A Realistic Stock Market Experience for Middle and High School Students

5-10 minutes

When you give kids 1,000,000 simulated dollars to invest in the stock market and play around with, they get excited. Not just kids: wouldn’t you love the chance to invest a big chunk of money into risky and trending stocks so you could watch your portfolio grow…or not? But how realistic is a million dollar cash windfall? The short answer, of course, is not very.

There are dozens of market simulations out there where kids can experience trading stocks, and many of these simulations deliberately or inadvertently teach students the wrong lessons, including that day-trading is fun—and worth the risk. And some students get lucky, but the majority lose money and don’t learn sound investing habits, which can ultimately discourage them from participating in the market as adults. 

Is there a good, safe way to teach kids about investing?

There is. Unlike some of the simulations that don’t focus on the long term, Stash101 (formerly PayGrade) transforms the stock market experience to teach investing in a realistic and critical way.

Through the real-time Stash101 stock market simulator, students see the importance of investing early, as well as the risk associated with the market—especially when investing over the short term. Educators can predetermine an amount of money for students to invest—a realistic amount like the $100 I started with when I was 15—and allow students to use some of their hard-earned classroom savings to continue to invest incrementally throughout the year. This approach provides a more genuine stock market experience and creates solid investing habits for the long term. It also makes students think about the money they’re investing as the money they worked hard to earn.

The three goals of Stash101’s stock market simulator:

  1. Experience investing and diversifying
  2. Be critical of investment options
  3. Create long-term investment habits

Are you an educator and ready to get started?

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Create a Stash101 account and, go to the purple settings button to configure your stock market settings.
  • Consider giving students a relatively small balance to start with, between $100 and $10,000. Define a trading fee—especially if you want to discourage short-term day trading.
  • Pick investment options: Stock Market, Foreign Currency, and Crypto.
  • Then move the toggle to allow students to move money from their savings account over to their investment account. 

It’s that easy. 

Students will quickly learn that they need to build a balanced portfolio, budget for bills, and create an emergency fund for life’s unexpected events.

Tip: Activate Stash101’s Wheel of Life to allow students to experience random financial events, such as getting a medical bill, receiving a birthday check, and needing to take an animal to an emergency vet visit.

When students have extra savings, allow them to move it into their investment account. Let students read the investment news feed and make informed buying decisions before they purchase different stocks. Students will begin to follow companies more closely and invest smaller amounts over the long term, all of which is realistic. This way of rolling out the stock market simulator also allows students to be more cautious about and critical of what they’re investing in, and it encourages students to participate in classroom activities to earn more—and continue funding their investments.

Feel like you don’t know enough about finance to make this work?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a financial expert to teach students about investing. All you have to do is follow the lesson plans in Stash101. They’ll help you guide students through setup, ask them essential questions, and give them the gift of learning to invest in the stock market through realistic practice. 

Here are some lesson plans for you to take a quick look at. They’re standards-aligned and scripted to make your life easier. 

Log in to Stash101.com and go to Resources > Lesson Plans > Unit 7: Investing & Insuring for clickable links.

Get students up and investing within four lessons, and then give them repeat exposure by having them come back each month to check in on their portfolios and invest more of their savings. 

By giving students the gift of a realistic financial experience with the stock market simulator in Stash101, you’re taking an important step to set them up for long-term financial success.

Not sure where to start?

Sign up for your free account today.

Janessa Boulay

Written by

Janessa Boulay

Janessa Boulay is the Director of Education at Stash101. She taught elementary and middle school students in Colorado before becoming an entrepreneur by starting her own software company, PayGrade, in her classroom. In June 2020, PayGrade joined forces with Stash and became Stash101, a free financial literacy platform that educates 100,000+ students around the country. Janessa loves bringing quality financial education to educators, schools, and organizations by creating content for Stash101 and presenting at conferences and on webinars. She truly believes financial literacy can transform students’ lives and empower them to build a brighter future.