Pop Quiz: You have 10 seconds to name what your parents gave you for Christmas when you were 15. Go!
It’s almost impossible to think of even one thing, right?
Most gifts—even the big ones—fade from our memories within months. But some gifts will continue to give years after recipients have torn off the wrapping paper and shrieked with joy: investment gifts.
Creative Ways to Give Cash
What parents and grandparents may not realize is that they can creatively gift cash in many ways—beyond a few $20 bills stuffed in a card—and those bestowals will continue to give long after the initial reveal. Even better, there could be tax benefits for the givers—creating true win-win situations.
These gifts can also serve as learning moments. When you give money in the form of education funds, stocks, trusts, or charitable contributions, your gift sets a great example for the recipient. Giving a monetary gift in your child’s name to a charity, for instance, helps them look beyond their wants and needs while developing compassion for others. You may even consider allowing your child to choose a charity for part of your annual gifting—this provides a great way for the whole family to get involved in giving back.
What’s more, gifting money early on in your child’s life helps instill good financial habits from a young age. After you’ve given the gift, for example, you can help your child set up “spend,” “save,” and “give” jars. To encourage good saving habits, place a picture of what your child eventually wants to buy next to the save jar. This will help them keep their eyes on the prize.
Watching Investment Gifts Grow
It’s notoriously hard to shop for teenagers. Gifting money to teenagers, though, eliminates the pressure of trying to find them the perfect gifts. And let’s face it, most teenagers prefer the gift of money over “trendy” clothes mom picked out.
Giving the gift of money is especially beneficial if you make them wait for it. When your teen earns any amount of working income, for example, you can contribute up to $6,000 to a Roth IRA account for them in 2020. The account will grow tax-free until your child reaches the age of 59 1/2 (a terrifying thought!). As an additional bonus, withdrawals after that age also are tax-free. Plus, it’s a unique way to give money that will further instill the value of saving in your children. This may not sound like the most exciting present, but it is a creative way to give cash as a gift that will pay dividends in your child’s future—literally.
This talk of future savings may intrigue you. Another great option is to gift a child stock in a company they’re interested in, such as Nike or Disney. For a more diversified approach, gift them a mutual fund that’s composed of many companies. More than just a clever and unique way to give money, if you’ve held this stock or mutual fund personally and it has appreciated in value, gifting the stock shifts the capital gains to your kids (who could be in a lower tax bracket). Even better, watching these gifts grow over time sparks good money habits in someone just beginning their financial journey—from a first job to college and beyond.
Speaking of college, those expenses are never far from most high schoolers’—and their parents’—minds. A 529 college savings plan offers yet another creative way to give cash as a gift that will help your child gain financial peace of mind. A 529 is an education-exclusive savings account where contributions grow tax-free. Many states also offer an income tax deduction for contributions. The 529 initially was designed to amass money for future college expenses, but it has expanded to include K-12 private school costs (up to $10,000 per year per student). It’s a great option for parents who might struggle to come up with gifts for their fickle middle schoolers. They may not appreciate it now, but they’ll thank you when they leave college with less debt!
The Gifts That Keep on Giving
For even more inspiration on unique ways to give money to your children, consider establishing and regularly contributing to an irrevocable trust. Despite popular opinion, trust funds are useful to more than just the upper echelons of society. Parents and grandparents of any financial background can place cash, stock, real estate, or other valuable assets in trusts with stipulations for the beneficiaries. While no one wants to consider a time when they’ll have to leave their loved ones, a trust is a thoughtful way to make sure your children will be financially protected if the unthinkable happens. Be sure to work with a financial advisor and estate attorney to determine whether this is a good fit for you.
Although every kid loves a gift card, thinking beyond traditional gifts of cash will yield more satisfaction for both the giver and recipient. When you embrace these creative ways to give cash as a gift, you put money to work in the present and the future.