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High School Girls Prove Worthy Fund Managers

"The good that came out of that was that they have very balanced portfolios," he adds. "They are very diverse, and you don't see any team that is too heavily invested in one industry or the other. I would describe their risk tolerance as moderate. They are not high-risk or low-risk investors; they are trying to make slow and steady gains. Nobody is coming into this with the expectation that they are going to make a million dollars or see supernatural portfolio growth -- even though some of the girls have proven us wrong with some of their returns."

He stresses the importance of financial education at an early age.

"If you look at the American population today, we are facing a retirement crisis for the baby boomers and the next generation to follow because some of the public supports may not be there in the long term -- Social Security -- in the way it has been and so forth," Cathey says. "For the individual to really reach a comfortable retirement level it takes much more than just a simple savings plan. You need to take advantage of 401(k) programs and you need to understand the opportunities for your money to make money for you in an investment opportunity. That is why we try to give the girls that very full, broad exposure."

"The key really for us is early exposure," he adds. "A lot of adults don't know the ins and outs, since they haven't grown up practicing those disciplines, and it's a very tough change for them to make at this point in their life. Early exposure to a group of girls who are 12 to 18 gives them the practice now, before there is real financial impact to them. In far too many homes, especially in underserved areas, your first exposure to the checkbook is when you get your first job. Your parents don't sit you down and talk about it, so there is essentially no practice for you to have before your financial decisions have consequences."

Thierry Yungenge, senior auditor for ING U.S. Corporate Audit Services, is a volunteer for a new Investment Challenge Team in Holyoke. He has been impressed by how the girls transform curiosity into strategy.

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