The stock market is confusing to many and downright scary to some who fear risking their savings by investing in companies that may eventually flounder. But the rewards can also be great.
Vince Russell of Oakwood knows this and has set out to change the perception of the stock market by helping to educate young people on the inner workings of investing.
“I grew up in Southwest Pennsylvania,” Russell said. “Neighborhoods then were filled with steel workers and coal miners.”
Russell felt fortunate to be born into a family of professionals. His father was a devoted teacher in Pittsburgh City Schools and worked hard for a salary that didn’t allow for much saving.
“I would ask my dad why he worked so hard as a teacher,” Russell said. “He would say that the kids needed him.”
Russell said the influence his father had on his life has been a game changer. While attending college at Carnegie Mellon University to study industrial engineering, he got involved in coaching and counseling. He spent two summers traveling to soccer camps for kids ages 6 – 13 and loved it.
Right out of college, Russell worked for Alcoa Aluminum. After a few years he became a consultant with Ernst and Young, a professional services company, and ended up back in manufacturing. Searching for an opportunity that would be a better fit, he decided to make a complete change.
“When I was 30 years old, my wife, Maria, and I moved to Dayton,” Russell said. “My wife is from Dayton, and we had contacts here. I was looking for something that would be more captivating.”
Russell transitioned to a different career in 2001 in Dayton. He was hired as a financial advisor by the Johnson Investment Counsel and today has accounts in several states. He was also looking for volunteer opportunities working with young people.
“I didn’t have a great opportunity right away to help kids but in 2002, a neighbor asked me to help coach a soccer team,” Russell said.
Russell and his wife are lifelong devotees of soccer, having both played while in college. They had their first child, Vivian, in 2003. Son Vito followed in 2004 and daughter Josephine in 2007. They enrolled all their children in Holy Angels School in Dayton, and they all played soccer.
“Our kids went to school with a diverse population at Holy Angels until eight grade,” Russell said.
In 2016, Russell met Amy Meyers, a math teacher at the school who was teaching seventh and eighth graders about the stock market and having her classes participate in the Ohio Stock Market Challenge. This stock market simulation experience is open to teams of students in grades four through 12 throughout the state. Meyers invited Russell to come and speak to her classes about his real-life experiences with the market.
“Every year until about 2021, I would go to the school and speak to the kids, teaching them about the stock market and how to invest,” Russell said.
In the Stock Market Challenge, teams of students are given $100,000 in “play” money and are able to create their own portfolios. In 2018 and with Russell’s help, one of the teams from Holy Angels placed second in the state. The top three teams statewide receive cash awards, which are given to the individual schools.
In 2017, Russell’s oldest daughter began attending Oakwood High School and there Russell started volunteering with teacher Natalie Johnston’s class in business basics and philanthropy.
“This class teaches students the key aspects of giving back and choosing charities to support,” Russell said. “It’s been an amazing experience as the kids have been to just about every charity you can imagine in Dayton. It gets them out of their home communities and into other neighborhoods they may have never visited.”
Russell is also speaking regularly to Johnston’s entrepreneurship classes, helping the students learn how to start and build their own businesses.
But Russell’s true passion is helping people make better decisions about their futures, including younger generations.
“I’m helping whole families, not just by volunteering in the community but also at work,” Russell said. “Our company was founded on the principle that we should help generations from families and it’s wonderful to transition to help a client’s child and grandchild.”
Today Russell is continuing his volunteerism and devotion to the community, coaching soccer with the Salvation Army and serving on the board of the YMCA, Dayton . He was named chairman of that board in 2018 and in 2020 received the E.L. Kohnle Humanitarian Award, the highest honor given to a volunteer.
“Investing in the stock market today is easier than ever,” Russell said. “Younger people can do it even with small amounts of money. My family didn’t have savings, and this is something I wish I had known when I was 16 or 18 years old. If you invest early, it can really make an impact on your life.”