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Gary Lewis Wins CNBC’s ‘Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge’

A mix of trading ETFs, the Australian dollar and Australian stocks helped Gary Lewis win CNBC’s latest "Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge."

Gary Lewis
CNBC
Gary Lewis

Lewis, 56, a residential real-estate appraiser from Dieterich, Ill., received $1 million as the grand-prize winner. The second-place winner was Scott Cole, 42, an independent trader from Redwood City, Calif. Cole gets a 2012 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible Sport.

Less than 1 percent in returns separated Cole from the grand-prize winner Lewis, who had a final total return of $2.2 million. The two were the top winners among more than 253,000 contestants and more than 674,700 portfolios. Each player was allowed up to five portfolios.

During the “Challenge,” which ran for five weeks from September 19 to December 2, contestants received a virtual million U.S. dollars to fictionally trade stocks and Exchange-Traded Fundson the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq Marketplace, American Stock Exchange, London Stock Exchange and Australia Securities Exchange, as well as currencies in real-time.

Winning Portfolio Strategies

Lewis said his investment strategy focused on a basket of ETFs, trading the Australian dollar that mirrors the U.S. dollar, and some individual Australian stocks including Gunns Limited, a hardwood and softwood forest products company, and air transportation company Virgin Blue Holdings.

Scott Cole
CNBC
Scott Cole

Cole, the second-place winner, also focused on ETFs and Australian and London stocks. “There’s a tremendous amount of luck in this," said Cole, whose been trading for 17 years. Cole said he also discussed strategy with trading enthusiasts including Flip Pidot, author of the Suitably Flip blog.

Lewis started trading gold stocks in his teens. “I like precious metals. There’s going to be a lot of money made in that area,” he said.

While the “Challenge” proved rewarding for both finalists, the two said they wouldn’t chase such volatile, risky investments with real retirement money. In real-life, Lewis said he's fiscally conservative and believes in living within your means, a money lesson from his father, who owned the local Lincoln Mercury dealership in Effingham, Ill.

For Lewis and his wife Eloise Lewis, a nurse, winning the "Challenge" is welcome good news. Both Gary Lewis and their son are recovering from cancer.

This year, the contest for the first time went international and was open to permanent residents of the U.S., UK and Australia.