Few children would ever say all they want for Christmas is a piggy bank or a U.S. savings bond.
Yet wise parents and grandparents know better.
In that spirit, here's my annual short list of financial gift ideas that could be wrapped and tagged along with Transformers, Barbies and video game systems.
-- Movies. A reader shared her favorite movie about high finance -- "It's a Wonderful Life."
Surprised? One of the themes of this 1946 Frank Capra classic is that being truly rich is not about how much money you make, but the relationships you keep and the lives you touch.
A second pick: "Confessions of a Shopaholic." It's never too late -- even for a young shopping addict journalist -- to learn the financial ABCs.
-- Portfolio builders. Why shell out big money for tickets, parking, concessions and souvenirs at a professional sporting event when your child can own a piece of the team? A handful of sports franchises are owned by companies that are publicly traded.
Among them: Madison Square Garden Co., owner of basketball's New York Knicks and hockey's New York Rangers; Liberty Media Corp., which owns the Atlanta Braves; NASCAR track operator International Speedway Corp.; and British soccer titan Manchester United.
Being a stockholder might not get you free tickets or even profits. But these stocks may be far more valuable as a way to learn about investing, stock market mood swings and even reading the financial tables.
-- Reading material. What's a good book that will teach kids about money? I'm asked that question all the time. While there are plenty of worthy choices, I have one longtime favorite -- "The Richest Man in Babylon," written by George Clason. Published in 1926, this compact financial self-help book won't tell your teen the difference between stocks, bonds and mutual funds. But it will teach some lessons about money, common sense and values. Clason offers financial advice through a series of parables set in ancient Babylon.
A sample of Clason's wisdom: "Better a little caution than a great regret."
-- Banks a lot. Banks come in all different designs, shapes and colors. Parents' Choice, which reviews children's products and publishes an online holiday gift guide, recommends the Money Savvy Pig. Created by Money Savvy Generation, this pig is designed with four see-through compartments: Save, spend, donate and invest.
Another Parents' Choice idea is the Teaching Cash Register, a talking interactive cash register from Learning Resources.
-- Plastic. My favorite kind of gift card for a teen goes toward covering a specific need -- gasoline. One caveat: If you're going to fill your teen's tank, a $25 gift card could be a real dud.
-- Charity. Fighting poverty and world hunger? Go to Kiva.org and make a donation for as little as $25 in the name of your young philanthropist.
And finally, a holiday classic stocking stuffer: a Series EE or Series I savings bond. The inflation-adjusted I bond offers the most attractive rate, 1.76 percent. Not too shabby in today's world.
(Questions, comments, column ideas? Send an e-mail to srosen(AT)kcstar.com or write to him at The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.)