Prison is perhaps the last place anyone would expect to learn about investing and money management.
But at San Quentin Prison, Curtis Carroll’s class is a hot item. The 36-year-old has gained a reputation for his stock-picking prowess. He’s even earned the nickname “Wall Street.”
Carroll and prison officials have teamed up to create a financial education class for inmates. He starts off the class with a motivational speech.
“Financial education for me has been a lifesaver,” he says. “And I have always been passionate about trying to make money. The problem with that money is it was focused in the wrong area — crime.”
Carroll is serving up to life in prison for a murder he committed when he was 15. When he first entered, he was illiterate. Then one day Carroll grabbed what he thought was the sports page of a newspaper so his cellmate could read it to him. What he actually picked up was the business section. An older inmate asked Carroll if he knew anything about markets.
“I was like, ‘The markets what?’ ” he says. “And he was like, ‘Man, that’s the stocks.’ And I was really like, ‘Man, nah.’ “
The inmate then told Carroll that’s where white people keep their money.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, white folks?’ I mean, anywhere white people make their money I want to be there,” he says. “You know, growing up in the neighborhood everything was always associated with white prosperity, black not.”
Carroll scraped together hundreds of dollars by cashing in unused postage stamps he acquired selling tobacco to prisoners. His first investment was in high-risk penny stocks, making just enough money to keep investing. The whole process motivated him to learn to read. Now, Carroll makes thousands of investments. He maintains notebooks filled with the daily stock price fluctuations of hundreds of companies.