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Tue, Jul 27, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Investment clubs allow kids to play the market


Like many Americans, Damon Williams joined a stock investment club to eventually put his children through college.

Unlike many of those Americans, Damon is just 11 years old.

After six years of investing, the ambitious Chicago seventh grader has a portfolio of more than 30 companies worth more than US$18,000 -- US$4,000 of that profit. He is one of the estimated thousands of children in investment clubs nationwide who sacrifice an occasional Saturday to sharpen their financial strategies.

"I want to pay my own way through college, buy real estate and see my children graduate from college also," Damon said.

At the rate he's going, he just might do it.

Investment clubs, where members share research and invest as a group or individually, have been popular among adults for years. Many parents say the junior clubs can teach the same money management skills to their children and help to ensure their futures.

"I think a lot of parents are starting to realize that investing is not something you start when you're 30, 40 or 50," said Amy Rauch Neilson, teen newsletter editor for the National Association of Investors Corp, a nonprofit organization that supports investment clubs and investors.

"They're particularly realizing what an advantage it would have been if someone had taught it to them when they were that age," she said.

April Williams, Damon's mother and founder of the Ujamaa Junior Investment Club, wishes someone had taught her to manage her money earlier. At the age of 30, Williams was a single parent maxed out on all her credit cards and living paycheck to paycheck.

"I felt it was an insane way to live and a terrible legacy for my children," she said.

So Williams taught herself how to invest and turned her life around. She started the adult Ujamaa investment club and later the children's group to teach others how to do the same. The children's club now has 20 members ages 11 to 18 and a waiting list of nearly 30 more.

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