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In our personal-finance class, we have a unit on investments, and I always get the same two comments: "What should I invest in?" and "Should I buy bitcoin?"

I don't understand bitcoin, so I can't help there, but since I believe you should only invest in what you understand, the answer to the first question is easy: Invest in yourself. As your chosen investment adviser, I have three key strategies (and a story for each one) that will help you down this path. This advice, as always, is free.

Investment strategy No. 1: Be curious and ask questions

When I was a kid, I never really liked going to church. There were a variety of reasons, but my parents didn't care about any of them, and so over time I started to notice what everyone was doing. Stand up, sit down, stand up. Then I started to notice what everyone was saying. One day, Father Delbert proclaimed: "A reading from the gospel, according to Mark." Now, I had no idea what a "gospel" was, and I didn't know Mark, but those concerns were immediately overshadowed by what happened next. For as you all know, the correct response is, "Glory to you, Lord," but what my 7-year-old ears heard was "According to you, Lord." What made it more unsettling was that this crowd response was in a hushed voice, as if they didn't want Father Delbert to know he had made a mistake. This seemed really odd to me, and I kind of felt sorry for Father Delbert, but I didn't ask any questions.

As the service ended, same routine: Stand up, sit down, stand up and then Father Delbert said, "Please join us for fellowship in the foyer." Now, I did not know what "fellowship" meant, and I didn't know where the foyer was, but I followed everyone through a door near the back of the church, down a hall and entered a room to see tray after tray of doughnuts. And I thought to myself: "I love fellowship."

As I was stuffing that third doughnut into my face, I performed my own little cause/effect analysis: Maybe this doughnut festival was God's way of thanking us for giving him the appropriate props 30 minutes earlier when we made it clear the gospel was according to him and not some guy named Mark. Again, I didn't ask any questions, I just went with it and put my flawed theory to the test.

For the next few weeks, "The gospel according to John/Mark/Luke" was always followed by the same hushed, "According to you Lord." Each week, the doughnuts followed. Then Father Delbert dropped a curveball one morning, proclaiming, "The gospel, according to Matthew." Now, as you students might say: That hit different. Father Delbert was glazing me! I remember pleading with God: "Hey, I know I've been mailing it in these past few weeks, but the gospel is really according to you, not me. Are we good? Fellowship?"

I probably went years without asking my parents (or anyone else) why the entire crowd was correcting this poor old man standing up there. I was simply afraid to ask questions. I even compounded that simple misunderstanding by introducing a doughnut corollary. So, seniors, be curious and ask questions. And when you seek out answers, be open to different points of view that may challenge some of your own beliefs.

Investment Strategy No. 2: Be kind

Around the same time I was struggling with this God/gospel/doughnut dynamic, a speech therapist noticed that I was struggling with fluency on certain words and sounds. She had some strategies, but I was stubborn and came up with my own. I employed my own little "scout," and this imaginary scout would constantly go out 10 to 15 seconds into the future and return with a report from the front lines: "There is a struggle word on the horizon and you have choices. You can delicately try to change the course of this conversation to avoid the word or change the tense of the word. Or you could face it head-on and stammer right through it." As you can imagine, this constant back-and-forth with my imaginary scout and predicting how a conversation is going and whether I should even join a conversation and words I might struggle with and what I should do to avoid certain words or how I should say certain words was (and is) … exhausting.

What really annoyed me, however, was that I didn't know anyone who was going through this, and I'm not even sure I knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who had this fluency issue. Now, I'm not telling you this story for sympathy, nor am I comparing this struggle with other more serious challenges out there. I'm telling you this because I believe that everyone has some kind of issue they are dealing with. So when I say "be kind," I mean the empathetic kind, not the superficial kind.

Perhaps the challenges are unseen, like what I just described, or perhaps they're seen all too well. During a recent spring cleaning, I came upon an early high school photo. Put aside for a moment the improper ratio of hair to head and take in everything else: freckles, glasses, braces, acne. Yikes. We are all dealing with something, maybe seen, maybe unseen, maybe both. Most people are just trying to make it through the day. Be kind and empathetic as you interact with people.

Here's the cool thing: There is an additional benefit to this strategy. It opens you up to receive the gifts others have to offer. Every year a student comes up here to give a prayer in Spanish, and every year that person is fantastic. Every year, I have to remind myself that students have gifts beyond what I might see in class. There are so many times when you only see people through a single lens. And the natural inclination is to think that it's their only dimension. This is a massive mistake. So, yes, be kind, and also realize everyone has gifts. Some are obvious and some not, so don't be afraid to take the time to get to know those around you and learn about the gifts they have to share.

Investment strategy No. 3: Find and surround yourself with humor

You should surround yourself with friends, colleagues and family who make you laugh. Research shows humor reduces stress and mortality rates. Even if it didn't, who doesn't like to laugh? When I was in college, I remember walking to a final and saying something like, "I might have to achieve hero status to pass this test." A friend of mine named Bill Hughes looked at me and deadpanned: "Not all heroes wear capes." Do you have that friend that always says the comment that maybe only you think is funny? If so, stay close to them. I'm now nearly 30 years removed from college, and I consider Bill one of my best friends because every time I get together with him I laugh a lot.

On the colleague front, I'm blessed to work with the Cristo Rey faculty and staff you interact with each day. They are hardworking and hilarious. I don't need any examples here because you all have experienced it for the past four years. Also, if you're not sure if something is funny, all you need to hear is the wonderfully infectious laugh of Claudia Martinez to remind you that you should be laughing. Do you know someone whose laugh makes you laugh? If so, stay close to them.

Then there is family. I love all my children, but my youngest, Bella, makes me laugh every day. During a recent dinner when I encouraged her to eat more green vegetables, she responded (as she jammed another piece of steak in her mouth): "There's greens in my chimichurri sauce, bro!" She also sent me a text following the Minnesota Timberwolves' blow-out loss a few weeks back saying "It's OK Matty L, the Wolves will be back to the conference finals in 2044," somehow acutely aware of the 20-year gaps in success for this team. Find and surround yourself with friends, colleagues and family who make you laugh.


I don't have advice for parents and family, only a quick story: When my wife was 5 years old, she moved here with her family from the former Soviet Union. At the bus stop one day, someone asked her mother: "How are things going?" As the story goes, Vera Mednikov responded: "My husband cannot find work, my daughter does not speak at school and I am eight months pregnant with our second child — everything is going according to plan!" Vera could find the humor.

Of course, nothing ever goes according to plan, particularly when it comes to raising children. No one can ever truly understand the sacrifices parents (particularly immigrant parents) make to support these students. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with them. I remind myself every day that they are your pride and joy.

Class of 2024, let's put these strategies into practice. You're probably curious about what is in the envelope on your chair. It's an invitation from me to open your own Vanguard investment account. I'm tired of hearing how investing is something "other" people do, so let's take action. I put the directions in the letter. I attempted to surprise you by opening it up myself, but do you know who is really good at asking questions? The customer service team at Vanguard. Birthdays, addresses, Social Security numbers, etc.

I'll leave that up to you. Once you follow those steps and set up your own account, I hope you will reach out to me. We can sit and talk one-on-one (like a real investment adviser would do) about suitable investment options to continue down this path of investing in yourself.

I close with a quote from Hank Aaron, the true home-run king. On the way to eclipsing Babe Ruth's career record 50 years ago, Aaron endured a level of hatred, vitriol and racism that no one can imagine. Yet he handled it all with grace — a level of grace that should be a model for all of us. He said: "In playing ball, and in life, a person occasionally gets the opportunity to do something great. When that time comes, only two things matter: being prepared to seize the moment and having the courage to take your best swing." Class of 2024: As you go out into the world and create your own story, I hope you all have the courage to take your best swing. And if you're going to swing, swing hard!

Matthew Loucks, of Edina, teaches and coaches at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis.