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Investing Joins 3 R's at Unusual School

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Investing

Like their peers elsewhere, the students at a one-of-a-kind public elementary school on the South Side of Chicago are dazzled by pop-culture stars — Beyonce and Common, Kanye West and Lil' Wayne, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Listen closely to the hallway chatter at Ariel Community Academy, though, and you may hear unexpected references to uncool dudes like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. After all, these kids have their portfolios to worry about.

The Ariel school is an experiment in financial literacy with real-life oomph: Each incoming first-grade class gets $20,000 that the children ultimately get to pick stocks for and manage. The goal is to add an I — investing — to the three R's, according John Rogers Jr., chairman and chief executive of Ariel Capital Management, the Chicago-based money management firm that established the school in 1996.

At a time when pensions are being phased out and people must rely more on their own investment smarts, Rogers thinks saving and investment should be an integral part of the curriculum at schools across the country.

"It's important to have all the reading and writing and arithmetic skill sets, but we can't think of anything else more important than to be able to be financially viable and competent as you start to build your working career," he said.

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