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A Beginner's Guide to Investing for Kids: Where to Start

As an educator passionate about personal finance, I'm here to guide you through the exciting journey of teaching your kids about investing. Investing for kids isn't just about money; it's about setting them up for a secure and savvy financial future. Let's dive in!


Table of Contents


kids learning to invest

Understanding the Basics of Money and Investing

Venturing into the world of investing can be a thrilling journey for kids, but it's vital to start with the basics of money management. Think of it as constructing a sturdy building; you need a strong foundation before you add the upper floors and the roof.

  • Money Basics: Begin with fundamental concepts like earning, saving, and spending. Real-life scenarios can help make these ideas more tangible and relatable for kids.

  • Investing 101: Investing should be introduced as a method to grow money over time. This is where the magic of compound interest and long-term planning comes into play.

Simplifying Financial Concepts for Kids

Children of different ages will grasp financial concepts in varying ways. The key is to keep explanations age-appropriate and engaging. Also, you can reference our article showing the top 12 stock market terms that kids should understand for help on this!

  • For Younger Children: Use simple, everyday examples. A piggy bank is a great tool to visually demonstrate saving. Explain how saving a little bit regularly can grow their money over time.

  • For Tweens: Introduce the stock market using familiar examples. Discuss how buying a share means owning a small part of a company they like, such as their favorite toy or game manufacturer.

  • For Teens: This is the perfect age to delve into more complex topics like compound interest and diversification. Explain how investing in different types of assets can help manage risk.

The Importance of Investing

When explaining investing to kids, it's crucial to highlight why it's important. Investing can be more effective than simply saving in a bank account because of the potential for higher returns over time. Investments like stocks or bonds typically grow at a faster rate than the interest earned in a savings account.

Compound Interest: The Eighth Wonder of the World

Albert Einstein famously referred to compound interest as the eighth wonder of the world, and for good reason. The concept of earning interest on your interest is a powerful tool in wealth creation. For kids, understanding this early can be a game-changer.

  • What is Compound Interest? Simply put, compound interest is the interest you earn on both your original money and on the interest that money has already earned. Over time, this can lead to exponential growth.

  • The Power of Time: The earlier one starts investing, the more significant the benefits of compound interest. This is due to the longer timeframe allowing for more growth cycles. For kids, this means that money invested now could grow substantially by the time they are adults.

Encouraging Long-Term Planning

Emphasizing the long-term nature of investing is key. It's not about quick gains but about steady growth over years, even decades. This approach not only teaches patience but also demonstrates the practicality of setting long-term goals, whether for college, a first car, or other significant milestones.

kid learning to save before investing

Setting the Foundation: Saving First

Embarking on the investment journey begins with a fundamental step: saving. It's like preparing to plant a garden – you first need to gather the seeds. Teaching kids the importance of saving sets the stage for successful investing.

  • Importance of Saving: Highlight that investing is a step that naturally follows saving. It's like learning to walk before you run. Saving teaches discipline and planning, essential skills for any successful investor.

  • Fun Saving Strategies: Incorporate engaging and interactive methods like goal-oriented savings jars or opening a child's savings account. These tools not only make saving tangible but also enjoyable.

Tips for Teaching Kids to Save Money

Getting kids excited about saving can be a fun and educational process. By setting achievable and meaningful goals, they can see the tangible results of their efforts.

  • Set Clear Savings Goals: Help your kids identify something they want to save for. It could be a toy, a book, a game, or even a family outing. Having a specific goal makes the process more rewarding and motivating.

  • Visual Saving Tools: Use savings jars or piggy banks where they can literally see their money grow. For each dollar saved, they get closer to their goal. This visual representation is powerful, especially for younger kids.

  • Encourage Regular Saving Habits: Introduce the concept of saving a portion of any money they receive, whether it's allowance, birthday money, or earnings from small jobs. Even setting aside a small amount regularly can make a big difference.

  • Match Their Contributions: To further motivate them, consider matching their savings. This not only accelerates their progress towards their goal but also teaches them about benefits akin to employer 401(k) matches in the real world.

  • Open a Savings Account: For older children, opening a savings account can be an educational experience. It introduces them to how banks work and the concept of earning interest on savings.

  • Celebrate Achievements: When they reach their saving goals, celebrate these milestones. It reinforces the positive behavior and the satisfaction of achieving a financial goal.

The Bigger Picture

By focusing on saving first, kids learn the value of money, delayed gratification, and the satisfaction of reaching their goals. These are invaluable lessons that pave the way for more complex financial concepts like investing. Remember, every investor started as a saver. You're not just teaching your kids to save money; you're laying the groundwork for a lifetime of financial responsibility and success.

family teaching their kids about investments

Introducing Basic Investment Concepts

As we shift gears from saving to investing, we open a whole new world of possibilities for kids to grow their money. Investing is like planting seeds; with the right care and conditions, these seeds can grow into a flourishing garden.

  • Understanding Investing: Explain investing as the process of putting money into something (like a business, property, or stocks) with the expectation of gaining more money over time. It's like planting a seed and watching it grow.

  • Types of Investments: Dive into the basics of stocks (owning a part of a company), bonds (lending money to a company or government), mutual funds (pooling money with other investors to buy a mix of stocks and bonds), and savings accounts (a safe place to keep money while earning a small amount of interest).

Explaining Risk vs. Reward in Investing

One of the most crucial lessons in investing is understanding the balance between risk and reward.

  • Risk Explained: Every investment comes with a certain level of risk, meaning there's a chance the value of the investment may go down. It's important for kids to understand that no investment is completely risk-free.

  • Reward Potential: The potential reward of an investment is the amount of money you can earn from your investment. Generally, higher-risk investments have the potential for higher rewards, while lower-risk investments typically offer smaller, more consistent returns.

  • Choosing the Right Path: Explain to kids that choosing investments is like picking a path in a game. Some paths (like stocks) are more adventurous with higher potential rewards but also more risks. Others (like savings accounts or bonds) are steadier and safer but with typically lower returns.

  • Diversification: Introduce the concept of diversification, which means spreading investments across different types of assets to reduce risk. It's like not putting all your eggs in one basket.

Age-Appropriate Investment Discussions

  • For Younger Children: Keep it simple. Use stories or analogies to explain how money can grow.

  • For Tweens and Teens: Begin discussing more specific details about stocks, bonds, and other investment types. Introduce real-world examples or news stories to make these concepts more concrete.

parent working with kids investing

Practical Steps to Start Investing with Kids

Now that we've covered the groundwork, it's time to roll up our sleeves and dive into the actual process of investing with kids. This phase is both educational and exciting, as it transforms theoretical concepts into real-life practice. If you're kids are a little too young to start actually investing, consider our top 10 games to teach kids about investing instead!

  • Custodial Accounts: These are investment accounts that adults control for minors. They are a practical way to start investing with your kids, offering a real-world platform for them to learn.

  • Choosing Investments: Engage your kids in the process of selecting stocks or funds. This step is crucial for making them feel involved and responsible.  

  • Monitoring Investments: Regularly check in on the performance of the investments. This practice helps in understanding market dynamics and the factors influencing investment growth or decline.

Opening a Custodial Account for Kids

A custodial account is the first real step into the world of investing. Here's how to make it a valuable learning experience:

  • Selecting the Right Platform: Choose a brokerage or financial institution that offers custodial accounts. Look for ones with educational resources, low fees, and easy-to-use interfaces.

  • Understanding the Rules: Explain to your kids how these accounts work, including when and how they can access the money.

  • Setting Up the Account: Involve your kids in the setup process as much as possible. Let them see how you choose the account and what information is required.

Choosing Investments Together

This step is where the real fun begins. Here's how to make it educational:

  • Research Together: Look at different stocks or funds and discuss their potential. Use resources like financial news, company reports, and investment tools.

  • Diverse Options: Introduce the concept of diversification by choosing a mix of stocks and funds. Discuss why it's wise not to put all your money in one type of investment.  I started with an index fund that tracked the S&P 500 - which is not financial advice, just an observation about a diversified fund with low fees.

  • Relatable Choices: If you are looking at buying individual stocks for the learning experience, consider starting with companies or industries your kids are interested in. If they love video games, look at gaming companies. This makes the process more engaging.

Monitoring and Discussing Investments

Watching how investments perform over time is a crucial part of the learning experience:

  • Regular Check-ins: Schedule regular times to review the investments together. This can be monthly or quarterly.

  • Discuss Changes: Use changes in investment value as opportunities to discuss why stocks go up or down. Talk about economic factors, market trends, and company performance.

  • Long-Term Perspective: Remind them that investing is for the long term. Short-term fluctuations are normal and should be expected.

dad and son talking about investing

Teaching the Value of Patience and Long-Term Planning

When it comes to investing, one of the most valuable lessons we can impart to kids is the importance of patience and long-term planning. Investing is indeed more like a marathon than a sprint. It's about steady progress and keeping your eyes on the prize, not getting distracted by the hurdles along the way.

  • Compound Interest: This is a powerful concept that illustrates how invested money can grow over time.

  • Long-term vs. Short-term Investing: Highlight the differences between these two strategies and why a long-term approach is often more beneficial for most investors.

  • Learning from Market Fluctuations: Market ups and downs are inevitable, but they offer important lessons in resilience and the value of staying the course.

Compound Interest: The Power of Time

Compound interest is often referred to as one of the wonders of the financial world. Here's how to explain its magic:

  • Simple Examples: Use relatable examples to illustrate how money grows over time. For instance, show how $100 invested at a 5% annual interest rate will grow year after year.

  • Visual Aids: Graphs or charts can be great tools to visually demonstrate how compound interest works over different periods.

Long-term vs. Short-term Investing

Both long-term and short-term investing have their places, but for most young investors, a long-term approach is key.

  • Benefits of Long-Term Investing: Discuss how investing over a longer period allows for the ride out of market fluctuations and typically results in more stable growth.

  • Risks of Short-Term Investing: Explain that while short-term investing can be exciting, it's often riskier and requires more knowledge and attention to the market.

Learning from Market Fluctuations

Market fluctuations are not just challenges; they are also opportunities to learn and grow.

  • Teaching Resilience: Use market dips as teachable moments. Discuss how even the best investments can fluctuate and why it's important to stay committed to your long-term strategy.

  • Historical Perspective: Look at historical market trends to show how markets have recovered over time, reinforcing the value of patience.


We've covered a lot, from the basics of money to making that first investment. Investing for kids is an empowering process, and you're doing a great job at setting them up for financial success.

Remember, the key to teaching kids about investing is to keep it fun, relatable, and age-appropriate. Your role as a guide is invaluable, and the lessons you impart now will serve them for a lifetime. Happy investing!


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