Money gifts for your kids needn't be limited to a few crisp George Washingtons or chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil.
If you're interested in shaping money-smart children so they'll grow into money-smart adults, there are many gifts that can help generate the desired effect. Some are even designed to make financial education fun.
Monopoly, Payday and the Game of Life. And there are also a ton of quality books about money and investing -- whether your child's reading level is suited for the Berenstain Bears or Warren Buffett.
But if you're looking for something unusual or perhaps a bit surprising, check out my financial gift recommendations.
--Pick a stock: If you're trying to whet the appetite of a young investor, I recommend buying shares of stock through ShareBuilder, at http://www.sharebuilder.com. The company preaches "online investing, simplified" -- and it is just that.
Open a custodial account for a minor, with no minimum investment required. Online trades cost $6.95 each, and there's no inactivity fee.
--Tuition tradition: Contribute to a child's tax-advantaged state-sponsored 529 college savings plan or set up a new 529 account with the child as the beneficiary.
--Packaged deal: If there's a high school student in the household, put on your own wish list a copy of the Princeton Review's 2014 edition of "Paying for College Without Going Broke" by Kalman Chany. After reading it, re-gift the book to your teen and include a lottery ticket as a bookmark.
--Money moments: Is there a college student in the house? Or a high-schooler with a part-time job and money that's burning a hole in his pocket?
Buy an hour or two of time with a financial planner. It's a simple way to get a teen or young adult off on the right foot when it comes to using credit cards responsibly, saving for a car or setting aside money for a long-term goal. It might be the best $100 to $200 you've ever spent -- and the recipient may appreciate hearing the financial facts of life from an outside expert.
To find a certified financial planner, go to the website of the Financial Planning Association at http://www.fpanet.org.
--Goal conscious: The Money Savvy Generation has added a new member to its family of piggybanks -- the Money Savvy Soccer Ball.
These four-chambered banks -- for save, spend, donate and invest -- are designed to encourage kids to set financial goals and to understand that there's more to money than spending. The soccer ball bank, like its earlier versions, has been recognized with a Parents' Choice Gold Medal Award. Go to http://www.msgen.com.
--Savings starter: SmartyPig.com helps young people save for short- and long-term goals by encouraging family members and friends to contribute. Buy a gift card for $25, $50 or $100 (or a virtual gift card for between $10 and $200) and send it to your favorite recipient who can deposit it in a new or existing savings account at SmartyPig.com. The account even yields 1 percent.
--Free is good. There is no shortage of financial education materials online that won't cost you a dime. To help kids learn about money, check out VirtualPiggy.com. Or for older kids looking for budgeting help, there's Mint.com.
(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.)
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