Playing the Stock Market on a College Budget

Spring semester of 2006, FIN 323 – Fundamentals of Finance with Dr. Pawar…my roomate Adam and I are learning about making and managing investments. On our walk home from class the usual argument starts over who would be better at diversifying their portfolio and making smart investments. However, we both know that when it really comes down to it, we barely have enough money to pay rent and register this domain let alone drop some serious cash on a hot stock tip, so what did we do? We started the “Ultimate Stock Challenge”.

6 guys, $10,000 a piece, and 6 months to put the guys from Boiler Room to shame. How did we do it? It wasn’t by cashing in on a trust fund, It was all run through‘s Online Stock Market Simulator.


Through their program you can create an account and join any of hundreds of games (simulations) in progress, or, like in our case, create your own. By doing this you can set the time limit, starting cash, number of players and lots of other options. The simulator uses real time stock quotes so you are actually trading at market value (which can make you happy that its just a simulation when all your stocks tank and you are out 10 grand…or piss you off when your hot stock tip just tripled your money!). The one flaw I found is that the simulator will not let you buy penny stocks, that is, stocks worth below $1 per share. I just did a test purchase of 100 shares of “Intrepid Holdings”, a hot tip I got from the highly trusted, and the Simulator told me

“The Simulator does not allow stocks below $1 to be traded long or stocks below $5 to be traded short.  Stocks trading in this range are more likely to be subject to manipulation from stock promoters and can have erratic trading patterns.  For this reason we do not allow the trading of penny stocks in our game.”

This is good and bad…good because it forces you to do some research and find a valuable stock at a decent price before you invest in it, and bad because I told my roomate Adam about that website as a “confidential hot insider stock tip” hoping he would drop a couple grand on some bogus picks and put me in the lead of the competition. Needless to say, he didn’t buy it and neither did Investopedia.

So you might be wondering, “why should this matter to me, i don’t care about your stupid stock competition”. Well, you should, and here is why.

  1. Experience in the stock market is more valuable than you may realize. You will quickly learn that research pays off exponentially, and a insider tip from your friend in the competition about diversifying your portfolio by investing in Home Depot because summer is coming up and people will be buying lots of patio furniture unfortunately does not. It takes serious research and careful tracking to judge the value of an investment, and done correctly it will pay off!
  2. Sitting in your finance class, it is pretty hard to realize exactly what is going on without having any hands-on experience. So get involved and actually learn what is going on behind all this theory they are teaching you. What is a Debt to Equity Ratio, a profit margin, or a Quick Ratio? Well its a lot more than just a formula you ignored in class. Learning about and understanding these can pay off huge when they help you make an educated purchase.
  3. My professor told a story about a guy staying in a hotel in Las Vegas. He was in his room on the 20th floor, and noticed that the building had caught fire near the ground level. Before running for the stairs, he grabbed his laptop and quickly logged on to his broker’s website, and sold all the shares he owned in the hotel. It turned out that the stock value plummeted minutes after the fire was all over the news. True or not, the lesson of the story is that the market reacts almost instantly to any and all changes. What does this teach you? Learn to react with it and you will stay ahead of the game.

I hope this will help people get involved in learning about finance and give you a practical application of what you may have been learning in school. By no means is the Investopedia simulator the only one out there, I just chose it for the competition because it seemed to provide the most realistic experience. A quick search on google provided me with a ton of other options:

Those are some, among many other choices. And with that, good luck and good trading!

The Schmooze

Schmooze and Schmooze Well

by Nick Urbani
Susan RoAne took a new angle at networking when she said, “It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you.”

Schmoozing can only bring upon positive things: new clients, job offers, entrepreneurial ideas, and the opportunity you have never thought of. It is a critical factor in becoming successful, in whatever terms that may be.

Continually use these tactics and your connections will grow without limits:

1. Obey JFK

JFK infamously said, “Ask not what you country can do for you, but….” we all know how it goes. In schmoozing, focus on discovering what you can do for someone else.” This is 80% of the battle.

2. Follow Up

Once you’ve found what you can do for that person, DO IT. It may be forwarding a great article for them, connecting them with someone you know, or letting them borrow one of your books.

Always follow up with an email within 24hours–always include a “P.S.” in the email relating something personal about them that you talked about when you met. If you don’t have anything to “p.s.” about then you didn’t ask good questions and you didn’t listen enough.

3. Ask Intelligent Questions, then Shut Up and Listen

Ask questions related to their interests, field of study, career, etc. Specifically ask thoughtful open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no.

After someone stops speaking use the 3 Second Rule and pause for 3 seconds. It will eliminate the chance of interrupting the person–one of the worst things you can do in establishing a relationship. You will often find that at 2 seconds they were just gathering their thoughts and they will keep talking. It also shows that you are hanging on their every word, raising their self esteem.

4. Read Voraciously

Be Worldly. Know a little bit about everything. The more information you can access in conversations, the greater your opportunities to emotionally and intellectually connect with another person. This is the easiest way to establish trust and credibility with someone you do not know.

5. Go Do It

Go Schmooze. You can’t schmooze from the computer you are sitting in front of. Force yourself to go to presentations, seminars, conventions, events, tradeshows–anything. There are several online calendars of events in your city (you know how to use google, don’t you?). Its unlikely you’re going to land a huge client or get a job offer from someone you met online so go make some eye contact.

6. I’m blogging way past my bedtime so here are a few other quick ideas:

Talk about your passions (only talk about business at a business conference and no one will remember you)

Have a business card (if you want old, rich, famous, and powerful people to contact you make it easy to be contacted–also, you don’t need to work for a business to have a business card)

Give favors (people will like you more)

Ask for favors (once you’ve completed a couple cycles of give and take with someone you are now friends)

Bottom Line- Start now and practice on everyone. When you start off the power of schmoozing will not be apparent, but each and every additional contact you add exponentially increases the amount of people that know you.

Some Office Humor

So Josh and I work at KPBS (TV and Radio Broadcasting) as IT Systems Administrators, and last week we had a little bit of fun with our buddy Cole.  Before leaving the office he asked us if we found any extra boxes from our recent server upgrade, to save them for him.  Well, we did a little bit more than that for him.  We moved every single box we could find into his cubicle, and completely boxed him in.  I’m sure anyone who sits in a cube or server room all day can appreciate this…oh, and if you’re reading this…sorry Cole!