How I won a $2,000 scholarship

How investing helped me win a $2,000 scholarship

Matt won a scholarship for having an interest in investing at 17

Matt West, 17 of Winnipeg, Man. (Photography by Amanda Skuse)

Matt West, 17 of Winnipeg, Man. (Photography by Amanda Skuse)

I’m only 17 years old but I’ve already learned a lot about investing. Over the years, whenever I visited my grandpa, he’d be watching BNN and on the bottom of the TV screen there were ticker symbols for different stocks scrolling by. He always patiently explained to me what the arrows and numbers meant and, as I got older, he continued my education by explaining how investments worked.

These initial lessons got me interested in investing so, at 16—anxious to earn some extra spending money and invest in my own stock picks—I started working at my local golf course. I earned about $4,000 at that job, but also sought out other ways to earn money for investing. I bought bike kits, put the bikes together and then sold them for a small profit. I would also search out good deals on Kijiji for things I wanted, like a laptop, iPad, desktop computer and cell phone. After I was finished using them I would upgrade some of the components and sell them—making $150 or so in profit on each sale.

The analytical skills I used to source out good deals gave me the confidence to start my own investing research. My initial buy was 50 shares in Corning Inc., a company that makes glass and ceramics. While I liked that lots of kitchenware is made by Corning, I was particularly interested in the fact that their products were also used to make touchscreens for phones, tablets and laptops. Now, I’ve turned my attention to SNC Lavalin Group’s stock (primarily because Warren Buffett has shown an interest).

I’ve learned that while reading investing books is important, getting firsthand experience—whether it’s doing research or buying, selling and monitoring your own stocks—is invaluable.

For instance, earlier this year, my research paid off. I was looking at a website that matches scholarships to your interests and I learned that the Bridgehouse Scholarship Program (BSP) offered $2,000 scholarships to students between ages 16 and 22 who agreed to take an investor personality quiz before submitting an essay. The quiz was based on the Know Your Client rule that governs financial advisors, and the essay had to be based on what I had learned about my inner financial self.

Truth is, the quiz helped me gauge my risk tolerance and my answers suggested I was a thrill seeker/strategist—an assessment I wholeheartedly agree with. For me, the quiz results show I like the thrill of investing but I’m also analytical enough to take the time to strategize before making final investment decisions. I’m pretty good at keeping my emotions in check most of the time, but I still need to be somewhat cautious when investing. For me, this insight reinforced the need to stick to a very strategic, unemotional approach in order to do well with my growing portfolio.

The great news is that I was chosen as one of 10 Bridgehouse Scholarship winners and my $2,000 scholarship will be going directly towards tuition fees at The Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, where I’m now studying commerce. I’d like to go into accounting or investment management one day so I’m planning to check out the Portfolio Management Foundation club at UBC. The Foundation manages a $7-million portfolio and being part of the club will expose me to some of the things I would like to try doing in my future career.

But my university years won’t only be about studying, business and investing. I like to run track and field, to play strategic board games like Settlers of Catan and, most of all, to play my guitar. My favourite song to play right now is “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. I may even invest some money on new guitar equipment. After all, investing money is great, but so is spending it on things that make you happy. I plan to keep on doing both.

As told to Julie Cazzin