How One Stock Can Make Your Kids Investing Experts

One of the subjects people often struggle with, including myself, is exactly how you should be teaching your kids about money. Well today I’m going to go beyond simple savings and talk to you about how I use a single stock to teach my kids investing basics, just like I promised on Monday.

Money is one of the few things that kids won’t usually learn about in school. Instead it’s expected that we as parents teach them. That’s a shame, honestly, given that there are so many parents out there that don’t understand the concepts of investing themselves. If they don’t understand, how can they be expected to teach their kids?

Fortunately, investing is something that I’m familiar with (probably too familiar!) and it’s something I want to teach my kids. But how? I do it with a single stock. I bought one share of Nintendo for my oldest son when he was nine, and one share of Disney for my middle son when he was six.

Before I tell you how I do this, let me tell you about my usual investing philosophy-and why for this situation I do something different for my kids.

My Stock Investing Philosophy

I was a Boglehead before they existed. Literally.

Back in the year 2000 or so, after I had read The Wealthy Barber as a teenager, I was an avid reader of all things personal finance and investing. The internet was relatively well established then, although it was no where near as sophisticated as it is now. The main source of my information was books, although online was a close second.

In reading about investing, I kept coming across a concept called “index funds” that made total sense to me. I could see clearly from everything I was learning that it was near-impossible to beat the market. If you can’t beat the market, why not be the market? I read Bogle’s books John Bogle On Mutual Funds and/or Common Sense On Mutual Funds (can’t say for sure which one, although it might have been both). Eventually I found a website called Morningstar which had a forum dedicated to the Bogle philosophy, called the Die Hards. I would hang out there, and later the Bogleheads forum after it was created, for years but never post. I suppose I was the ultimate lurker, but I always felt both shy and like I didn’t really know enough to join in the conversation-particularly in my 20’s.

My first account at Vanguard was opened in the early 2000’s. I can still remember how excited I was when I finally scraped together enough money to meet their minimum investing requirement of $3k. I dreamed of one day, far in the future, becoming a Voyager or Flagship client. I felt so successful and proud when I got that very first statement in the mail. Side note – I was also sad when they dropped the minimum to become a Voyager client. I’d been working hard at that goal! I felt cheated. 

So I’m an index fund investor, through and through. Over the years I’ve changed the mix of specific funds and simplified my strategy, but it’s been basically unchanged for almost twenty years now. Why? Because it’s the simpelest, set it and forget it strategy for investing. I don’t have to think about what I’m going to do, or obsess about tweaking my strategy around the edges, or even really pay much attention to it at all. I just leave it there to grow – or crash in 2008 – and leave it alone.

Then Why Individual Stocks For The Kids?

So if I’m such a die-hard index fund fan, why did I pick individual stocks as the tool to help teach my kids about investing?

As much as I love index funds, they are a much more abstract concept than understanding how an individual stock works. It’s easier for younger kids to understand what a stock is, what a dividend is, why the price goes up and down, etc. in the context of a single company that they know of. If it’s a company where they can easily comprehend the business model (as in, the company sells things they know and understand), you can use it as a great example to explain how the stock market works.

You see, an index fund is just made out of a bunch of individual stocks. Yes, they’re weighted according to their presence inside whichever index it is that you’re in-exactly how they’re weighted varies. But once you understand how an individual stock works-what it represents, why it changes, why it does what it does – then you understand the index. The index is really just a bunch of companies all undergoing the same processes. It’s only their business model that varies-the financial fundamentals are the same.

So what companies do I have my kids own a share in? Why, Nintendo and Disney, of course. Those are two companies that are part of their day-to-day lives. My kids are huge Nintendo fans and have been for years. We have a Wii, a Wii U, and they each have a 3DS. They’ve gotten Amibos for Christmas and birthday gifts (quite a stack of them actually) and are fans of Mario, Zelda, and the whole gang. In fact my middle son used his amiibos to make an awesome board game. He’s so creative.

IMG_5334

For Disney, again, that’s a company where they can easily understand the business model. They see Disney movies, the Disney store, and they’ve been to Disney World a few times. We have close relatives in Florida we visit every few years, and we always make a stop at Disney when we’re there. Over the years since we’ve bought that share, Disney has expanded their empire by purchasing Lucasfilms and Marvel. They also know that Disney owns Pixar, the company that makes so many movies they love.

Years ago, I bought each son one share of each company. You can see the current value below.

Boys stock

Why do they actually own slightly over one share each? Dividends, of course. I have both accounts set up to automatically re-invest dividends, so over the years they’ve accumulated slightly over a share of each company. Having the share be in a company that pays dividends, even if it’s a small amount, helps you be able to explain dividends and retained earnings in a simple way they can understand.

If you have more than one child, I like getting them each a share in a different company. Why? Because then you can use the different business models, different earnings, and different stock market up/down periods to compare and contrast different companies.

Talking To Your Kids About Stocks Without Boring Them To Tears

I’ve talked about this before, but three things I do when teaching my kids about money are:

  1. Use everyday events like going to hot air balloon festivals, school book fairs, or their desire for wizard chess to teach them the money basics. Saving, delayed gratification, wise choices, and looking for bargains are the name of that game.
  2. For more sophisticated and detailed (and, lets face it, possibly boring) subjects like compound interestcollege and investing, I use a different strategy. I look for openings to connect these subjects to something going on in our real lives, and briefly discuss them while I have my kids interest. If I see them starting to look bored or not pay attention, I give it a rest
  3. I make sure to tailor the conversation to their age and maturity level. My 14 year old is able to understand much more sophisticated concepts now than when he was nine. So our conversations about his stock (and college) are different. My ten year old is VERY interested in money but a bit bored about the mechanics. So we keep our conversations short.

What You Can Talk About

Are you drawing a blank as to what to actually talk with your kids about to help them learn about stocks?

Take a look at these two charts – the all-time performance of my kids shares. After you’ve looked at them, I’ll tell you what I would talk with them about. The “all time” performance is roughly four years, because I bought them four years ago.

Disney stock
Disney – my ten year olds share
Nicks nintendo share
Nintendo – my 14 year olds share

Here are some of the things we talk about. Note that we don’t talk about these all at once in one big lecture session, but we’ve touched on all these subjects over the past four plus years.

  • Why one share of Disney costs so much more than Nintendo
  • What it means to own a stock (that you’re an owner in the company), and how that’s different than a bond (where you’re lending money to the company)
  • Why Nintendo has averaged an annual return of 50% over the past four years, but Disney only 10%
  • Why Nintendo went up, and up, and up, while Disney went up slightly and then down over the same time
  • How Disney and Nintendo make money, and how their businesses work “behind the scenes”. This is especially interesting to talk about when the kids see the companies doing something successful in the market, but the stock goes down.
  • What retained earnings and dividends are, and how companies decide which one to do

As they get even older, our discussions will get more detailed and technical. I plan to print off a copy of their annual reports and go through it with my boys, showing them how an income statement, statement of cash flows, and balance sheet work (aka net worth). Interestingly, those same three corporate financial statements can be useful to you when reporting out to your family executive office on the overall family financial situation. If you’ve already taught your kids about budgeting and net worth calculation, then explaining the basics of the corporate version should be a snap.

Why Do I Do This?

I’m a busy mom – I have three boys, work more than full time in a corporate job, and run this site mornings/nights and weekends. So why is teaching my kids about stocks on my list of “to dos”?

The answer is simple. If I don’t teach them, no one will. Sure, if the decide to go into a career in business or finance, they’ll learn the concepts at that time. And if they’re like me and make personal finance and investing a hobby, then they’ll dive deep into the details. But this isn’t a subject they cover in schools, and because of that, I need to make sure my kids have knowledge of the basics of Saving and Investing 101. Armed with that knowledge they’ll be able to build themselves a successful financial future-no matter what career they go into.

How do you teach your kids about stock investing-or have you not done this, but you’re going to start now with this idea!? What suggestions would you add? Let me know in the comments!

Want to learn more about teaching kids about money? Check out this great page with my top articles and resources I’ve found from around the web.

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chiefmomofficer

IT professional, MBA, working mother of three, avid reader, geek and personal finance nerd

18 thoughts on “How One Stock Can Make Your Kids Investing Experts

  • November 17, 2017 at 11:23 am
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    Great idea. My grandfather gave me some stocks as a kid, but I learned nothing from it, and could not have cared less. It was some electric company that serves NYC. I said thank you and moved on to my birthday toys.
    I remember being told about the stocks at age 8, and again at age 23 after my grandfather’s funeral. Apparently the stock did great, and my mother sold the stock to help pay for my college.
    If it had been a cool stock, or if I had been shown the statements, I might have taken an interest.

    Reply
    • November 17, 2017 at 11:39 am
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      I think using it actively as a teaching tool is the key for it to be effective. If I just bought stock and let it silently grow, my kids wouldn’t learn anything from the experience. They also love knowing that they “own” part of some of their favorite companies!

      Reply
  • November 17, 2017 at 11:45 am
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    Great idea if it’s for long term investment but not for making a quick buck. They actually are taught here about money in school but not about shares I don’t think. I don’t see why schools can’t add it to their curriculum.

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    • November 17, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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      I think it’s just one of those things that’s considered optional, so it’s not included. But it will be infinitely more useful to my kids than the things they learn by dissecting frogs (unless of course they become doctors. Then I guess it’s useful.)

      Reply
  • November 17, 2017 at 12:08 pm
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    I absolutely love this idea as a way to teach investing basics to kids. I am noting it and will use it in a few years 🙂

    I think you nailed it for me with the “why”. You are right… if you don’t teach your boys, no one will. Sad & scary, but true!

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    • November 17, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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      Glad you like it! You could always get a share now and let it grow until they’re older. Then you’d have years of history to show them! 😀

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  • November 17, 2017 at 12:33 pm
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    I love this and do it myself. For both of my kids I have been buying Disney stock. I plan to keep dollar cost averaging until each of there shares total $5,000, which should be later this year. Then a second company gets purchased. I was thinking Hershey. Nintendo would have been a great option a few years back. Either way they must be companies that are simple to understand.

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  • November 17, 2017 at 2:37 pm
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    I had thought that this would be the way that Jon and I introduced stocks to our daughter, even though I’ve been moving my own investments from individual stocks to index funds. I do think,, though, that Jillian over at Montana Money Adventures had a terrific way of explaining index funds, simple enough for most older kids to grasp. comparing stocks to Halloween candy. : http://www.montanamoneyadventures.com/raising-wealthy-kids-stocks-index-funds-and-halloween-candy/

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    • November 17, 2017 at 2:50 pm
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      Thanks for the suggestion! Cool idea.

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  • November 17, 2017 at 6:01 pm
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    Very interesting as I’ve been thinking about this…my boys are 4 and 16 months. I have a friend who bought stock in Disney for his daughter and shares of Apple for his son. I was thinking about just opening an index fund for my kids. My dad did that when my sister and I were kids but I didn’t really get interested until maybe high school when my dad showed me the returns (this was the high flying 90s right before the internet bubble burst). My dad also got me a Nintendo game called Wall Street Kid where the point of the game was to trade stocks! =) I see your point about picking an individual stock where a young kid would be more interested. Do you hold the stocks in your name or a UGMT account for the kids?

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    • November 17, 2017 at 6:26 pm
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      It’s in an UTMA account. I only have the single share for education purposes, and to make investing more fun. They have other investments that are in index funds. I use those for different lessons, particularly about diversification. Maybe I should write about that too!

      Reply
  • November 18, 2017 at 12:45 am
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    Very cool idea! I just had my first child (daughter) A week and a half ago and I’m excited to teach her about money and finances in the future. Might have to pick her out a stock or two this week for the future talks! 🙂

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    • November 18, 2017 at 12:46 am
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      Great idea-and congratulations!

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  • November 20, 2017 at 1:32 am
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    I don’t have children, but I have an account each for my niece and nephew. Most of the money is in an ETF, but they both also one one Disney stock. I think it’s a great way to teach kids about both money (investing) and business!

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    • November 20, 2017 at 10:43 am
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      That’s an awesome thing to do for your niece and nephew.

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  • November 29, 2017 at 8:28 am
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    Great idea Liz. Unfortunately we don’t have a easy access to individual US stocks, but was thinking about a solution so far. Also, my daughters are 4year and 6month old so have some time before they can dive deep into the topic. May I ask when did you start introducing them to this knowledge?

    Was thinking about buying a single coin in one of the cryptocurrencies, but then I realized that I don’t fully understand that stuff myself at all, so probably will not be able to teach them about.

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    • November 29, 2017 at 10:13 am
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      My boys would have been 6 and 10’whe I originally purchased the stocks. And yeah,
      Personally I’m staying away from the cryptocurrency. Too much like a bubble for my taste

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      • November 29, 2017 at 10:38 am
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        After thinking about it for a while I came to the same conclusion. The technology and the possibilities behind it is interesting, but the financial hype is strong with it. After all a wise old man said once that “Never invest in a business you cannot understand” 😉

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