Myles Gage is a co-founder of Rapunzl and an advocate for financial education especially for individuals in underserved communities. He was exposed to the stock market at a very young age, attending Ariel Community Academy on Chicago's south side. Financial literacy was the crux of its curriculum.
After graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, he developed Rapunzl with with his high school friend, Brian Curcio. They designed and developed an app that addresses the three roadblocks that prohibit many from understanding the stock market: fear, exposure, and accessibility.
Users are provided with a risk-free, $10,000 simulated portfolio in order to eliminate the fear we all first feel when we look at the stock market.
They then increased exposure by working with high schools and colleges, providing weekly, monthly, and (soon) annual competitions for cash prizes!
Finally they made the stock market accessible by integrating social media into the simulator. Users can connect with their friends, share how they trade, and discuss their investment strategies.
Download the app here.
People need game-based learning tools which simulate the real world and contexualize their learning if they are ever to learn how to properly invest. Rapunzl provides an incentive to learn, a place to share findings, and a risk-free community to make mistakes along the way.
By partnering with UrbanX Learning, Myles oversees The Destiny Project in which Rapunzl lends its technology to make an impact in some of the nations most underserved communities. The Destiny Project offers scholarships, mentoring, and financial fluency tools to combat our financial illiteracy crisis and make success obtainable for all students, regardless of their background.
Myles holding Warren Buffet's wallet at age 14
People often view the world of finance & high-returns of Wall Street as trapped in an Ivory Tower - inaccessible and out of reach for most.
“A lot of these concepts are digestible. I think it's just presented in this way that makes people feel like it's something that's insurmountable and they make it in a way that it seems exclusive, but it really should be inclusive. And we know that the stock market is the biggest wealth engine creator since ever. So everyone should have access to this portal that can really change your social economic status over time.”
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Stocks for Beginners.
It's not about timing the market. It's about time in the market. And that's the thing that we ultimately want to convey to our users is that they stick with a strategy over time and they continue to build their position of a respected of company. Typically, if that's a stable company, that value is going to grow over time.
Hi and welcome back to Stocks for Beginners. I'm Phil Muscatello. What were you taught about money and investing at school? Were there any classes teaching economics, budgeting, finance, or investing? It's not all that common. My guest today is trying to change that by teaching the basics to ordinary young investors. Hello, Myles.
Hi, how's it going, Phil? Thanks for having me today.
Myles Gage is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Rapunzl Investments; a mobile application that allows individuals to trade simulated stock portfolios using real-time market data. Myles has been an advocate for encouraging young people to invest in the stock market, given his exposure to learning about it in elementary school. Tell us about your school and the unique education you received.
Myles (1m 12s):
So my elementary school is called Ariel Community Academy. And Ariel is a public school located on the south side of Chicago, but what's unique about area is it has a finance-based curriculum. And the school was actually founded by John Rogers who's the CEO of Ariel investments, which is the largest minority owned asset management firm, and Arnie Duncan, who was the former secretary of education. But essentially they felt that in addition to the basics of math, English, history and social studies that students needed to be learning about personal finance and economics because regardless of what field you go into, you're going to get a pay check.
Myles (1m 53s):
And if you're never taught what to do with that, you're often going to make poor mistakes and that's something that's often perpetual. So I guess they really just wanted to break that cycle and make finance and economics a part of the core curriculum. So we started learning about economics and the stock market in first grade and each sixth grade class is actually given $20,000 of real money to manage. So I think that was the real cool part about that school and it's definitely unique to most public schools.
Phil (2m 25s):
So this is pretty unique to most public schools, but especially for the area that you grew up in.
Myles (2m 30s):
Phil (2m 32s):
Tell us about where you grew up.
Myles (2m 33s):
So I grew up on the south side of Chicago in the Bronzeville neighborhood. So it's definitely an interesting place. I mean, I would say that sure there's crime and sure there are aspects of danger, but I think that just having grown up with a mom that was very much adamant on my brother and I like staying on the right path and thriving and excelling in this education, that I never felt that I was going to become a victim of the streets or even really wanting to do that. Just because I don't think that that was something that was going to fly in our household. Also what I'll say that was different from my brother and I, and some of our classmates was the fact that my dad, he owned a business in basically the west loop of Chicago.
Myles (3m 23s):
But that closed and before we moved to Bronzeville, we lived downtown. So I would say I definitely grew up in a stable middle-class neighborhood but that wasn't the case for many of my peers.
Phil (3m 33s):
Most of the students at Ariel were low income and were on reduced lunches. So we were definitely an anomaly in that aspect. But ended up moving to Bronzeville in seventh grade. And so the median income was definitely lower than the neighborhood that I initially grew up in. So that for sure was a culture shock for me in that regard. But as I was mentioning, just given the household that I grew up in, I never felt like straying away from the path that was already presented for me. And just seeing how much sacrifice that my mom made, it just made me want to really keep going and excelling in the world of finance. I think in fifth grade I wanted to be an investment banker so I was always adamant on having internships and trying to figure out how I could get my foot in the door for investing.
Phil (4m 23s):
How did it work out for the other kids at school, especially from those other neighborhoods?
Myles (4m 28s):
So unfortunately there were definitely students that had their fair share of challenges and none of them went on to develop apps as I did. But what I will say about a few of my classmates is I see that a lot of them are entrepreneurial. So there are a few of the few kids that I graduated with that actually have started businesses from video production companies to successful clothing lines that are worn by a lot of American artists. So I think that the exposure aspect of Ariel really put things on a bigger scale for students as far as what they could achieve. And really what I mean by that is we had incredible speakers that would come to our school such as Joel Mansueto, who founded Morningstar, George Lucas, who created Star Wars.
Myles (5m 20s):
And the junior board of directors actually got to manage the class' portfolio, would go to McDonald's board of directors conference every year. And we got to interact with senior leadership and get to ask the CEO questions. So a lot of us really were exposed to all that was out there. So many people took a lot of the teachings and applied them in other aspects. Sure, there were people that went in different paths, but I would say for the most part, a lot of my peers are doing pretty cool things.
Phil (5m 51s):
It's an incredible education really isn't it? Tell us about the sixth grade, $20,000 investment portfolio, where did that money come from and was it the whole class that were managing the portfolio? It was like having a board meeting about how to manage those funds
Myles (6m 6s):
Well, that's a great question, Phil. So the money actually came from Ariel Investments and Nuveen Investments. So each investment firm would put up $10,000. And so every, whenever a class would graduate, the profits were distributed to the graduating class and then the $20,000 was recycled to the next first grade class. I just say sixth grade because that's when you actually get to manage it, but it's each first grade class. So in the event that the portfolio experiences negative returns, they do replenish the capital. But I do believe that my graduating class of 2008 had the highest returns of all time.
Myles (6m 53s):
And it was pretty cool and satisfying to be able to say, I was able to manage that. And your question was, so did everyone have a say in what was invested? Not particularly while we all had investment class, only the junior board of directors, which was a small subset of students got to allocate those funds. And I believe there were 15 members on the junior board of directors and you actually had to write an essay to apply to be on the board. So my brother who's two years older than me was on the junior board of directors. So I think just as being the younger brother, you're kind of in the shadow of the older sibling.
Myles (7m 33s):
So it was something that was expected. So I just knew that I was going to try to apply and I was accepted, which was pretty cool. And I believe the companies that we purchased for our portfolio were Apple, Nike, Smucker's. I mean, this was 13 years ago at the time. So I really, I can't remember all the companies that were in the portfolio. But we did thorough research and the junior board of directors would meet during lunch once a month, I believe, and then after school. And we would do research on companies that we were thinking about investing in. And then once we would have those companies or a subset of companies, we would basically send a survey around to the overall class and they would ultimately vote on if they liked those investment decisions.
Myles (8m 28s):
And then we would send those buying instructions to Ariel and they would make those purchases on our behalf.
Phil (8m 34s):
Tell us about your three jars saving technique that your mom put you on the path with.
Myles (8m 38s):
I was going to say, I definitely can't take ownership or credit for that, but I believe when I was six years old, my mom implemented this three jar system. And basically how it works is every time we got money, we'd have to split it up three ways. So 50% is your living and spending jar, so that's the money you can buy video games, clothes, toys with. 40% of your money is to be allocated or was to be allocated, to saving, which ultimately became investing. And then 10% was to be allocated to charity because whatever you give, you always have to give back.
Myles (9m 20s):
So my mom instilled this sense of giving and philanthropy in us early on that, regardless of what you have, you should always be trying to think about ways you can help other people or other causes or situations that would make a difference in the world.
Phil (9m 35s):
And you got to hold Warren Buffett's wallet. That must have been pretty heavy for a little kid.
Myles (9m 40s):
I did, it was a thick wallet. I will say that I think as a 14 year old, I was expecting for there to be more cash in there, but I think he was very much in the digital era. So there were a lot of cards, but nonetheless, it was really cool to hold that wallet and to have the experience. How that even came about was Ariel was hosting a fundraiser for Barack Obama in 2008. To raise money for his campaign, they hosted a dinner with Warren Buffet because John has a strong relationship with Warren Buffet. So people paid a lot of money to come to the office of Ariel investments and have dinner with Warren Buffet.
Phil (10m 19s):
Because my brother and I were somewhat of standout students, we got a personal invitation and didn't have to pay to attend that dinner. But we did get to meet Warren and we took a picture with him and his wife was like, "Let Myles, hold your wallet." And I was just like, wait, what? This is insane. So I feel like I got some of his investing prowess when I touched it.
Myles (10m 44s):
You got his mojo.
Phil (10m 45s):
I got his mojo. So I feel like I'm on my way now. What are the healthy practices for creating wealth?
Myles (10m 57s):
I think that the healthy practices for creating wealth are creating a financial routine and sticking to it. And I think that that's going to vary from person to person, but I think initially it starts by saving. So I think that whatever money that you get, you have to always be putting some aside. And I think that's the beauty of the three jar system, because we were always consciously saving money that we got. So I think that that put us on a good track initially. And then I think as far as building wealth, unfortunately savings accounts don't have high interest rates. So the real path, and I want to think one of the real viable avenues, is by investing.
Myles (11m 37s):
And to be honest, most people aren't going to beat the S and P 500. So I think adopting a passive investing strategy is something that's critical and I think will help most people that don't necessarily have the time to do the due diligence and really dig into research and companies that will allow them to make sound investment decisions. One other aspect, in addition to investing in index funds or passively is to actively be contributing to a retirement fund. So me personally, I set up a Roth IRA account. And so I invest through that in addition to my traditional custodial brokerage account, but that Roth IRA, I know that I'm not going to be able to touch that until I'm over 59 years old.
Myles (12m 22s):
But I think consciously thinking about retirement is something that a lot of people don't necessarily consider early enough, and it's never too early to start saving for retirement. And I think that if you have that mindset, that you oftentimes are frugal in a lot of situations. Meaning that you're probably going to be a good money manager and you're not spending conspicuously or buying things that you don't necessarily need, or, you know, not to say that you shouldn't get your wants, but you're definitely prioritizing your spending and you're consciously saving and ultimately investing your money.
Phil (12m 55s):
I think it's also when you start learning about index funds, I mean, that's the easiest place to start. And for most people that's going to be the simplest path to building up and compounding wealth over a long period of time. But it's like taking that next step, isn't it? And if you are the kind of person that's going to be more interested in learning and researching, then we come to the basics of building a diversified stock portfolio. What's your views on this?
Myles (13m 25s):
Well, funnily enough, I wrote an essay that was published in a local newspaper about diversity. And I always say, diversity is the spice of life. And I think diversification is the spice of investing. And basically it's important to diversify because you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket or invest all your money in one company or one industry. Because if that goes under, then you've lost all your principal. However, if you diversify across industries and across asset classes, not all of those move in tandem. So if one industry is performing poorly, that is not going to impact your portfolio significantly because there're probably industries or asset classes that move inverse to that.
Myles (14m 9s):
So it's a way to mitigate risks. And I think diversification is something that we can't echo enough. And in my teen investment club, outside of my elementary school, Ujamaa Junior, our investment club leader presented this acronym to us called FETCH. And basically FETCH represents five industries that are needed regardless of the economic climate. And so the F stands for financial services, banks, et cetera. E stands for energy, so you can think of gas companies or companies that are creating renewable energies. T is technology so those are companies that are creating smartphones, computers, and all this new technology that allows us to interact in the 21st century.
Myles (14m 55s):
The C represents communication because look, we're virtual right now. Well, part of that is due because we're across the world from each other, but the pandemic has created a need for digital communication solutions. And we know more than ever that it's so critical for us to stay connected. So communication is a vital industry to consider when building a portfolio. And lastly healthcare, because unfortunately people are always getting sick and there's always going to be a need for medicines and ancillary support products that support hospitals and doctors that help people cope with their illnesses or combat some of their sicknesses. As we're seeing with the pandemic, that's currently taking place.
Phil (15m 38s):
And diversification's something that you really do have to think about and consider. I mean, some people would think just having an S and P 500 ETF and a NASDAQ ETF is providing diversity, but really there's a lot of crossover just in those two things.
Myles (15m 53s):
Absolutely. So I think one way to create diversification when looking at ETFs is to maybe purchase an ETF that focuses on one industry, buy an ETF that focuses on another industry. And that way that allows you to gain exposure to the companies that fall within those industries. And as we were saying, if you don't have the time to do the research, this allows you to get that exposure, but it also allows you to leave it to the professionals in theory.
Phil (16m 23s):
And asset classes. This is other things like property, for example, treasuries and so forth. Just speak a little bit about that and how asset allocation can take you a little bit beyond the stock market.
Myles (16m 35s):
Absolutely. So I'm going to tell a funny story about my grandmother. My grandmother absolutely hates the stock market. Ultimately she ended up barely making any money on her initial investment. And my grandmother is a huge proponent for real estate and is always encouraging her kids and her grandkids to own property. And that was something that was literally forced on us as kids. So I always thought that renting was bad. So I actually purchased my first property when I was 24 years old. But I think that diversifying across asset classes is important because if the stock market overall is not doing well, that may not be the case for other industries.
Myles (17m 18s):
Or if you have treasuries or bonds, those are still, you know, demonstrating consistent returns. Or if you have real estate and it's a multifamily property, you should be able to rent that out because there's probably going to be a demand for living. And obviously that's contingent on location. But for the most part, I think that that is a way to diversify and park your money. And I don't want to say too much, but the real estate is going to hold its value for the most part. But at the very least it provides a shelter or if it's income producing, it provides passive and residual income, which is something that's really good.
Phil (17m 57s):
So Rapunzl's turning stock market investing into a game for education purposes. Tell us a bit about that.
Myles (18m 5s):
So Rapunzl gives each user 10,000 fictitious dollars to buy and sell publicly traded us equities, ETFs and index funds. And basically we utilize real time market data. So individuals can see what their returns or losses would have been if they made those trades with real money. So it's really geared towards individuals that may be curious about the world of investing, but are either apprehensive about putting their actual capital in the market with fear of losing it, or be really just don't know where to begin, but understand that this is a field that they want to explore. And we called our app Rapunzl because people often view the world of investing and the returns of Wall Street as something that's inaccessible to most people.
Myles (18m 46s):
So we're essentially rolling down their hair to provide equitable access to financial markets. And more importantly, we're providing exposure. So while you can buy and sell companies and enter into competitions on the platform, you may ultimately realize that you're not a great stock picker. But by seeing how other users perform in the competition, you understand that there is a way to make money doing this. So that may allow the light bulb to click in your head like, okay, maybe I need to find someone to do this for me, because I understand it as a viable route and a viable industry or viable field to make money, but I may not know what to do, but I know that it is important.
Myles (19m 28s):
So I think that Rapunzl allows people to get that exposure. And we also have developed a series of modules that cover an array of financial topics that are designed to be self-driven. So we offer that as a resource to educators when we post high school competitions. And then we also mention it to users over the age of 18 that are curious about learning more, but don't necessarily know where to go. So we have those resources available to our users and to educators to implement Rapunzl in their classrooms.
Phil (20m 1s):
Do you have any stories about any users and how they've personally grown? Specific stories?
Myles (20m 6s):
Yeah. I mean, this is definitely a popular story for Rapunzl, but in 2018 we hosted our first high school investment competition in the city of Chicago. And we got over 2,500 kids to participate. And our grand prize winner actually came from an alternative school on the west side of Chicago. When I came and spoke to the school initially, this was this young lady's first time ever hearing about the stock market. And she ultimately ended up beating out everyone in the city of Chicago, including kids that attended private schools and magnet high schools that have more resources than hers.
Myles (20m 48s):
And what was really compelling about the story that we found out after she won was the fact that she actually dropped out of school in seventh grade and would go to the library everyday for three years before being adopted by one of the administrators of this school, where she ultimately tested in as a junior. But before hearing about Rapunzl, she thought that she was going to have to join the military after school to support her family. So winning the grand prize of $5,000 allowed her to go debt free her first year at university. And she's now in her junior year of college. And on top of that, what was really cool about her story is the fact that we were able to bring her to the offices of Ariel Investments who sponsored the scholarship for this initial competition.
Myles (21m 36s):
And they connected her with another asset management firm where she then interned there the following summer. The summer leading between her freshman and sophomore year she interned at Ariel investments and this past summer she interned at Rapunzl. So I would say that her participating in this competition, I mean she'll say herself, definitely changed her life and changed the trajectory and some of the opportunities that were open to her just because now that she's essentially a part of the Rapunzl family, we've opened up all of our contacts and connections to her. So she's able to connect with people that she probably, and most people, otherwise would not be able to connect with.
Phil (22m 17s):
And this is one of the things, there's this aura around the whole financial services industry, that it's only for people with lots of education and college degrees and that have studied maths and economic theory. When in fact it's really a lot simpler than that, isn't it?
Myles (22m 35s):
It's so much simpler than that. And I think that the reason that there is this myth to it or this aura is because it's something that's not discussed in a lot of people's homes. But people that do have parents or family members on Wall Street, this is something that they're learning about at an early age. And again, that's why we called the app Rapunzl is because we want to de-mystify what people think of something that's inaccessible to most people and provide equitable access to it. Because a lot of these concepts are digestible. I think it's just presented in this way that makes people feel like it's something that's insurmountable and they make it in a way that it seems exclusive, but it really should be inclusive.
Myles (23m 21s):
And we know that the stock market is the biggest wealth engine creator since ever. So everyone should have access to this portal that can really change your social economic status over time.
Phil (23m 34s):
One of the big differences between a simulation and the real world is having your own money on the line. How do people have to understand the psychology of the money when it's theirs really there being deployed for real?
Myles (23m 50s):
I think that the psychology of utilizing your own money versus paper trading really comes with being patient in the market. And I think a lot of people become fearful when they see a stock price of a company that they purchased drop to a level that was lower than their initial purchase price. And what we learn or what is a common, or maybe not so common, phrase is it's not about timing the market. It's about time in the market. And that's the thing that we ultimately want to convey to our users is that they stick with a strategy over time and they continue to build their position of a respected of company.
Myles (24m 32s):
Typically, if that's a stable company, that value was going to grow over time. And I have a personal story when I was 14 in 2008, during the US housing market bust, the economy entered a recession. Basically banks were lending money to people who had no business borrowing money for their second and third homes. And that had carry over ripple effects into other industries that have nothing to do with the housing market. So as a 14 year old that understood market cycles, I understood that we were in a bear market and nothing is permanent. So I saw that as an opportunity to buy companies at discounted prices.
Myles (25m 16s):
So it was like everything was on sale for me
Phil (25m 18s):
Kid in the candy store, huh?
Myles (25m 19s):
I was a kid in a candy store, really. And so because I had this long-term investing outlook or a horizon, I didn't sell those companies in '09. I recently sold several positions, I think after the market rebounded, probably in June after the pandemic. But besides that, I mean I held on to most of these positions for over 10 years. So I saw my portfolio increase, I mean, like over a thousand percent. So when you're able to share that type of story with other people, they're like, wait, what? And I'm like, yeah. So instead of buying sneakers and buying clothes that are ultimately going to go out of style, if you buy a stock in a company that has sizeable market share, or is in an industry that's vital to the economy, you're probably going to make some money if you hold that for two to three years.
Myles (26m 13s):
And that's definitely depending on if we are entering a bear market or if we're entering a recession, because it may be a little bit longer than that. But nonetheless don't sell when the stock price drops. If anything, that is an opportunity to buy more shares at a discounted price. And that's a concept called dollar cost averaging. And that basically takes an average of what you're purchasing shares of a company at.
Phil (26m 38s):
As long as you've got the confidence and the commitment to the company that you've chosen in the first place though.
Myles (26m 43s):
Right. And that's the key, need to have convictions. Like I said earlier, you should have a thesis on why you're purchasing a company. And as long as that thesis, and as long as that story remains the same, don't sell. But if something changes and if you bought a company because they were a leader in the sneaker business and they had sound management and they ultimately fired their senior leadership and bring in circus performers and they decide that they want to pivot from making sneakers to making electronic devices, maybe you should sell your shares of their company because the reason that brought them success over the years is shifting.
Myles (27m 25s):
So we don't know if this new business model is going to work. And that's just a random example, I don't know if that would actually happen. But anything is possible.
Phil (27m 33s):
So tell us a bit more about Rapunzl and the work that you do, and you better start by spelling it as well.
Myles (27m 40s):
So Rapunzl is spelled R A P U N Z L. It's like the fairytale, except there is no E. So Rapunzl is a digital stock market simulator. And we started off by hosting high school investment competitions and giving away scholarship prizes. But where we're going is we are launching cash competitions for users over the age of 18. So what, how a cash competition works is we'll be distributing prizes on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual basis. So there's always opportunity to earn money, but we didn't want to expand to the college market too soon because our platform did not necessarily have the bandwidth to support all those users.
Myles (28m 30s):
Whereas high school students are encouraged to utilize their platform and don't necessarily have a choice because their teacher is telling them they need to be participating. If the app is not up to par for college users, attention spans are so short that they will stop using the app just like that. So at the end of the day, we hope that Rapunzl is a conduit for users to open real brokerage platforms. So we're currently talking to a few different firms about partnerships and creating some type of opportunity to graduate our users to real life brokerage accounts. We have explored the idea of Rapunzl becoming a full service brokers platform, but there's a lot of regulatory and compliance things that comes with that.
Myles (29m 19s):
So we're staying away from that as much as we can for the time being. But it's something that we are definitely considering down the line. But nonetheless, we are looking for a partnership that would allow us to graduate our users in someone that's trustworthy
Phil (29m 33s):
At the moment it's generally for high school aged students. Is that how it works at the moment?
Myles (29m 39s):
Technically. But I would say this month we kicked off cash prizes. So it's open to anyone at this point and there're prizes for anyone. And what we saw was we didn't spend any money on marketing, but there were several people that I've been stopped by like, "Oh, you created Rapunzl," that weren't in high school but they were showing how they thought it was a great tool. But now we are actively marketing to the over 18 demographic. And we are about to embark on a road trip around the Midwest and hit a bunch of colleges.
Phil (30m 16s):
How many high school students are active users at the moment?
Myles (30m 20s):
So our act of high school users is probably about 5,000.
Phil (30m 25s):
Fantastic. That's really good. I mean it's just, when I consider my own education and when you consider the most people's education in finance, it's really giving them a head start, isn't it?
Myles (30m 37s):
Absolutely. And nonetheless, it exposes them to the world of finance beyond just investing, but careers that are out there. So a student on the west side of Chicago, who's learning about the stock market is also simultaneously learning that there are careers they can pursue. Which inspires them to pursue education beyond high school or to even graduate high school and think about other opportunities that they probably weren't thinking about beforehand to be quite frank.
Phil (31m 5s):
Yep. I actually bang on a bit about that because I believe that there's so many careers in finance that are not even related to finance because so much about it is now about social media, marketing, graphic design and all of those kinds of ancillary services. And it's actually a great place to work with lots of really smart, great people.
Myles (31m 25s):
Phil (31m 25s):
Myles Gage, thank you very much for joining me today.
Myles (31m 28s):
Thank you for having me, Phil, this was a blast.
Stocks for Beginners is for information and educational purposes only. It isn’t financial advice, and you shouldn’t buy or sell any investments based on what you’ve heard here. Any opinion or commentary is the view of the speaker only not Stocks for Beginners. This podcast doesn’t replace professional advice regarding your personal financial needs, circumstances or current situation.