AS HOLIDAY SEASONS come and go, you probably don’t remember what gifts you received, or gave, in any given year. Change that — at least for the gifts you give. Getting smarter about money is something you can’t put a price tag on, but it’s a terrific way to invest in your loved ones.
Consider buying a few shares of stock in a company the child knows, such as a video game or toy company, a retailer or a restaurant. Paper shares aren’t usually an option anymore, but you can open a brokerage account for the purchase and you can track the progress of the stock price with the child. It’s a great way for you to share some knowledge about investing with a young mind. You also might consider a change bank that separates and counts deposited coins. Offer matching funds for every dollar saved.
Teens are getting close to the time when they need real-life money skills, so open a joint checking account and add a little seed money. You can teach your teen how to write checks and how to monitor an account online or with an app.
FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES
College is a daunting expense, so it’s never too early — or too late — to help with tuition bills. Open a 529 Plan for the children in your life and contribute for the holiday — this and every year. You could also direct future birthday presents and gifts for other special occasions to the account.
FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
This is for the more daring. Help the student get their first credit card, or open a credit card account together. Use the account to teach the student about interest rates, how to spend wisely and how to stay on a budget. You’ll help the student build a credit history, which is something they’ll appreciate for years to come. If you have deeper pockets, consider giving some money to cover college bills. If you pay the funds directly to the college, you won’t have to worry about gift taxes.
FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Student loans are a huge drag on the budgets of young people, so make a monetary gift equal to one month — or more — of student loan payments.
FOR YOUR SIBLINGS or ADULT CHILDREN
Money management presents challenges for everyone. Give the gift of a meeting with a certified financial planner. CFPs can be hired on an hourly basis and can offer an overview of your loved one’s finances. The adviser will discuss goals, debt, assets, investment strategies and more. It’s the gift that will keep on giving. You can find an adviser in your area through the Financial Planning Association (plannersearch.org) and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (findanadvisor.napfa.org).
FOR MOM or DAD
No one wants to face the fact that they’re getting older, but no one wants to face the dreaded estate tax, either. So give the gift of a meeting with an estate attorney. The attorney can draft a will for your loved one and also provide other necessary legal documents, such as powers of attorney. Also consider a membership in AARP or AAA.
FOR YOUR BABYSITTER, HAIR STYLIST
OR OTHER CLIENT-BASED WORKERS
Give your favorite independent contractors a leg up on the competition with a helpful book. Consider “Online or Flatline: The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Digital Marketing,” by Nick Choat (coming out in February, $14.99) or “Small Business Marketing Strategies All-In-One For Dummies” ($29.99). Other contract workers in your life might benefit from “The Ultimate Freelancer Guidebook” by Yuwanda Black ($16.99). Or help them get smart about retirement savings with “Investing For Dummies” by Eric Tyson ($22.99).
FOR THE NEW HOMEOWNER
Owning a home is a long-term and often expensive proposition. Give the gift of organization by picking up a manual that will help the homeowner know what receipts to keep as long as they own the home. Try “The Home Owner’s Journal,” by Colleen Jenkins ($14.95) or “Black & Decker Home Planner & Logbook,” by Chris Petersen ($19.99).
Choose something the receiver may not think to buy on their own and make it a gift that will help you enjoy quality time together, such as tickets to a show or sporting event, or a cooking or dance class. You’ll create a memory that will last far longer than stuff you can buy in a store.
Karin Price Mueller, the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com, writes the Bamboozled consumer affairs column for The Star-Ledger, and the Money and Biz Brain columns for Inside Jersey. Send your money questions to her at Bamboozled@njadvancemedia.com.