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By Kirstin Pesola, Loyola Marymount U.

It's Friday. You've spent 20 hours of the last week elbow deep in soap suds, cafeteria trays and floating leftovers. You're ready to pick up that paycheck. You do. It's peanuts. But hey, you're a college student. Low-paying jobs and empty pockets go hand in hand, right?

Thousands of students across the nation prove that theory wrong every day. They've taken the bull by the horns and leapt on the back of today's booming stock market. Day traders, Internet investors or high rollers – call these dollar-and-cent-savvy students what you want, but the truth is: While you're earning peanuts, they're feasting on some high-quality cashews. Most of them, anyway.

Like any investment, stock trading is a risky business. But with a lot of research, a little cash and a tiny click of the mouse, you very well may be on the way to profit.

First, the research: You might not know the difference between a bull and a bear market, but hey, you can learn. Plenty of Web sites are geared to teaching young investors stock market know-how. A common favorite? U. of Pennsylvania freshman Jay Liebowitz's Wall Street Wizard and The Motley Fool. Designed "to educate, amuse and enrich the individual investor," the Fool site is loaded with tips and hints for even the "new fool." Heck, they'll even send you a free introductory book on investing if you request one.

Next, do some hard-core research on the companies you're thinking about investing in. It sounds a lot like school, but remember – this homework can earn more than just good grades.

As for the starter cash, don't fret: You don't have to be a rich kid to start investing now – even if you consider the area under the couch cushions your personal savings account. In recent years, online trading has made getting involved in the stock market easier – and cheaper. Instead of going to a stockbroker and paying a couple hundred dollars for a trade, you can do it on your computer for $15.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it can be if you're not prepared to roll with the big bulls, says Alan Smolinsky, a sophomore at the U. of Southern California, who has been investing since he was 17. "The Internet is dangerous because you might not know what you're doing and you can lose money," Alan warns.

That said, you might not have the cash or the cajones to plunge into the stock market on your own, so think about joining a campus investment club. Northwestern U. has The Nugget Investment Group; your school might have one, too.

If not, starting your own is simple. For a small fee, the National Association of Investors Corp. (NAIC) will give you all the paperwork needed to start an investment club. You can also download starter documents from The Nugget Web site. So what are you waiting for? Ditch that campus job and do your best Cuba Gooding Jr. imitation: It's time somebody showed you the money.

Jay Liebowitz, a freshman at the U. of Pennsylvania and creator of the Wall Street Wizard Web site: "For about eight years, the stock market has been going up almost nonstop. $24 trillion of wealth has been created in these last eight years alone."

Lee Shenloogian, a junior at the U. of Central Oklahoma, is just itching to dive in: "I've taken a personal finance class in which we had to mock invest $20,000, so I got a pretty good background. I don't invest money now, but I plan on investing in the future."

Alan Smolinsky, a sophomore at the U. of Southern California, has been investing his money since he was 17: "Everyone thinks it's people with their MBAs who are investing, but the concept is basic and anyone can do it."

Joshua Kagan, a junior at Wesleyan U., has been investing since age 18: "I would recommend looking at past performances of stocks, reading as much as possible, learning about economics and getting a good background on businesses."

The Nugget Investment Group
School: Northwestern U.

Getting Started: In 1997, a group of Northwestern students formed the club to learn about money and how to make more of it.

Club perks: "You can buy a lot more stocks than you could on your own because you can pool more money together," says club member Jason Waugh, a junior.

Money talks: The group has made an impressive 25-percent annual return on their investment.

Picking stocks: Students research stocks and vote on which ones to buy or sell, then do their trading online through E*trade (www.etrade.com).

Hot stocks: Microsoft, Coke, Disney and "products you use on an everyday basis."

6 Tips on Starting an Investment Club
Wanna start your own investing club? Selena Maranjian of The Motley Fool outlines some tips for starting your own club in her book, Investment Clubs: How to Start and Run on the Motley Fool Way.

1. Talk to friends and students to generate interest; find out who's fired up about investing

2. Look for students with a variety of interests. "They'll bring a different perspective," Maranjian says. "Pre-med students might help the group study pharmaceutical companies, while business students might be well-versed in the retail industry."

3. Present students with information and forms. You can obtain these from The Motley Fool's Web site, the NAIC's site, or from Peter Lynch's books, Learn to Earn: A Beginners Guide to the Basics of Investing and Business and Beating the Street

4. Hold a preliminary meeting to gauge member commitment.

5. Divide the work so each club member researches different topics.

6. Hold off investing together right away. "Since the collecting and record-keeping can get complicated, try starting a club that meets, learns together, researches and discusses companies together – but stops short of actually pooling money."

To help you get started, here are some Web addresses that could put you on the road to riches.

The Motley Fool: www.fool.com

Wall Street Wizard: www.streetwhiz.com

The Nugget: www.thenugget.net

National Association of Investors Corp.: www.betterinvesting.com


contact information:
Lee Shenloogian, e-mail: g.shenloogian@worldnet.att.net--parents' e-mail address.
Selena Maranjian, e-mail: selenam@fool.com, phone-703-518-6218
Jay Liebowitz, phone-818-360-7625
Alan Smolinisky, phone: 310-459-0174
Josh Kagan, phone: 310-230-0653
Jay Waugh, phone: 847-910-7102

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