I remember spending afternoons in my grandfather’s study. He had a pair of plaid chairs next to his desk and I would leisurely read paperbacks while he worked. As he moved, his old leather chair would squeak. For eons the only sounds in the room would be the squeak of his chair, the rustling of his work, and the turning of my pages. It was wonderful.
When my grandfather completed a task he would take a break. Those breaks involved pulling out a handful of orange slice candies and a financial paper like the Wall Street Journal. He would pull up to his desk and gesture me over, offering an orange candy.
“What’s happening in the world today?”
He would read off a few headlines of interest before flipping to the stock pages. My grandfather then proceeded to tell me who was having a good day and who was having a not so great day. It wasn’t so much the math or the numbers, but it was the way he framed them. There were people involved. People at the companies and people who had invested in the products being made at the companies. It was all connected.
As always he was King of the teachable moment. One afternoon he motioned for me to sit down and he opened up the pages of the financial paper. He had circled the name of a company. It was a newish computer company, uh, let’s call it “Banana”. My grandparents had just become the proud owners of a new computer from this company.
“We are now investors in [Banana].”
I looked at the number on the newsprint for a while. I didn’t exactly understand, but it felt exciting. My grandfather pulled out a notebook and said we could keep track of the number – maybe it would go up, maybe it would stay the same, or maybe it would tank. But the number wasn’t JUST a number now – we were connected to it. We were a part of the company.
I was eight years old and I was so proud. Silly? Maybe. But it was a solid lesson in the importance of stocks and investments.
We tracked the investment for several months. It went up a bit and then it went down. Very down. Eventually we lost whatever small amount my grandfather had invested on our teachable moment. (But I am still pretty loyal to “Bananas”!)
I want to share some of the same lessons with my son W that my grandfather gave me. Stocks shouldn’t be intimidating, they can be a great tool for learning. They can also, possibly, be a nice way to plan for the future.
One of the simplest ways to incorporate stocks into your children’s life is to set up a registry for them. SparkGift makes setting up a stock gift registry super easy. I got W involved with setting up his so he could feel invested from the get go. We talked about what his favorite things are. At the top of the list was a certain movie franchise and several different toys. He also mentioned books (hurrah!). I told him we could invest in all of those companies AND other people could gift him with investments in those companies. It’s not the same as being handed an actual toy, but “I just bought you shares in the company that makes your favorite toy” is pretty awesome.
Some of the benefits of setting up a gift registry and giving and receiving stock on SparkGift:
Timeless – like those pellets that you put into water and they become giant dinosaurs – well stocks can be that. Optimistically they grow over time. (no water needed)
Education – want to teach your family about the ebbs and flows of investing? Done.
Legacy – Set it and forget it. In 10-15 years this investment (hopefully!) will be worth something.
Mine is not a giant family and we are not a family with a huge extended circle. So chances are the only people who will be participating in W’s gift registry will be myself and W’s grandmother. But down the road someone may ask if they can contribute towards his future and I like that I will already have something established for him.
Some fine print stuff:
Pricing: From now until January 2016 SparkGift is charging only $2.95 for any gift between $20 – $100. The receiver pays no fees.
This post is made possible in partnership with SparkGift. Compensation was received, but stock purchases were made on my own. Opinions are also my own.