The Happy Saver: How to get kids engaged with investing
Ruth, the personal finance writer behind The Happy Saver shares her tips for getting kids—from toddlers to teens—more engaged with investing.
It’s rare for a child to say “Oooh goodie, I can’t wait to talk about investing!”
So how can we get our young people engaged and help make investing a lifelong habit?
Have regular money conversations
Firstly, you need to have an interest and willingness to learn about investing too. Start talking about money as early as possible; a little, often, and always. Normalise money conversations and have them regularly in an age-appropriate way.
Help kids build a mental picture of what life costs by talking about things like what you earn, and the cost of groceries, fuel, school fees, insurance, subscriptions, and clothing. Talk about what your short, medium, and long-term financial goals are, and start dreaming together about what their goals might be.
Money doesn’t have to be a massive source of stress. Having frequent, calm conversations about money and investing throughout a kid’s life can make a big difference.
Learning is a gradual process
We all want the best for the kids in our lives, and getting them engaged with long-term investing could give them an incredible headstart in life. So what does this look like in practice?
From birth to toddlers
If you’re fired up to start investing with Sharesies for your baby, that’s awesome, but it’s probably no surprise that they don’t care! Do it anyway and remember that more is “caught than taught”. Log in to Sharesies with your baby on your knee, invest an affordable amount regularly, and chat about what you’re doing while you do it—it’s how language is learnt, and how habits are formed.
Primary and intermediate school kids
With young kids, you might begin to talk more about where the invested money comes from (pocket money, birthday money, etc.), or investing a portion of your income regularly.
There’s an opportunity to get them to ‘drive the mouse’ and click the right buttons to log in and invest. It’s a fun age to let them choose the preferred name on their Sharesies account too.
Keep the investing simple, straightforward, and regular. When you see an ad for a company they’ve invested in, you can even remind them that they own a piece of the company!
This is when the transition begins. A part-time job might replace pocket money, but the habit of investing a portion of their income can continue—and it may even start to feel natural for them too.
Use their Sharesies account as a teaching tool to show them what long-term investing looks like. Explain what they’re invested in, how much they’ve put in, and whether or not they’ve made a return. When my daughter sees a positive return (or “free money” as she calls it) she equates it back to how many weeks she doesn’t have to work for pocket money!
Let them explore different companies and funds to invest in. Explain basic concepts like diversification and risk, in terms they can understand. Teach kids that despite the speed of life these days, slow and steady can be an option when it comes to investing.
Use real-world examples. Last week, my daughter mentioned a new gadget that a friend had bought. She was pretty interested when I pointed out that she had shares in the company that made the gadget!
And finally, keep the conversations going; share what you earn, the tax you pay, the KiwiSaver contributions you make, and how much you invest. Let teenagers win (and lose) with money while they live with you. I’d rather you educate them to fix their mess than a credit card company!
Make yourself obsolete
My end goal is for my daughter to take full ownership of her Sharesies portfolio one day. Every investment we make and conversation we have is gradually gearing up to hand over the baton.
As her earning power increases, we back off adding our own money to her Sharesies account, until only her own money is being invested. She continues to build on the foundations we’ve created for her. The best bit is that she feels proud and accomplished for doing so.
When she receives any income, she asks for my help to transfer half to her Sharesies account. This gets her used to moving money around online. No fuss, no fanfare. Because I’ve gently encouraged her to be part of the process over the last four years, she now understands the long-term nature of investing and sees the money her investments are making—which reinforces the habit of investing.
What’s the point of investing at all?
The best question that my daughter has ever asked me about her Sharesies investments is, “What’s the point, Mum?” Whereas I might’ve felt proud to see her portfolio building up, she used to see it as untouchable money. It’s like having a full biscuit tin where you can’t eat any.
While she has a bank account with spending money in it, her Sharesies account is where we get to dream about what she might need money for in the future: study, travel, starting a business, buying a home, etc. She’ll be able to use her investments by skimming a little off the top and leaving the rest to grow, or she might withdraw it all to pay for her next move in life. Investing gives her options galore. And it’s never too late to start.
Check out Part 1 of our series with The Happy Saver, where Ruth explains why it's important for our tamariki to be investing.
Ok, now for the legal bit
Investing involves risk. You aren’t guaranteed to make money, and you might lose the money you start with. We don’t provide personalised advice or recommendations. Any information we provide is general only and current at the time written. You should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice when considering whether an investment is appropriate for your objectives, financial situation or needs.