It’s a popular notion that learning about buying and selling stocks at an early age can spark an interest in investing that will last a lifetime.
Mutual funds, low-cost stock purchase programs and state-sponsored 529 college savings plans combine kid-friendly investing with opportunities to learn about Wall Street and all the ways to make and lose money.
If you’re looking for a holiday gift idea, here are some investing options that not only make for great presents but have real financial value.
▪ Buy shares directly through the company by taking advantage of DRIPs, short for direct investment plans. More than 1,300 companies, including Nike, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and Walt Disney, offer these stock purchase programs, which allow you to buy shares in small batches.
Disney, for example, requires a minimum investment of $175, but the initial deposit is $50 if you opt for monthly electronic deductions from your bank account.
There are important fees to monitor. With Disney’s plan, commissions are just 2 cents a share. But you pay a $20 one-time enrollment fee, plus a $1 fee for automatic electronic investments, or a $7 fee for investments made by check.
▪ You can also buy shares in a company through an online brokerage firm called Stockpile.com, a relative newcomer to the investment world that touts a “fun, easy and affordable approach” to owning stock. About 20 percent of Stockpile’s brokerage accounts are owned by kids and teens, the company said.
There is no minimum amount required to open a brokerage account (with minors, this is a custodial account with mom, dad or another adult on the account with you).
Investors can also buy a fraction of a full share — also ideal for young stock pickers. Stockpile does not charge a monthly fee and said the trading commission is 99 cents a trade.
Young investors can also use the Stockpile app to place their own buy and sell orders, of course, with parental approval.
One other convenient wrinkle: Buy a Stockpile gift card, and pick a stock and a dollar amount. When the recipient redeems the e-gift, the stock will be registered in his or her account. There’s also a gift registry, so friends and family will know your favorite stocks when it comes time for a gift.
One lesser known but popular mutual fund is the Monetta Young Investors Fund, which has large holdings in stocks that kids can relate to, such as Apple, Amazon, Twitter and Alphabet. Through mid-December, the fund was slightly outperforming the Standard & Poor’s 500 for the year.
New investors receive an educational kit that includes a newsletter, a money-themed activity book and a savings bank. Young Investors requires a $1,000 minimum investment, or $100 if setting up an automatic monthly investment plan of at least $25 a month.
▪ You can also open a state-sponsored 529 savings account for your future college student. One way to get started is through gift registries offered by companies such as GiftofCollege.com. Family and friends can contribute directly into any new or existing 529. Gift cards are also available.
Aside from all the investment options, owning stock encourages young investors to learn more about the markets and their intricate structures, which could pay dividends even if they never become the next Warren Buffett.
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879