As kids enter their teenage years, as a parent, you begin to teach them more advanced life lessons that they will hopefully carry with them into adulthood. One of the life lessons that many parents teach their children early on is the value of saving money. By their teenage years many children have built up a small savings account from birthday gifts, holidays, and their part-time jobs. As parents you have most likely realized the benefit of compounding interest through working with a financial advisor, contributing to a 401(k) plan, or depositing money to a college savings account. As financial planners, we often get the question: “What is the best way to teach your children about the value of investing and compounding interest? ”
The #1 rule…….
We have been down this road many times with our clients and their children. Here is the number one rule: Make it an engaging experience for your kids. Investments can be a very dull topic to talk about and it can be painfully dull from a child’s point of view. All they know is the $1,000 that was in their savings account is now with their parent’s investment guy.
Ignoring the life lessons for a moment, the primary investment vehicle for brokerage accounts with balances under $50,000 is typically a mutual fund. But let’s pause for a moment. We have a dual objective here. We of course want our children to make as much money as possible in their investment account but we also want to simultaneously teach them life long lessons about investing.
The issue with young investors
Explaining how a mutual fund operates can be a complex concept for a first time investor because you have all of these companies in one investment, expense ratios, different types of funds, and different fund families. It’s not exciting, it’s intimidating.
Consider this approach. Ask the child what their hobbies are? Do they have a cell phone? Have them take their cell phone out during the meeting and ask them how often they use it during the day and how many of their friends have cell phones. Then ask them, if you received $20 every time someone in this area bought a cell phone would you have a lot of money? Then explain that this scenario is very similar to owning stock in a cell phone company. The more they sell the more money the company makes. As a “shareholder” you own a piece of that company and you receive a piece of the profits if the company grows. If your child plays sports, do they wear a lot of Nike or Under Armour? Explain investing to them in a way that they can relate it to their everyday life. Now you have their attention because you attached the investment idea to something they love.
A word of caution….
If they are investing in stocks it is also important for them to understand the concept of risk. Not every investment goes up and you could start with $1,000 and end the year with $500, so they need to understand risk and time horizon.
While it’s not prudent in most scenarios to invest 100% of a portfolio in one stock, there may be some middle ground. Instead of investing their entire $1,000 in a mutual fund, consider investing $500 – $700 in a mutual fund but let them pick one to three stocks to hold in the account. It may make sense to have them review those stock picks with your investment advisor for two reasons. One, you want them to have a good experience out of the gates and that investment advisor can provide them with their option of their stock picks. Second, the investment advisor can tell them more about the companies that they have selected to further engage them.
Don’t forget the last step……
Download an app on their smartphone so they can track the investments that they selected. You may be surprise how often they check the performance of their stock holdings and how they begin to pay attention to news and articles applicable to the companies that they own.
At that point you have engaged them and as they hopefully see their investment holdings appreciate in value they will become even more excited about saving money in their investment account and making their next stock pick. In addition, they also learn valuable investment lessons early on like when one of their stocks loses value. How do they decide whether to sell it or continue to hold it? It’s a great system that teaches them about investing, decision making, risk, and the value of compounding investment returns.
Hi, I’m Michael Ruger. I’m the managing partner of Greenbush Financial Group and the creator of the nationally recognized Money Smart Board blog . I created the blog because there are a lot of events in life that require important financial decisions. The goal is to help our readers avoid big financial missteps, discover financial solutions that they were not aware of, and to optimize their financial future.