John W. Rogers Jr.: Demonstrating That Money Talks -- and Teaches
John W. Rogers Jr.
Credit: Peter Hoey
More to Explore:
From the time he was twelve, John W. Rogers Jr. got stocks for every birthday and Christmas from his dad, a lawyer and juvenile court judge. "He would give me real stock, things that would pay a quarterly dividend, so I could learn about the market," Rogers recalls.
Rogers is now chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Ariel Capital Management -- one of the nation's largest black-owned firms -- and serves on the Illinois governor's council of economic advisers. Emulating his father, he also invests in kids -- in a big way. In 1996, he helped found the Ariel Community Academy, a high-performing K-8 public school in a poor neighborhood on Chicago's South Side.
The school meshes financial literacy and investment with core curriculum, and its students -- 438 this year -- manage real money. First-grade classes receive a $20,000 investment portfolio; with each passing year, students assume increasing responsibility for its management.
At the end of eighth grade, the original investment passes to the next incoming class and the portfolio's proceeds are divided. One half is earmarked for philanthropy, with graduates collectively determining its focus. (The first graduating class of 2005 gave $5,000 toward a new sound system for the auditorium.) The remaining half is split among all graduates, who can cash out or invest in a college-savings plan matched by its corporate partner. Of the thirty-five graduates in 2006, only four opted for cash.
The academy doesn't just generate monetary dividends: the school posted the region's highest math-score gains on the Illinois and Iowa standardized tests for the last three years, and it has had the highest attendance rate for the last five.
"It's a model of national significance," says Arne Duncan, the system's CEO, an Ariel board member, and Rogers's friend for three decades. "We'd love to offer that kind of opportunity to all 415,000 students in the Chicago public schools," he adds.
To that end, Rogers says he's "out trying to talk this up around the country, hoping that other financial-services companies will partner with other schools." He calls this "the right thing to do" for several reasons: Children build financial literacy, they learn about careers in financial services, and they can prepare earlier as retirement responsibilities increasingly shift to individuals.
Business self-interest offers another incentive, adds Rogers. With changing U.S. demographics, companies seek more minority customers and want to know Ariel's secret. "We start early," he says.
Next article in "The Daring Dozen 2007" > Arthur Rolnick