Taking Stock In Your Kids – 4 Initial Steps To Get Children Excited About Investing.

As featured in http://www.nerdwallet.com.

Begin talking with the kids about investing sooner rather than later.

Interestingly, many parents find it awkward to discuss stock investing, especially with their young children. Some adults don’t feel confident in their abilities to do research. What I’ve discovered is the discussion with young children actually helps less confident parents become better stock investors.

The conversation raises the bar for teacher-parents and the children willing to learn.

It’s a win-win.


There are several milestones to reach. The adventure begins with these simple steps to consider when it comes to engaging the children.

Random Thoughts:

1). Build excitement – Creating passion around the investing process is important. Begin with a dialogue around the children’s brand loyalties (and they start at an early age). When I was young, I drove my parents crazy: I always “needed” the latest Mattel’s Hot Wheels car or Hasbro’s G.I. Joe action figure. I would only eat Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, not the store brand.

GI Joe Vintage

So, what products are your kids passionate about?

Create short-term activities to build interest. Come up with a deadline for completion. For example, have the children begin and maintain journals of the products and services they like or use. Have them track the prices of those items over the internet or when you head to the stores.  Remind the kids how the family is excited to hear about what they’re thinking and plan a family gathering around the topic.

One family created a big event around the journals. They had the children select their own notebooks and personalize them with money-related and other types of stickers. The kids paid for the supplies out of their allowances which created a stronger connection to the project.

2). Organize a family discussion – Once the children share their information at a family gathering, expand the discussion to include the products and services the family purchases or uses on a consistent basis, say at least twice a week. From soap to shoes, batteries to bandages – leave everything open for investigation. Nothing is off-limits. Now, you’re building a research list!

3). Watch your words – I’ll never forget when my uncle who was a specialist on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, explained how I had the ability to own part of a large company. I was hooked. Wait: A poor kid from Brooklyn can own a piece of McDonald’s?

How does that happen?

kid surprise

The language used around stock investing is important to help the kids gain healthy perspective and a sense of pride in their selections and the investment experience, overall. The phrase “buying a stock,” is confusing when compared to “ownership in a company,” which in essence is what you’re trying to help the children embrace.

The concept of “stock” is nebulous for the younger ones to comprehend so it’s best to keep the language simple. Using words to connect ownership to investing creates a long-term investor mindset. You don’t want the children to focus solely on stock price movement; it’s best for them to strive to build discipline by focusing on the long-term value of a business – and all because you provided the perspective.

4). Begin with the concept of sales – It’s a good idea to introduce one simple concept before you begin specific stock-research homework. I’ve found kids relate well to the concept of sales. Whether you’re talking lemonade, girl-scout cookies, or school-related fund drives, children have an uncanny ability to understand that sales are positive and can lead to personal reward. It’s the same for a business. Generally, the more goods or services sold, the more favorable it is to the stock price over time.

kent soda

You don’t need to work through these initial four steps alone. Partner with a financial advisor to facilitate the discussion or utilize books and other resources to jumpstart the process.

I recommend the book “Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids,” by Gail Karlitz and Debbie Honig.  Easy to understand and designed for children ages 8-12.

Want to engage the kids about several money concepts? There are 7 great money apps for kids reviewed by NerdWallet including my personal favorites – Virtual Piggy and Bee Farming.

You don’t need to wait (like I did) until you receive verbal cues from the kids to begin the engagement about investing.

You may never get them.

Even as early as age nine, you can begin a dialogue.

In the next report, I’ll take the investing discussion to the next plateau.

Until then, begin the conversations, start the journals, ignite the passions.

And the kids will never forget.

kids and stocks




Funeral Man: Read the Books, Live the Words.

“Readin’ up a storm out here alone.”

Funeral man would lament. In the heat of summer, in the shade of a deep carpeted entrance to one of the fanciest funeral parlors in Brooklyn. A pile of dust. Inside the dust storm, a stack of books ranging from real classics like “Moby Dick” to hip then now-classics like “The Joy of Sex”, he’d read. Sit there for hours and read. Share thoughts. I always wondered how someone who smelled like dead body was optimistic enough to read about the joy of sex.

homeless readaer

Every day. All day.

In the heat.

From a white-granite ornate bench. A rest stop for the grieving (now reading).

Funeral man in his Rolling Stones ’77 concert tee, fascinated me for several summers. Inspired my love of books and printed words. He’d show up in June, be gone in September. For years I sat with him, listened as he read. Didn’t sit too close though. The musky odor of moldy page and person mixed with New York heat was occasionally too much.

“Buy two books. One read. One save. One book perfect. One book messy.”

It made my parents, (especially dad) insane when I asked him for money for the school book fair.

“Why in hell does he need so much money for books? And then he buys two of the same %)@))@#_@ damn book, too? What a  f***ing retard!”

Funeral Man was correct. I learned to hate cracking the binder of a new book, bending a page, messing up the cover of a new paperback. I was obsessed/distressed. Even with “one book messy.” It didn’t sit kindly with me to be “one book messy.” I did it. I read the book. But it stressed me out, regardless.

For a few 1970s summers I stayed. Near the dead. As Funeral Man espoused the benefits of reading, I listened closely.

And learned.

Random Thoughts:

1). Be open to messages from teachers. Teachers come from all areas of life. There doesn’t exist income or social criteria for those who provide lessons. I work backwards. In other words, I consider everyone who crosses my path a teacher, a provider of lessons, until they prove otherwise, or I feel I’m done with the lessons because on occasion, the learning is indeed required and appreciated, but the lessons are mentally painful. I choose not to continue.

2). There are times you will need to be brutally honest, insane, stand out, to communicate your point of view. When my last employer decided to throw ethics out the window and treat clients improperly just to make me look bad, I spoke out to my detriment. It’s ok. I have faith that in the end, it all works out when you stand for the greater good. Don’t sell out, stand out. Long term, you’ll be wiser. I’m learning we are a nation of sell outs. Life appears much easier that way. I see the beauty in it but I’m not going there. Funeral Man wasn’t a sell out (perhaps that’s why he smelled so bad). 

3). You are what you read. If you read garbage, you’ll think garbage and never challenge your mind. Pick up a subject outside your comfort zone. Fiction is fine, Fifty Shades of Foot Fetish is acceptable too, just make sure you throw in substance on occasion. Politics will muddy your thinking because there’s always a hidden agenda (so it’s garbage). Re-discover a classic. Funeral man was partial to Hemingway and Kerouac.

4). Grill your financial adviser. Ask him or her what books made an impact and why. Ask how many books are read in a year. You may be surprised at the responses. Understanding what your financial advisers read may provide a clue to their passions and interests for further discussion.

The summer of ’77, I threw Funeral Man a book curve ball. While reading near the foot of the master, a  self-improvement book he recommended, I looked to him and said:

“You know, you read some great stuff. Why can’t you live the words?”

He was clearly hurt. I mean with all this knowledge, why hadn’t he done more with his life?

What words will you read today and really take to heart?

Will sentences change your perspective, motivate you?

Words change me.

So do the lessons learned.

Funeral Man died in 1979.

I attended the service. Room B. Inside plush further inside plush of his favorite death parlor.

I didn’t recognize him at first: I thought it was a mix up. All cleaned up. Hair neat. His name was Sam. He wore a military uniform. With multiple medals hanging from his chest.

I truly felt bad for what I said.

Funeral Man was indeed a man of lessons.

He did live words. His truth. Obviously, it was just enough to drive him insane.

I ran four blocks home for my copy of “The Sun Also Rises.”

It was buried with Funeral Man a long time ago.

Not a cover was bent.

One book perfect.

One book saved.

Like a life not lived.

But not you, Sam.

You live on.

ripped dirty book