Consumer data — and, uh, common sense if you’ve ever met someone under age 20 — shows that how teenagers spend their pocket money is pretty predictable: Clothes, food, beauty and video games reign supreme when it comes to top Gen Z spending categories.
The co-founders of First Generation Investors (FGI) are hoping to change those adolescent financial priorities. Brothers Dylan Ingerman, 23, and Alex Ingerman, 25, and their friend Cole Mattox, 22, are dismantling wealth inequality one student at a time by putting ninja-level financial literacy in their hands (and brains).
“I bought one share of Verizon when I was in fourth grade for $20. I fell in love with it early on,” Dylan says, crediting his parents with exposing him to the markets. “A lot of people are just not aware of these opportunities to grow wealth for the long term.”
The three young Changemakers, all working in finance while they expand FGI to — hopefully — “every public school in America,” met at the University of Pennsylvania. They devised a mentorship program that uses volunteers from colleges across the U.S. to recruit students from Title I high schools based on need and their individual interest in economics and investing.
Here’s how it works: Students complete an eight-week course on a variety of investing topics taught by the volunteers (think: compounding interest, stocks, diversification) and commit to graduating high school to receive $100 to invest in a select set of ETFs or mutual funds.
When they graduate and turn 18, positions get transferred to their own brokerage accounts.
Mattox, named “Most Likely to Revolutionize Wall Street” by Goldman Sachs as a teen himself, launched the hedge fund North Tabor Capital from his bedroom in suburban New Jersey when he was still in braces. He wasn’t introduced to the world of finance as early as the Ingrams, instead crediting his curiosity about wealth, technology and politics to the realization that he could create positive economic change through education.
That’s especially true, he says, in underserved communities where pathways to financial literacy are limited. A 2019 review of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority data found that financial literacy was lowest among Black respondents, women, adults under 35 and those without a college education.
“This information is passed down through generations, and if it's not passed down to you, you never get it,” Mattox adds.
Therein lies the philosophy driving FGI, which is approaching its 1,000-student milestone. The results speak for themselves: Just 5 years old, the nonprofit now employs directors and a program manager, has more than 30 colleges and universities on board, and boasts 300 volunteers. Public high schools and charter schools are starting to implement FGI’s curriculum, too, and the co-founders are seeing immediate results: Three participants have been admitted to Harvard University, while others have gone on to score jobs and internships in the finance sector.
They’re also working on making the program longer after students asked for it in their feedback.
“We had one of our supporters speak to one of our FGI classes at Penn, and after, he told us he got better, more thoughtful questions from our students than he does when he speaks to MBA panels at top-tier business schools,” Alex says proudly.
Though the guys have many years ahead of them, they call FGI their “life’s work.” Aligned on a vision where everyone is on a path to economic prosperity, they’re fully invested in creating a future where teens from all walks of life are as enthusiastic about dollar cost averaging and creating a balanced portfolio as they are about Fortnite.
“A common piece of feedback is, ‘I taught my parents this,’ confirming to us that not only is it working, but they're excited about it,” Mattox adds. “One of the students said, ‘This program taught me why I should be investing in stocks over sneakers.’”
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the Ingermans' last name.