By Dr. Adam Ylitalo, Guest Writer

Teaching our kids about finances has been a big priority ever since I first stumbled onto the pages of The White Coat Investor 7-8 years ago.

My wife and I have done various save/spend/donate jars, and they understand the difference between paying interest and receiving interest. One of the more challenging areas where we wanted to help prepare them early was understanding the stock market. I remember looking at the reports about the Dow Jones Industrial during the nightly news as a kid and watching the stock ticker scroll across the TV screen. It never quite made sense or held my interest for long.

However, in my fifth-grade classroom, we played a stock game where every kid took the daily newspaper and picked out a hypothetical $10,000 to buy whatever stock they wanted. At the end of a three-month period, the person who “made the most money” won a toy or candy prize. If I recall correctly, this person either invested in Walmart, Toys “R” Us, or Disney. I, however, performed terribly since I invested all my money in a penny stock based solely on the stock price. It promptly dropped in value. It was a memorable event, even though I do not recall the name of the stock in which I invested. It was one of those foundational experiences where I realized that I needed to understand finance.

Fast forward 30 years, and I wanted to see if the stock game would be as big of a hit with my kids as it was with me. In January 2022, I set up a stock game for my family: my wife who has a low interest in personal finance, our 8-year-old son, and our 11-year-old daughter. Fortunately (or unfortunately), we did this at the start of a terrible bear market.


Rules of The Stock Game

Each player starts with $1,000 to invest how they like. You can even choose not to invest it and hold it as cash.

Choose up to three stocks to invest in and after three months, six months, nine months, and 12 months, we will see who has made the most money based on the percent increase for each quarter.


Quarterly Winner of The Stock Game Gets Their Choice of:

  • $20 in quarters at the local pizza/video game place
  • Ice cream sundae party
  • Pizza and movie party at home
  • Dinner at our favorite local steakhouse
  • $30 at the candy store
  • Two hours at Topgolf with food
  • Bowling and video games at Main Event
  • Spa day
  • $30 shopping spree at the craft store
  • The one-year winner has the option to go to a favorite out-of-town restaurant for dinner

We purchased the stocks on Friday, January 21, 2022, and checked results on April 15, July 22, October 21, and January 20, 2023.

More information here:

Welcome to the New WCI Investment Fund

How I Teach My Kids About Money

Is Greenlight the Best Debit Card to Help Your Kids Learn Finance?


How The Stock Game Played Out

Immediately, our children went home and started using the stock app on the iPad to track different stocks. Both of my children had seen their fair share of FedEx trucks during the pandemic, so they both flocked to that stock. My daughter had heard that our local Target was going to be expanding, so she felt strongly about investing there. She also loves crafts, so she bought a small position in Joann Fabric. My son added Apple shares to his FedEx allotment. My wife went with renewable energy in BEP (Brookfield Renewable Partners) to promote responsible energy sourcing, and she bought shares of Disney—it's one of her favorite places on earth. I went all in on Rivian as demand for automobiles was increasing, and low inventory hopefully meant we would soon see a large bump in the electric vehicle market, similar to what Tesla had seen.

I purchased all of the stocks into my taxable account, and I also kept track of various other investments—including gold, Bitcoin, the S&P 500, Tesla, and various other stocks our family had discussed investing in.



At the three-month mark, Rivian was down 36.46%, my daughter was down 4.35%, and my son was down 8.40%. The first quarter winner was my wife at a gain of 1.67%. We compared each person quarter to quarter to hopefully have a different winner each time. My son won Q2, I won Q3, and my daughter won Q4.
For the end of the year totals, my investment lost 74.59% of the original value (Rivian shares tanked in dramatic fashion), while my better-diversified family suffered losses in the 20%+ range. The overall winner was my son edging out my wife by 0.39% overall. During a terrible bear market, investing completely in gold would have easily won overall, as it rose 12.79% on the year.

The bolded items below were what we actually bought.



Below is our final table, which includes the total values of our stocks and the quarterly change with the winner of each quarter in bold.


Lessons Learned from The Stock Game

We discussed some well-learned lessons at the completion of the game, including: it’s hard to predict the future; going all in on something can be really good or really bad; and we are incredibly fortunate to be in a financial position where we can afford to play a game like this.

the stock game

My investment horizon timeline is much longer than a one-year period, so the vast majority of our wealth is invested in boring low-cost indexed mutual funds. But the chance to see how well we could do individually at stock picking was an activity we will be talking about for years to come.

If other WCI readers are interested in teaching their children about stocks, this is an excellent way to pique their interest and have discussions along the way about difficult-to-grasp concepts.

Finally, I’d like to thank my son for picking our favorite out-of-town restaurant to celebrate his overall win! Whether it’s a big win (or, in this case, losing the least amount), our family was able to celebrate each other’s successes in a fun and meaningful way.

[Founder's Message from Dr. Jim Dahle: I think it is great to teach kids and, well, everyone about the stock market and how it works. I definitely try to emphasize to my children how when they own stock (whether in their 529, Roth IRA, or UTMA), they become the owner of a very tiny part of a very large, successful company. They really are owners and share in all of the successes and failures of the business. However, I have always had a problem with The Stock Game, frequently played in a junior high or high school economics class. The problem with The Stock Game, of course, is that it encourages a short-term, gambling mentality. I often worry it teaches precisely the wrong lessons about stock ownership, such as:

  1. You should check the stock price in the newspaper every day
  2. Putting all your money in the right stock can help you get rich quickly
  3. Stock investors are competing with each other rather than against their goals
  4. Short-term (including quarterly and yearly) results matter

Whether The Stock Game does more harm or good I have no idea, but I wish there were a way to teach kids about the market that did not also teach them all of these wrong ways to think about it.]

Have you ever participated in something similar to The Stock Game? What financial lessons did you learn as a kid? How do you teach your children about money? Comment below!

[Editor's Note: Dr. Adam Ylitalo is a urologist and currently serves as Chief of Staff at Baylor Scott and White-Hillcrest Hospital in Waco, Texas. This article was submitted and approved according to our Guest Post Policy. We have no financial relationship.]