Student club teaches investing wisely over the years

By Dan Landes, class of 2009, for the Business Journal (a publication of EMU’s Business and Economics Department)

In a recently-formed investment club at Eastern Mennonite University, students are learning to invest in their own future by learning the strategies and logistics of investing wisely through all seasons of their lives.

EMU students Darrell Miller, Sam Buck and Matt Gehman
Darrell Miller, Sam Buck and Matt Gehman, students in EMU’s investment club, study the market for opportunities.

“With the state of Social Security and the current economy’s affect on pension funds, students today will need to accumulate a significant amount of savings for their retirement,” said James M. (Jim) Leaman, assistant professor of business and economics, “and my hope is that students in this club will know they must invest and leave knowing how to successfully do so.”

The idea for the investment club originated from an assignment in one of Leaman’s classes, principles of macroeconomics.

Having trouble getting the students to connect with the macro economy, he decided to create an assignment that would involve them in the markets. He gave students the task of creating their own mock portfolio. Students researched investment opportunities, individually created their own stock portfolio and are following its value through the semester.

“I found it to be a success,” said Leaman, adding, “Students became competitive and took pride in their portfolios, following them very closely.” With the success of the portfolio assignment, Leaman began investigating in the business department about the feasibility of creating an investment club.

His proposal to create the club was approved and became reality in the fall of 2008. The 13 students invested an initial $10,000 in the stock market. The investment club is a one-credit pass/fail course, designated as a independent study. Leaman leads the group, which meets once a week for an hour, focusing on investment strategies and the logistics of actually investing.

Though the current state of the economy is problematic for many investors, it’s been a valuable learning experience for the students, according to Leaman, giving them a healthy perspective of market cycles and preventing future overconfidence.

“It’s been really interesting to track our stocks and have real money invested in the market,” said senior business major Sam Buck. “I’ve learned the importance of investing and after I graduate I definitely plan on using what I’ve learned.”

After tracking stocks last semester, students chose where to invest the $10,000, buying stock in companies such as Ford and McDonalds.