Inaugural Finance Camp aims to open world of investing for aspiring Roaring Fork Valley youth
A local veteran in the world of money management and investing, Ron Speaker, often says he wouldn’t be where he is today without the guidance of a pair of key mentors early in his life.
Now, he hopes to share some of that knowledge by convening an inaugural Finance Camp this June for a group of Roaring Fork Valley high school students who want to learn more about money matters, stock markets and trading.
The Finance Camp is slated to take place June 12-16 in the downtown Carbondale building where Speaker operated his Equus Private Wealth business for 15 years before retiring last year.
The camp is limited to 10 students through a competitive application, interview and selection process. The application deadline is April 15.
More information about the camp and how to apply is available at thefinancecamp.com.
“Equus was interesting, but I’ve been in the market 37 years and I really wanted to give back and serve,” Speaker said in explaining the impetus for the camp. “I had some young people over the years that I really enjoyed mentoring, and so I created this camp as an opportunity to build on that.”
Looking for a summer internship when he was 20, Speaker met Tom Bailey, founder of Janus Capital in Denver and now a Carbondale resident and property owner.
Speaker went to work in the company mailroom — its 21st employee at the time in 1986, and just as the mutual fund market began to take off.
“Tom took me to the Tattered Cover bookstore and bought me 10 books and said, ‘Hey kid, if you’re interested, read these books and then come talk to me if you’re still interested,'” Speaker recalled of his own introduction to the world of finance.
It was then that he also met Bailey’s dear friend, Michael McGoldrick, senior vice president of Janus at the time and a respected collegiate business and finance educator.
“He ended up being a dear mentor of mine, who took me to places like New York City for the first time in my life when I was a financial analyst for Pan-American World Airways,” Speaker said. “He was just this sweet, walking encyclopedia of financial history.”
Before McGoldrick died in late 2021, he asked Speaker to help give away his money. Speaker created a foundation to help support financial education. Bailey is providing the space for the camp in his Fourth Street building in Carbondale where Speaker had his business for the past several years.
Speaker has been busy introducing the camp idea to school leaders and students at Glenwood Springs, Roaring Fork and Basalt high schools, in hopes of having a strong pool of applicants to interview and choose from to attend the camp.
“I really want kids who want to work hard, because they’re going to get a fire hose of information for one week and it’s going to be tough,” he said.
The camp is designed as an intensive week of in-person, hands-on, interactive learning with various presentations and lectures from local finance experts on things like private equity and crypto currencies.
Students will also get to use computers, software programs and trading websites not typically available to teens, along with lessons on the history of Wall Street and the Chicago Board of Trade, and various films on the evolution of finance and career paths.
Before the camp starts, each student is to have $500 placed in a parental-approved custodial account. Students are asked to earn that money between the time they are selected and when the camp begins, through some type of community service.
“There’s no free lunch. They’re going to be working for this opportunity,” Speaker said. “Then we’ll talk about how to put that money to work, what are good investments, what are good businesses to keep an eye on, things like that.”
At the end of the camp, students will be given an exam which, if they pass, they’ll receive $750 in additional funds to their account.
“They’ll have to earn that by performing and studying so they can pass the test,” Speaker said.
Then, following the camp there will be a competition to complete a project by the end of the year, with a $5,000 prize on the line.
“Most people don’t really know how to execute and use the instruments commonly used on Wall Street, but there are kids out there who are already using things like Robinhood,” he said of the popular e-trade app.
“I’m not trying to create gamblers, I’m trying to create investors. When you’re young, you’re a borrower — typically cars, furniture, student loans, a house. And then when you’re older, you hope to get a positive net worth and become an investor. If I can help accelerate the process, they can become savers and investors earlier in life.”
There are also some general life lessons to be learned through the process of learning about finance, and just how to make a good impression.
Speaker tells a story about giving a talk to a finance class at CU-Boulder. One of the students came up afterward to introduce himself and request a follow-up meeting to chat some more one-on-one.
The student showed up with a dozen doughnuts to share around the office, much to the delight of Speaker’s coworkers.
“It’s a simple story that I can share with these kids now to just say, hey, when you go for that job interview, there are applicants who are average, and some below average, and some better than average.
“But if you bring in a box of doughnuts, you’re immediately above average compared to everybody else who came in for that interview,” Speaker said.
Now 58, he said McGoldrick’s death prompted him to begin thinking about what to do next. In the process of writing his own eulogy, he realized he needed another chapter.
“If I can use my resources and my resourcefulness to really make an impact on some young people, to become a mentor like I had and to give back, that’s what I want to do,” he said.
The Finance Camp already has several applicants, but more are desired to make the field as competitive as possible. Applicants will be required to come in for a personal interview, similar to applying for a job, and the applicants will be evaluated.
“We’re looking for a good mix of students up and down the valley,” he said. “It’s not a rich kids camp, and if we can find that kid who has no idea what they really want to do, then perfect, that’s the kid we want to get to.”
Speaker also wrote a manifesto to further explain the intent of the camp. It reads, in part, “I strongly encourage parents and educators to purposefully teach our children basic financial concepts. In doing so, they can enter their adult years more prepared to make these incredibly important decisions that can affect the outcome of and opportunities in their lives.”
The full text can be found at The Finance Camp website, along with other information about what will be covered in the camp, presenters, and more.
Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-384-9160.
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