Every year at this time I write a column suggesting money smart holiday gifts for children. The goal is to find entertaining and educational gifts that won’t be broken or forgotten in a few weeks but will generate a life-long interest in and competence about the subject of money. This year’s gifts range from allowance tech and investing to my favorite piggy bank.
—The BusyKid App
BusyKid is an app that will help any family trying to give their children real-life money lessons. It tracks the chores kids perform, and on payday it transfers payments from a parental bank account to a child’s — either an automatic allowance or additional money for doing chores. Upon receipt, the money can be divided into spending, saving and sharing accounts. It can also be transferred to gift cards or redeemed for actual cash by sending the money back to Mom’s account.
There’s an “activity” tab, where parents can keep track of the money earned by each child — and how it’s being spent.
Even better, the money saved can be used to buy shares of stock! In an arrangement with Stockpile.com, children can transfer some of their savings to buy small amounts of shares (after parental approval is given). They can research stocks easily, learning just enough to understand how the business works. And they can track the price of shares they own.
The $14.95 annual fee enrolls an entire household, and it’s well worth the cost. The BusyKid.com website explains how it all works with short 15-second videos.
The BusyKid app calls itself a “system” — and indeed it is a system of money education that can start with young children and keep teens on the hook even when they rebel at everything parental. This is an outstanding holiday gift.
—Stockpile.com: Buying fractional shares
Stockpile.com is a long-time favorite holiday gift idea. This website allows you to buy fractional shares of more than 1,000 stocks and ETFs at a fee of only 99 cents per transaction, with no monthly fees and only a $5 minimum to get started. It is by far the easiest and least expensive way to get kids started on a lifetime of investing.
Yes, parental approval is required to open the account. But that step comes after a parent, grandparent or friend sends a gift card, representing a dollar amount of a particular stock. (If the gift giver chooses Google and the child would rather have, say, Nike or Disney, they can decide to purchase a different stock.) Most cards start in minimum amounts of $25. When you go to Stockpile.com, you’ll have a choice. You can send a gift card by email or print out an official certificate — or, if you act quickly, Stockpile will create a plastic gift card and mail it to you to present in person. The company also offers “A Rookie’s Guide to Investing in the Stock Market” that will help young investors get started. Remember, this is REAL stock — and the kids can track their investments online at Stockpile.com.
—MoneySavvy.com: Piggy banks and teen money guides
Finally, no holiday gift guide would be complete without the terrific Money Savvy Piggy Bank available at MoneySavvy.com. It’s a four-chambered, see-through plastic piggy bank with sections for saving, spending, donating and investing — available in four colors at $19.99. For older children, the same folks offer the “O.M.G. Official Money Guide for Teenagers,” which teaches everything from budgeting to identity protection in a language teens won’t scorn ($12.95). And new this year is the “O.M.G. Official Money Guide for College Students,” which comes on a flash drive for use with Windows or Mac ($12.95). All are available at www.MoneySavvy.com.
So this year, make your gift count. Spend a little on these suggestions, and then add to your child or grandchild’s 529 college savings account. You can give a gift that will last and a gift that will grow. That’s The Savage Truth.