Department of Labor and Regulation

Title - Division of Securities

SD High School Senior Essay Contest Rules

2013 - 2014 Contest Rules

Title for the Essay: How to Create Financial Independence by Understanding Five Principles of Investing

Required Topics:

  1. One of the longest running investment scams in history is called a Ponzi scheme. Explain what a Ponzi scheme is and discuss common “red flags” that indicate the fraud. Please also discuss the different organizations and entities that you can contact for assistance in determining whether an investment is a Ponzi scheme.
  2. Using a financial calculator (can use excel), illustrate how you can obtain $1,000,000 by the age of 67. To attain this goal, you must use at least three different investments from among the following: stocks, bonds, mutual funds and CDs using the current rate of return for the specific investments. Research and discuss the reasons why $1 million may not be enough money for your generation to retire.
  3. Discuss two different investment products in each level of the pyramid of investment risk: low, medium, high. Explain how an individual’s age affects the extent to which they should have investments at each risk level.
  4. Research and discuss the three following types of retirement plans: Traditional IRA, Roth IRA and 401K. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of each retirement plan and discuss why an individual may want to invest in more than one type of retirement plan.
  5. Choose a specific mutual fund to invest in. Describe the mutual fund’s investment strategy, the types of investments held by the mutual fund, the minimum investment required (if any), and the average annual return over the past 5 years and the average annual return over the lifetime of the fund.

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Who: Participation is available to South Dakota high school seniors.

What: Every senior is invited to write a five page essay on the above-stated topics and choose any high school teacher from his or her school as a sponsoring teacher. Students can consult any person or area of information but must compose all information in their own words without any help. Copying from a source is not allowed unless properly referenced. An entry form and survey to be completed by the student and verified by the sponsoring teacher must be attached to the front of each essay upon submission. This form must be legible.

How: Essays must be written on all of the stated topics and must be in 12-point, Times New Roman font, single-spaced with 1 inch margins, no more than one page per topic, and a minimum of 250 words per page excluding title/topic, with the word count per page provided on each page.

There should be five pages plus a cover sheet giving the name, mailing address and phone number of the student along with the name, mailing address and phone number of the high school and the name of the sponsoring teacher from that high school.

The essay should be stapled in the top left hand corner with the entry form/survey form on top of the cover sheet. Do not put in a folder. No electronic submissions will be accepted.

Deadline: Entries must be postmarked no later than Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

The Sponsor-Teacher will sign the entry form and make sure the essay is in the proper order with a cover sheet. These essays will be judged based on the content related to the topics. Each of the five sections will be judged on a four-point scale. The Securities Division (Division) will grade the papers to determine winners for First Place through Fifth Place. Then remaining papers will be placed into four levels; for example, A - B - C - D. All qualified (following rules) remaining papers will fall within one of these four levels.

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When: Essays must be postmarked no later than Tuesday, January 21, 2014. Winners will be notified and announced by April 30, 2014. Winners' pictures and names may be used in a press release at the end of the contest.

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Where: Send essays to:

Essay Contest
Division of Securities
SD Department of Labor and Regulation
445 E. Capitol Ave.
Pierre, SD 57501

The Division will be responsible for judging the essays and reserves the right to accept or reject any essay. The final scores will be at the sole discretion of the Division of Securities and any other person the Division may use to judge this contest. All essays received become the property of the Division and will not be returned.

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The essay contest is funded by a grant from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT). IPT is a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Since 1993 the IPT has worked with states to provide independent, objective investor education to help all Americans make informed investment decisions.

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Contact Us

445 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501-3185
Phone: 605.773.4823
Fax: 605.773.5953

Division of Securities
445 E. Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501-3185
Tel. 605.773.4823
Fax. 605.773.5953