It’s that time of year again: Time to make a list of every person you need a gift for this holiday season… but what to get? Instead of worrying about whether they’ll like the candle you picked out or ever even use that fancy new air fryer, think about giving them an educational gift that literally everyone needs: the gift of financial literacy.
If you’ve never studied financial literacy before, don’t be intimidated by the term! It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: knowing how money works in a practical way. “Financial literacy is how we understand financial concepts and apply them to our lives,” explains Sophia Bera Daigle, certified financial planner, and founder of Gen Y Planning. “And understanding how those things work is really crucial to being an adult in the world.”
With studies showing that more than one third of Americans are not financially literate, it’s more important than ever that you set your loved ones up for financial success. And while the gift may not seem as fun as a new gaming console or a spa trip, we promise financial literacy will bring them far more enjoyment in the long run.
The good news is that financial literacy is for everyone — no matter how old they are. Below we’ve got a rundown on exactly how to offer this educational gift for everyone you love, by age and financial goals.
Adult Educational Gifts: The More Useful The Fit, The Better It Is
When looking for financial literacy gifts for adults, your first instinct might be to head to the bookstore. And that makes sense — there are a million personal finance books focused on countless topics, including money management, debt, and so many more. (HerMoney founder and CEO Jean Chatzky has written several that we love! And P.S. the e-book for one of our favorites, “How to Money,” is on sale this month for just $2.99!)
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While that’s not necessarily a bad idea, not everyone will actually read the book they’re given. Experts say you should start with something that addresses one of the recipient’s existing financial goals — otherwise your thoughtful gift might end up sitting on a shelf.
“Books and classes are all useful, but until it ties back to a person’s personal experience, I’m not sure that it is impactful,” says certified financial planner Chris Chen at Insight Financial Strategists. What does this mean? For example, you’ll want to steer clear of books about investing for a young recent grad who may be better off starting with a solid budget to help them get out of student loan debt. Likewise, avoid cryptocurrency lessons for grandpa, who may not be tech-savvy enough to truly dive into this asset class.
Gifts For Kids: How Early Is Too Early?
If you have really young children or grandchildren, you might feel like financial literacy isn’t a now problem. But Chen says that it’s important to start teaching basic money management principles while kids are young — even if that means modifying the content a bit.
“It’s about teaching the value of money,” he explains. “And money isn’t just dollars and cents.” For example, you might use a cupcake or some candy as a reward for completing a list of chores. That’s essentially a type of currency — you’re teaching your child to understand that everything has to be earned, even if they’re not handling real money to do it.
Gifts For Teens: Money Management Lessons
For teens and college students, the focus should be on helping them manage money they earn from working or receive as an allowance. Chen says a big mistake he sees his clients make is giving their kids too much money on a regular basis, which means they don’t learn how to really budget.
“Giving too much money is a problem — especially for a kid, who doesn’t have to pay for room and board, or anything else for that matter,” he explains. “They start feeling that money is free, that there is no value.”
For example, if a new camera catches your kid’s eye, sit down and make a savings plan with them based on their typical paycheck (or allowance). To make the item feel more like a gift, offer to match their contributions — but make sure they’re still responsible for part of the total amount. Giving them the tools to plan for those purchases themselves rather than immediately shelling out the cash from your own wallet will teach them important money management skills — and help them appreciate the item that much more!
Personalize Your Gifts
So, how do you make personal finance feel… well, personal? One trick is to give your loved one “a little skin in the game,” says Bera Daigle. Whether it’s buying a few shares of a stock of their choice or matching contributions to an account in their name, your gift will feel more special when the recipient has some agency over where the money goes. As a bonus, you’re also creating an incentive for them to keep doing it after you stop subsidizing it!
“I love the idea of helping your kid set up a Roth IRA, and maybe matching the contributions,” Bera Daigle says. “I also like 529 plan contributions for a teenager or someone in college.”
That said, books can still be a personalized gift — as long as you choose wisely.
“Start with your favorite money book that you’ve read, that was most helpful for you,” Bera Daigle says. “That’s something that they can relate to, because you related to it.” A personal recommendation will turn that book from a piece of shelf decor into something they’ll actually want to read.
Here’s a look at some of the best educational gifts for all ages, that will teach them financial literacy lessons to last a lifetime.
Educational Gifts For Kids:
- Allowance: Start paying your kids a weekly allowance for doing a set list of chores around the house.
- Savings account: Open a savings account in their name, and offer to match contributions. They can decide whether it goes towards new tech, college tuition, or something else they want.
- Prepaid credit card: For older kids with a steady income, help them get their first credit card and teach them how to pay it off every month.
- Games: For young children, here’s the Money Bunch board game, the Financial Literacy Matching Game, and Financial Literacy Flash Cards, so they can get ahead on all the terminology we wish we’d learned in school!
Educational Gifts For Adults:
- Financial consultation: Offer to pay half (or more, but not all!) of the fee for a financial planner. If the recipient has to fork over just a little of their own money, they’ll be more likely to stick to the advice they get.
- Books: For avid readers and folks with specific financial goals, give them books that are geared towards the topics they’re already interested in learning about. (Check out some of our favorite titles here!)
- Investment account: Buy a few shares of stock or match Roth IRA contributions.
- A budgeting course or investing club: The gift that really keeps on giving? A chance to hone your financial skills with a coach and build a budget you can be proud of, via FinanceFixx. Or, for those more interested in investing and learning stock market ins-and-outs, there’s InvestingFixx, which meets live on Zoom twice a month.
For Educational Gifts, The Holidays Are Only The Beginning
Even though this time of year is a great excuse to set your loved ones up for financial success, you don’t have to stop once the new year rolls around. “I don’t think financial literacy should be limited to the holidays,” Chen says. “It’s a year-long — and lifelong — thing.”
One of the best (and cheapest!) gifts you can give all year long is your time. While unsolicited financial advice may not be well-received, making it clear that you’re happy to be a source of guidance for young people in your life who want it can go a long way.
“There are a lot of people who feel like they missed out on financial wisdom from their parents,” Bera Daigle says. “And that young person might really benefit from some time talking about money with you, just being able to ask ‘when should I open my first credit card?’ or ‘What bank should I use?’”
Regardless of what you choose to give your loved ones this year, you can rest easy knowing that financial literacy is one of the most important educational gifts that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their life. And you can’t put a price tag on that.
MORE ON HERMONEY:
- The 13 Best Games That Teach Kids Financial Literacy (And Are Actually Fun)
- 9 Things To Talk To Young Women About To Cultivate Financial Empowerment
- The New Rules Of Allowances For Kids
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