SEARSPORT — Max Provencher, a rising senior at Searsport District High School, has had a passion for investing for several years, and has used it to gain election to a handful of positions that allow him to share his enthusiasm for investing and financial literacy with students locally, statewide, and nationally.
Most recently, Provencher was elected to serve as the national treasurer for the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) for the 2021-2022 school year.
An avid investor of stocks and bonds, Provencher will hold this elected office in addition to his role as chapter president and founder of the Searsport FBLA chapter, vice president of Maine’s FBLA chapter, sponsorship director for the National Treasurer's Council and student cabinet member for the Maine Department of Education.
He has completed the first three levels (future, business and leader) of the FBLA business achievement awards, comparable to badges earned by Boy Scouts, and has earned the organization’s first tier community service award for performing 50 hours of FBLA community service.
Additionally, he was the 2020 Maine FBLA New Member of the Year. In the Maine FBLA competitive events, he placed second in the competitive events of political science, personal finance, and entrepreneurship, as well as first for securities and investments.
Provencher gained his start in investing during the seventh grade when his social studies teacher, Michael Vasiliauskas, allowed Provencher to play a stock market game with the eighth grade students.
Provencher confesses he had no clue what was going on and he terribly managed his mock investment portfolio. Despite the poor results, he was hooked on investing.
“Something clicked when I played that game and it inspired [me] to go down the business and investing rabbit hole,” he recalled.
After picking the brain of his entrepreneur grandfather, William Sheldon, Provencher decided to double down and go all in on soaking up knowledge of investing smartly.
“I would call random investment advisors near me and ask if I could ask them questions,” said Provencher.
He credits Jeff O'Roak and Glenn T. Carlson, Jr., of Edward Jones in Belfast; Aram Alex Khavari, of Morgan Stanley in Bangor; Joelle Spear, of Canby Financial Advisors in Massachusetts; and Bettina Doulton, formerly of Fidelity and now owner of Lincolnville’s Cellardoor Winery, for helping put him on the right track to manage a small Robinhood investment account with parental guidance.
That was before opening a custodial Roth IRA through Fidelity, a 529 through Merrill Edge and a managed account through Keybank. Naturally, investment mogul Warren Buffett has also been a role model for Provencher.
Provencher simply enjoys the art of business and investing.
“Some people like it for the money, some people like it for the glamour, others for the fame; I just enjoy the relentless drive to be better and to beat the market or to beat competitors,” he said. “I want to bring that same love and passion for business to more students. That is my dream that we can all have the spirit of the American Dream inside us. That sounds really cheesy, but it matters.”
Business became his full-fledged passion.
“Some kids had sports, others [had] music, some [had] boy scouts,” he said. “I didn't have any of those, but I had business.”
For awhile, Provencher has desired to be an advocate for changes emphasizing business and investing education in classrooms around the nation, an opportunity FBLA presents him.
“Although I'm not an elected government official I am proud to say that I represent over 200,000 future business leaders that will collectively change the world in ways we cannot predict,” he said. “It is an honor and privilege to be able to advocate for financial literacy on their behalf to various government agencies, elected government officials, and businesses. I also cannot wait to develop new relationships with businesses and increase sponsorship revenue, as this will be a primary focus of mine.”
Despite playing a mock stock market game in the seventh grade, Provencher noted the Searsport school system was strongly lacking in business education opportunities.
Armed with a passion for investing and business since the seventh grade, Provencher pulled together a few best friends, convinced teacher Jennifer Rich to be the club’s advisor and founded the Searsport chapter of FBLA in 2019.
“Today our chapter is an immense success in the school and community, we have extensive connections to the town, school, and local businesses,” he said.
Such as in business, one reaps what they sow with FBLA, an organization offering the opportunity for students to gain leadership experiences, and participate in competitive events, conferences while establishing professional connections, earning scholarships, performing community service and sharpening relevant career and personal skills.
“Although these benefits are not instantly awarded to members for joining they are all part of the FBLA experience that students can choose to take advantage of if they wish,” he said. “FBLA is also designed to serve as a lifelong network for success. FBLA has middle school, high school, college, and a newly launched alumni division that was previously the professional division. The greatest benefit FBLA has to offer is the strong and long lasting connection with fellow Future Business Leaders.”
In addition to his work with the local, state and national FBLA chapters, Provencher also serves as student cabinet member with the Maine Department of Education, a role that asks student cabinet members to provide the DOE with direction and feedback on a variety of initiatives.
Provencher focuses on promoting initiatives centered around financial literacy and business education, though is many times the lone individual participating in the virtual meetings advocating for such initiatives.
“It is discouraging to see a lack of action and support, however this doesn't deter me from continuing to advocate for financial literacy,” he noted. “It's a personal mission of mine to increase financial literacy in the classroom and this position is one way that I have been able to lobby for change although I still have work to do.”
For the past few years, Provencher has been sharing what he has learned about smart investments with children and adults. The greatest piece of advice he can provide is simple: just get started (for children and teenagers: secure parental permissions and guidance beforehand).
“It sounds so numbingly simple that it shouldn't count as advice but people truly make investing more difficult than it has to be,” he commented. “I have met people that refuse to invest because of how hard it is, because it's gambling, or because they don't have much money. The simplest thing to do is just get started because investing really isn't that hard. With custodial IRAs and Roth IRAs as well as UGMA accounts anybody can invest, even a teenager.”