schools,” he says.

President Obama had appointed Rogers to chair the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, which in the second term the council changed to Financial Capability for Young Americans.

“It presented a cool opportunity to convene the power of the White House and the Treasury and the Department of Education to pull together a great board, speakers, and national leaders in financial services,” Rogers says.

A key recommendation that came out of it: to see more financial services and local businesses partnering with urban public schools to teach kids about investing, entrepreneurship, and the lucrative financial services sphere.

Exactly what Ariel Investments is already doing.

To learn more about Ariel Community Academy, go here.