Finance Presentation Yields Lifelong Returns

By Melinda McNamara

Retired adjunct professor Mark Bradford gave a lecture that created real-life financial change for his students. It has even become the foundation for a Saint Mary’s club that makes the investment principles available to any student who is interested.

Portrait of Hannah Ziegeler '15Hannah Ziegeler ’15 connected the dots between theory and reality after she heard Bradford’s lecture called The $10 Millionaire in his Intro to Management class. It’s the same speech Bradford gives students today as advisor to the Saint Mary’s College Investment Club. The essence: Start investing $300 a month when you’re in your 20s, and you’ll have $1 million at age 60.

Ziegeler set up a mutual fund account at age 22 and invests in it every month. In five years, her fund has grown from a few hundred dollars into thousands. The experience helped her turn her passion for photography into an entrepreneurial venture a year after graduation. Today, Ziegeler has built HZ Photography into a nationally recognized success—even during pandemic restrictions. It has also allowed her to enter the real estate market and purchase a home.

“If you want freedom in your life, you need to feel confident with your money,” said Ziegeler. “Everyone can feel the luxury of financial freedom by making the right decisions.”

Marta Herman '19 portraitAfter hearing the ideas from Bradford’s $10 Millionaire lecture, Marta Herman ’19 was inspired to start the investment club in 2018. Students in the club, which now has more than 20 active members, learn how to take financial matters out of the classroom and into real life.

“The club empowers women to make real decisions about their money and take control of their own financial planning,” Bradford said. 

Many students who show up for their first meeting know nothing about earnings per share or how a mutual fund works. It doesn’t take long for them to realize this is no sit-in-your-seat-and-take-notes exercise. And it’s not simulated trading. They quickly get hooked on the outside-the-rules approach to learning about the power of money in real life.

Bradford seeds the investment club with $25,000 from his personal savings. Students help Bradford manage his money by using online resources like Yahoo Finance and Motley Fool to learn about businesses like Starbucks, Disney, Teledoc, and CRSPR. They bring suggestions to the weekly meetings and take part in healthy debate about the pros and cons of an investment.

When it’s time to make a trade, the club uses an actual online brokerage account set up by Bradford to buy and sell stocks. They take turns “pushing the button” to execute a trade and watch the flicker and flash of a transaction completed in seconds. 

“This is real-life decision making,” Bradford said.

Bradford says the goal of the club is to give away profits. Each year, the club sells all of its stocks and, once his seed money is replaced, the club donates funds to the College’s annual donor challenge and a local charity.

Portfolio sales in 2020 led to an $8,000 donation to the CASIE Center, a child advocacy service in South Bend. It was an experience none of the club members will ever forget.

“We wanted to make as much for the kids as possible,” said Isabelle Latsch ’23, co-president of the club. “It made us research a lot more so we could make good decisions.”

The learning behind the investment club goes far beyond reading graphs and adding up dollar signs.

“Money leads to freedom, to power in students’ lives so they can go on and do great things,” Bradford said. “It’s not about greed or being rich.”

That’s why the foundation of the club is built on three pillars—spend, save, give. Each factor teaches important concepts in money matters. Bundled together, the lessons learned become priceless ‘A-ha’ moments that compound over a lifetime.

Lessons not found in textbooks 

Alexis Vittone ’20, a business administration major, knew a little about finance from her marketing classes. She was interested in finance, but she didn’t originally have a passion for it as a career path.

That changed her junior year when she joined the investment club and started to dig into the research on stock performance and the avenues available with finance degrees.

“I called my dad after my first club meeting and said, ‘You should’ve taught me this a long time ago,’” Vittone said. “It’s a whole new world that no one tells you about.”

Now Vittone is on track to finish an internship in wealth management at a credit union. She plans to join the private client team full time and is on a path to earn her license as an investment advisor.

“The club opened a new career path for me—one I’m passionate about,” she said. “It got me out of my comfort zone.”

Latsch also gravitated quickly to the research side of the investing challenge.

“I’ve learned to think outside the box and how to be up-to-date with current events,” she said. “It makes you feel powerful to be in charge of your own money.”

Now Latsch has her own portfolio and invests with purpose. Her family even asks her to invest money for them.

In 2020, Latsch chose one stock in her portfolio—Amazon—as her donation pick. She expects to give profits she makes from her investment to the ALS Foundation in November. 

Her giving spirit for ALS goes full circle back to her major in speech pathology. Latsch wants to give people a voice, even if they have difficulties with speech. Her contribution, monetarily as well as professionally, may go a long way toward making a difference in many lives.

Newfound confidence in real-world decisions

For Hillary Ziemba ’23, financial freedom means more than buying and selling stocks. 

Ziemba, a business major, knew about investing before she joined the club last year. During high school, she worked at a bank and opened her own mutual fund. Her dad matches her investment contributions dollar for dollar.

Today, Ziemba serves as treasurer for the club. She took the initiative to start tracking stock prices on a Google sheet that every club member can see. Ziemba also watches the market to see what happens with stocks for her personal portfolio. 

During school breaks, Ziemba helps her mom with bookkeeping for her family’s manufacturing business in Jackson, Mich.

“Now I see how everything connects in running the business,” she said.

She believes saving and giving add up to a peace she can live with for the rest of her life. “I’ve realized that you want to control your finances, instead of letting your finances control you,” Ziemba said.