I got my first money lesson when I was seven years old. I got my allowance and had to decide which of three buckets – literal plastic containers – I wanted to put it in: spending, stocks, or charity.
At some point, I owned Disney stock. Or my dad took my money and bought Disney stock. Either way, I was taught a valuable lesson: If you want to be smart about your money, investing has to be a part of your financial plan, and also that Beanie Babies don’t count as investing.
But that was two decades ago. Today, there are much more high-tech ways to teach your kids the importance of investments. Hit up your local app store for these three modern day tools for teaching your kids to invest in stocks.
One of the problems with buying stock is it can get expensive. Does your kid love her iPad? As of this writing, Apple stock is at $153.11 a share. Disney is at $106. Google and Amazon are hovering at around $1,000. Sure, you could look into lesser-known, and therefore cheaper, stocks, but if you want to keep your kid engaged, you probably want something they know about — and that can cost you.
That’s where Stockpile comes in handy. Stockpile lets you buy fractional shares of stocks, meaning your kids can choose the companies he or she knows and loves, and actually afford it.
Stockpile is actually a great app for anyone looking to get into investing, with its clean interface and straightforward explanations and definitions. But there’s a specific focus on stocks for kids – you can choose to create a custodial account when you’re signing up – which makes it handy for parents. Stockpile offers more than a thousand stocks, but they know that company names might not mean a lot to some kids. That’s why they make brand associations that kids will recognize.
Will your child want to invest in TimeWarner? Probably not, but when they see that Batman logo, they might be interested. Barbie means more than Mattel does. The Xbox logo is more attractive than Microsoft. It’s a great way to introduce your kids to stocks and companies while still speaking to them on their level.
With Stockpile, parents are involved while letting their kids take control. Gift cards allow kids to buy stock without breaking the bank, and parents have approval power over any actions. Plus, Stockpile is simple to use. There’s a mobile app, so you can check stock prices and buy or sell from anywhere. There’s a robust learn center so your kid (or you!) can learn more about investing and trading; and when the kids are ready to move to something more advanced, there are ETFs available on the platform as well.
With some of the most popular consumer brands and trades costing only 99 cents, Stockpile is the perfect entry point for kids learning about stocks, and parents trying to teach them.
Getting your kid to invest is one thing. But what about giving him or her money to do so? How do you handle that?
BusyKid wants to bridge that gap. It starts by tackling the allowance angle; after inputting your child’s age, it suggests chores, frequency, and allowance amount (which you can obviously tailor to fit your needs). Kids check off when they’re done, and they get money they can cash out, use to buy gift cards, donate, or invest.
That’s the big draw to BusyKid. It’s easy to imagine a cumbersome scenario where your child completes a chore, you decide how much money to get them, but they want to use it on a stock so you don’t give it to them and have to log in and remember how much you agreed on ..or you could just use BusyKid, where everything is done through the app, money for completed chores is automatically withdrawn from your bank account, and there’s no fussing around with anything.
BusyKid doesn’t look as slick as Stockpile, and it’s a little more hands off when it comes to educational resources. But it still gets the job done – like Stockpile, it offers fractional shares – and the inclusion of allowance management means there’s one less thing to keep track of.
GiveAshare is a little more old school when it comes to getting kids into the stock game, and to be fair, it isn't an app, but it’s still useful for parents who want to set their kids up for future financial success.
GiveAshare does just that: Allows you to give a share to a child. You buy one share of a stock at whatever the stock’s current price is, and it’s delivered to your kid in a frame. There are a handful of stocks to choose from, or you can order a custom stock for anything listed on the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ.
GiveAshare is undeniably less high tech than other options – you don’t even have to pick up a smartphone to use it – and it doesn’t offer the low cost of fractional shares. Still, it works as a foundation for teaching your kids about stocks.
Stocks are difficult to wrap your brain around because they’re so nebulous; GiveAshare gives your kid a tangible representation of what a stock is, and that’s helpful in explaining the concept to them. Plus, it offers an “I’m a Shareholder” kit that helps teach financial literacy. GiveAShare won’t be your first choice if you want to take a digital approach to stocks, but if your goal is to educate your kids about stocks, it’s worth it.
Digital Investing 101
Of course, investing in general and stocks in particular are pretty complicated, so these apps aren’t the end all when it comes to teaching about investments. And you don’t necessarily need a kid-specific app. An all-purpose investing app like Robinhood works just as well, even if it requires parents to be a little more hands on.
Your kid may not strike it rich with the stocks they get through any of these apps, but that’s not the point. Instead of giving your kids toys, you’re giving them the confidence and vocabulary they need to learn the basics and build on their financial success. Stocks are only the beginning, but they’re a great place to start.
There are also apps out there for novice adult investors. Check out our comparison of three well-known ones — Acorns, Wealthfront and the aforementioned Robinhood — to find the best investment app for you.
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