As the down economy batters both teens and their parents, teen clothing chains are having mixed success as they try to attract young people back into their stores by offering more of the things they love. Seth Wenig | AP Photo
Updated: May 3, 2013 12:15PM
Shopping for holiday gifts for children or grandchildren this season? Surely you’ll be spending money. So why not make the gift itself teach something about the value of money? Here are my annual holiday gift suggestions for children.
Money Savvy Pig Bank. This is my all-time favorite gift for children as young as 4 years old, but one they can keep into their teens. This four-chambered translucent pig in various colors has slots for money set aside to save, spend, invest or donate. Thus, it teaches children the importance of saving money and prioritizing its uses. Order at msgen.com, where entrepreneur Susan Beacham has also created games and an app to download. Price of the piggy bank is $16.99, and it comes with a coloring/activity book to help teach young children. Also available on Amazon.com.
Soccer Ball Digital Coin Counting Bank. When your young teens get past the piggy bank stage but still want to save, try this bank shaped as a soccer ball (football and basketball banks also available). It counts the coins as they are inserted and shows a digital total, as well as offering sound effects. From Trademark Games. Price on Amazon is $8.88. Go to: http://suntm.es/11ndAht
The Allowance Game. The holiday season is exactly the right time to prep your pre-teens for earning an allowance starting with the new year. And this board game is designed to make the entire concept fun and educational. It’s created by Lakeshore Learning Materials, which says: “Players race around the game board doing chores to earn their allowance ... then save it or spend it on things they want, learing to make change, handle money and more.” Price is $16.95, on Amazon.com or LakeshoreLearning.com.
Moneybags Coin Value Game. Today’s store cashiers can’t make change for a dollar without the register doing the math! Here’s another game from Lakeshore Learning, designed to teach kids the value of coins — and work. This board game has a spinner and an unusual twist. It tells you which coins can be taken from the bank to collect your earnings. Not for young children because of small pieces — but ages 5+ can learn a lot about money for $14.28 on Amazon.com. Go to: http://suntm.es/UjncVw
OneShare.com. Oh, so you wanted a real gift of stock to get your child or grandchild started on investing. That’s easy at oneshare.com, and click on the tab marked “My First Stock.” You’ll get a framed stock certificate, along with real-life ownership of one share of stock. There’s even a guide to help you search relevant companies for girls or boys: Disney, Mattel, Dreamworks, McDonald’s, Nintendo, and Gap. You’ll receive a start-up kit that includes a gift card, and you can have your certificate framed and personalized. Plus, the child will receive a colorful book explaining stock ownership. Price depends, of course, on the stock chosen from 200 companies, as well as the framing style. Call early to make sure your gift arrives on time: (888) 777-6919.
529 College Savings Plan. What goes best with an educational money gift like those described above? Real money! The very best and ongoing gift that a parent or grandparent can give to a young child is to open an account in a 529 College Savings account. There the money will grow tax-free if withdrawn to use for college expenses for any child in the family at any accredited school in the country. Add to it regularly or for birthdays and holidays.�
There are so many different 529 plans that you’ll need some resources to choose one. The place to start is savingforcollege.com — the independent website that explains and rates college savings plans. Hint: You don’t have to use your own state’s plan, although it might offer a state tax deduction.
So do your homework. Or if you want me to make it absolutely easy for you, here’s my pick, no matter where you live. Just go to price529.com or call them at (800) 369-3641 and you can open a 529 account at T. Rowe Price online or over the phone in just minutes. Minimum investment is $250 — or $50 per month if you sign up for an automatic investment plan.
And, finally, if you get bored after holiday presents or football games, go online to orangekids.com — a free website by ING (CapitalOne) that has won awards for its outstanding video and graphics designed to teach pre-teens about money and investing. The only real investment here is your time to sit down and talk money with your child. That’s a gift that will continue to give over the years. And that’s The Savage Truth.