Financial literacy is important for everyone, children and adults alike. And, as with most things, education should start in the home, with parents teaching their children what they know about saving money and, of course, making money.
Unfortunately, managing your finances is complex and not all parents know the ins and outs -- further, it can be hard to talk about money with your kids. So, when it comes to teaching kids about exploring stocks and investing, how many of these ten mistakes are you making?
1. Not engaging kids with the actual process.
It's hard to get children engaged in an activity that seems boring, much less get them to stay engaged.
We all know the stereotype of a child begging to get lessons or involved in something, going to a few lessons and then deciding they don't like it anymore. Frustrating, for sure. If a child isn't engaged with an activity, they are likely to lose interest in it very quickly. Investing in stocks and learning the process should be a family affair, something that the entire family can engage in and keep each other updated with. As this Investopedia article about teaching children how to invest says, children can be taught quite young but the activity must be able to keep their attention.
2. Skimping over risk and reward.
Any investor can tell you that investing and stocks are not a magical money-maker or get-rich-quick scheme. Yet, the "reward" side is often showcased to the detriment of the "risk" side. Anyone undertaking the time to invest needs to understand both risk and reward, especially children. Parents who treat it just as a fun little hobby are likely to have children confused when a stock doesn't return on their investment, or they lose out on something.
Companies can fold, even when they seem solid. CEOs can lie and a simple, unassuming event can cause a ripple through the economy that sends markets lower. Parents need to take the time to go over this with their children so that they know what to expect. Risk and reward is a common element in plenty of business ventures and general facets of life -- it is an element that can make things much more exciting, like a game. If you really want to get kids excited, use it to your advantage and explain the rules of the game, including its dangers.
3. Not finding companies they are invested in.
Is your child a Disney (DIS) fan? An Apple (AAPL) user? A PC gamer? Get them even more interested in stocks by helping them purchase stocks in things that they like. A few shares in Disney, Apple, Microsoft (MSFT) , and others can go a long way to holding the interest of a younger person. If you give them companies that they have never heard of, how invested are they truly likely to be?
The true value to this isn't just in keeping them interested -- it is also in teaching them how to research and discover the companies behind their hobbies, toys, movies, and more. There is a lot of value in knowing the corporations beyond what they know and it can carry into their later lives with ease if they stick with it. It can also be a great way to learn about what they are interested in, both then and over time.
4. Letting them be overzealous.
Getting excited over a victory is a natural thing. It's something that casinos consistently utilize to keep people playing games -- and it can be easy to get overexcited. Kids are very likely to barrel forward with dreams of riches and mansions on their minds. One good investment does not always hold and it is very easy for things to change in a split second -- therefore, research, patience and even doubts are necessary and perfectly normal. No one likes to be second-guessed, by others or themselves, but when it comes to stocks, it is a practice that must be done consistently both by pupil and master.
5. Not practicing what you preach.
It's easy to bolster and promise things, but delivering isn't always as simple. If you are preaching all about investing in the stock market and promise to help lead your kids, even help fund their ventures, but don't participate and leave them stranded, you've almost insured that they are going to lose interest in the project.
If you do not deliver on what you tell them to expect, it is likely that they are going to make a lot of mistakes if they even still care to go forward on investing and learning to manage stocks.
6. Neglecting to track and trace.
Once the basics have been covered and a structure is in place, it is important that kids and parents alike track and trace their investments frequently. Not that staying up until the early hours of the morning is necessary, but a daily check-in isn't a terrible idea.
Like the big puzzle you bought that you find unfinished in the closet six months later, you'd hardly want to open up your portfolio and find dust on your investments.
Again, there is no need for obsession -- just a scheduled check-in once in awhile will keep the portfolio nice and orderly.
7. Not teaching kids the importance of financial goals.
If kids don't see the importance of long-term goals then investing will seem like a risk without a reward. Sometimes doing things old school, like teaching them that investing can help them get to a goal or save for something they really want. Saving up for that game console? Show them how to get there.
If you don't show them the ultimate rewards that can be achieved by applying themselves to learning investing and tracking their investments, they may abandon doing so.
8. Excluding your daughters.
Women as a group express less confidence when it comes to investing, studies have shown. Confidence starts with education -- especially early childhood education. Don't forget to include both your sons and daughters in this venture.
This isn't to say that you need to force your kids into investing if they are truly disinterested, but there are valuable lessons for boys and girls of every age when it comes to the stock market.
9. Not keeping it simple.
Your kids are most likely not looking for a vocabulary lesson: liquidity, diversification -- these are words that will put kids to sleep. If you can get them interested in investing and stocks at a young age, those definitions will come down the line if you decide to really get them into it.
For now, keep everything as simple as possible. Kids are very absorbent when it comes to learning young, but that doesn't mean you want to go teaching them advanced calculus when they are five.
10. Stopping when they are teenagers.
Any parent can testify to teenagers not being easy to deal with at times. They have all new interests, want freedom and control of their lives, so getting them engaged in investing then is going to be a challenge, without doubt.
Still, what better time to rekindle the lessons taught to them as children if they have been slacking a bit? They're going to be looking at their future soon: a car, rent, college -- none of those are cheap and a starter job probably won't cover all of their ambitions.
Stopping when they hit puberty will do them no favors and it will do you no favors when it comes to the time you took to mentor them in the first place.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.
Tomer Garzberg (TomerGarzberg.com) is a growth hacker and blogger at INDX.guru. For a long time, Garzberg hoped to get into trading, but found the process convoluted. When approached by INDX.guru to grow its presence, it actually armed him with enough knowledge to make his first trade. Now Garzberg hopes to empower other first-time traders and self-directed investors to do the same. Follow Tomer on Twitter @TomerGarzberg.