Looking for a gift with a bit more heft than the Poopsie Slime Surprise Kit (it’s a thing… I looked it up) or a Charlotte the Sloth Squishmallow (the jumbo size is preferred, so I’m told)? Give your child their very own share of a publicly traded company. Especially if the young person on your gift list is a girl.
A share of stock in Disney, Nike, Tesla, Apple, Chipotle, Virgin Galactic or any company a child’s into will do. Don’t worry about picking a “good” stock or timing the market; investment returns are beside the point. The reason to give a child the gift of a stock is because it exposes them to the concept of investing while they’re young. And girls need the exposure most of all.
Give her the keys to the boy’s club
We’ve talked about this before… that women financially self-sabotage by being overly cautious when they invest. That is, if they’re even investing in the market in the first place.
A Schwab financial literacy survey of 16-to-25-year-olds found that twice as many young men as young women had an investment account, and males were twice as likely to choose to invest their spare cash. (Irony alert: When we do invest, women are better at it than men.)
Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, President of Charles Schwab Foundation, told us that education isn’t enough to reverse the trend: “In order to close this economic gender gap and get women to stop keeping so much money in cash, we don’t just need education. We need to give them exposure to investing.”
Merely talking about investing (and not just budgeting!) with the young women in our lives helps level the uneven playing field by building her knowhow and confidence. (This investing basics refresher will help bolster your own.) Giving her hands-on experience with stocks — owning a share of a business that makes her favorite toys, movies, breakfast cereal or shoes — is even better. It’ll set her up to think and act like an investor for the rest of her life.
Here’s how to unleash your budding Ms. Buffett’s potential and show her what it’s like to be a part-owner of a company. (Note: these tips all work just as easily for boys, too!)
1. Bond over building a portfolio
The most hands-on stock gifting option is also the easiest one to execute: Simply buy and hold your child’s shares in your brokerage account. You can deposit some cash for her to pick her own, or earmark a portion of an investment you already own and tell her you’re holding onto it for safekeeping.
Every time you check your portfolio, invite your child to join you to see how her stocks are doing. In the future you can transfer her investments into a separate account.
2. Set up a grownup trading account with training wheels
If you want to give a young person an investment account she can call her own, a custodial account is the way to go. (It’s as easy to open as a bank account, and you can do it at a low-fee, low-minimum online discount broker, like Fidelity, TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab.)
Money within a custodial account legally belongs to your child (and is taxed at her rate, not yours). But the adult “custodian” (a parent, relative or non-relative) has trading authority and is responsible for ensuring the assets are managed in the minor’s best interests. Once the child is of age, she gets the keys to the account and can let her rebellious inner daytrader take over. (Don’t worry, it’s just a phase.)
3. Buy popular stocks without breaking the bank
A single share of Amazon or Alphabet (a.k.a. Google) stock costs as much as much as a big-city mortgage payment. Enter fractional shares, which are exactly what they sound like — partial shares of stock you can buy with however many dollars you have to spend.
Stockpile.com is a kid- and gift-friendly option for buying fractional shares of almost every company your kid can think of. The Stockpile site and app provides a real-world investing experience where your child can track her portfolio online. She can even set up a stocks wish list friends and family can see. (Hint, hint: birthdays, Arbor Day… a stock is a great gift for any occasion!). Don’t worry about having to bail her out of an arbitrage situation: Stockpile requires an adult to be present to set up the custodial account and approve transactions.
Budget-friendly apps for older children and grownups (like Robinhood and Motif) also allow account holders to buy partial shares. Or you can skip the broker middleman and purchase shares directly from a company that offer these plans (called a DRIP or DSP) via DirectInvesting.com. (Check out their DRIP Stock Starter Portfolio for stock reccs to build Junior’s empire.)
4. Stage a YouTube-worthy unwrapping
A printout of a trade confirmation isn’t likely to elicit unbridled glee. You need a tangible way to represent your gift of stock.
If you’re willing to pay a premium to make a show of your gift of stock, GiveAShare.com sells custom-framed, old-school physical stock certificates (or replicas if a company no longer issues paper ones) when you purchase a share of one of the more than 100 company stocks they offer. The cost is the market price of the share plus an extra $40 to $84 (for the certificate, fees and choice of framing) and any transfer agent and SEC fees. (Note: GiveAShare isn’t a brokerage, so if your kiddo wants to offload her share on the open market, she’ll have to transfer it to a broker to do the trade.)
A Stockpile gift card is another way to physically represent your investing present. The card features the company name and denomination (anywhere from $25 to $100). Or you can buy a gift card to the Stockpile service that lets them pick their own stock.
Another option: Get creative. Wrap a homemade gift certificate for a share of stock with a basket of products the company makes. Use Monopoly money to represent a share of Hasbro, or present a Tesla t-shirt with a card congratulating your child for going into business with Elon Musk.
5. Gift an investment you already own (also a great last-minute option)
Stocks you already own makes the perfect re-gift! If the recipient likes the company shares they’ve been given, they can let the investment ride. If they want to exchange them for something more their style, easy: Just sell the shares (be aware of capital gains taxes) and use the money to purchase a different stock.
The logistics of gifting shares of stock (or any other asset in your account) are easiest if the recipient has an existing brokerage account into which you can transfer shares. You simply need to draft a “letter of instruction” to spell out what you want to move and where to send it. (See Fidelity’s explainer on what you need to gift shares.) If the giftee doesn’t have an account, you can set up one for them (as a custodian, if they’re a minor) and she’ll be set with her first investing account.
Keep the investing conversation going
When you help a young girl become a bonafide shareholder, you give her a gift that keeps on giving. You can amplify the effect by talking about her investment every time the company crosses your path — at the mall, on the news, or when you’re deciding where to have dinner. The exposure to investing now has the potential to pay dividends for the rest of her life.
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