In 2008, I won the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Money Smart Kid contest after writing an essay on how I planned to finance my college education. I believe the ultimate selling point was that I discussed liquidating my stock portfolio and the contest judges were not anticipating this from a 14 year old. My interest in finance stemmed from attending Ariel Community Academy (an elementary school on Chicago’s south side that places a particular emphasis on financial education). Financial acumen acquired at Ariel, allowed me to take advantage of the platform provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Money Smart Kid contest.
This achievement provided me with something much more valuable than the title “Money Smart Kid.” I was able to secure a full academic scholarship to attend the University of Chicago Laboratory School, one the city’s most prestigious high schools. I went on to study finance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, before returning to Chicago to work in financial services.
One factor that has been crucial to my success in the financial sector was exposure. Unfortunately, this exposure was a privilege not enjoyed by many of my peers. This was one of things that motivated me to start Rapunzl, a web-based and mobile app that allows users to learn about financial markets by creating their own simulated stock portfolios, trading and competing alongside a community of investors, and crowdsourcing investment strategies from that community.
Stepping back, the Money Smart Kid Contest instilled confidence and unabated drive. The reason being that students are given a co-sign from the behemoth that is the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. It felt that the Fed was saying, “Myles you are up to something, keep going”. Subsequently, I was featured on Fox Business News, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Suntimes, and the Jonathon Brandmeier show.
I truly felt and still that anything is possible.
Furthermore, this contest is open to all middle school students in the Chicagoland area, despite how privileged or egregious their circumstances may be. Essentially meaning that a student from a neighborhood or school that is typically underserved can demonstrate their point of view on a respective essay prompt and vocalize it to movers and shakers who attend the annual Money Smart Week breakfast held at the Fed if they are selected as the winner.
Becoming the 2008 Money Smart Kid transformed my life and shifted my career trajectory in ways I couldn't imagine. It unlocked doors, exposed me to countless opportunities, and gave me a sense of empowerment: a belief that I too could thrive and flourish with a career in financial services.
By Myles Gage