There’s no better time than the present for learning about investing – even if the student isn’t old enough to start working.
I first learned about investing at the tender age of 6. That Christmas, my older sisters got shares of stock in the Peter Paul Candy Co. from my grandmother. I probably got some age-appropriate toy, I can’t quite remember.
What I do remember, however, is what happened the next Christmas: My sisters received holiday boxes of “dividend” candies from Peter Paul. I wanted that candy but couldn’t have it because, said my sisters, I was not a shareholder. The light bulb went off: Owning stock in a business that made things you liked was obviously a good thing.
My experience offers the following pointers for teaching kids about investing:
- Keep it in the real world. Discussions about investing can get abstract quickly. (Just try explaining a simple index fund to a non-investor!) You must use examples of businesses that exist in the teenager’s world. Take Apple, Starbucks, Disney – kids know and like what these businesses do. From there you can talk about how they can become investors.
- Keep it competitive. I wanted Peter Paul stock because my sisters had it. Have kids learn about investing by participating in a contest in which they buy and sell stocks “on paper” over a given time period to see who makes the most money. This is a common, effective way to teach them about trading, pricing, and market behavior.
- Keep it tangible. For me, the benefit of stock ownership was something I could literally eat. For today’s kids, tangibility means something different. They have to be able to hold the process in their hand; whatever they are learning must be accessible to them on their phones. This means finding good, straightforward apps they can use to track investments – hopefully with the “Buy” and “Sell” buttons turned off.