Q&A with Thomas Pelz, student stock market competition winner

Centennial student wins statewide competition

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Thomas Pelz took a risk, and it paid off.

The seventh-grader from Centennial took first place among middle-schoolers, and fourth place overall, in a statewide competition called the Stock Market Experience.

“It's like real stocks but fake money, but it's based on what happens in the real stock market,” Pelz said of the competition, in which students see who can most successfully invest.

Pelz, a student at Aspen Academy, a private school in Greenwood Village, had entered the contest a few times in past years before achieving this year's high mark. The contest is put on by Economic Literacy Colorado, a nonprofit that educates about economics and financial literacy.

Pelz's friend and fellow Aspen Academy student Beckham Pougnet-Green took home second place among middle-schoolers — and sixth place overall — in the competition this spring.

The school, which aims to equip students with skills to allow them to live responsible and self-reliant financial lives, congratulated them in a news release.

“We couldn't be more pleased for Thomas and Beckham to achieve first and second place in this competition and gain insights from investing while still in middle school,” said Kristina Scala, founder of Aspen Academy, in the release. “They demonstrate the education of consequence that is experienced by Aspen Academy students.”

Pelz took time to reflect on the competition — here's what he had to say. Responses were lightly edited for clarity.

How did you get into the contest?

It was from my school that I heard about it. We've been doing it for a few years now. It was my third or fourth time. Middle-schoolers and high-schoolers compete.

You're given a certain amount of time, about six weeks, where you can buy or sell stocks. You're given $100,000 in a virtual stock market.

What started your passion for finances?

My dad, his job; he wrote books on finance and trading. We have a morning class in our school that teaches us about money, but not about trading stocks or things like that.

What was the biggest challenge for you in the competition?

Telling if one stock was going to do bad or good — you just had to basically guess a lot of the time.

In previous years, I just bought normal stocks and never really risked my money. I usually placed like top three in my school.

This year, at first, I bet on popular things, but then I was losing a lot of money, so I decided to risk it all and put all my money in Bitcoin, and that got me a lot of money.

What did it mean for you to win?

I was expecting to make a lot of money, but I never thought I would. I woke up that morning and checked my computer, and I was really excited. It means that I can be the best at what I do if I put my mind to it.

It was $100 that I won. I'm going to put it in my bank account.

Why is it important for young people to know about stocks?

It teaches you a lot about the world and about how markets work.

What are you looking to do as a career?

I don't know yet. I like math a lot. Yeah, I see myself being involved in finance in the future.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to play saxophone, swim in my neighborhood pool and play games on my computer.

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