It’s that time of the year: We’re all looking for the “perfect” gift for those we love. Here’s my advice: Give the children you love the gift of a financially secure future. And I don’t mean by giving them money. I mean by giving them the gift of the financial knowledge they need to reap their own financially secure future.

I’ve said this before – but it bears repeating: Start Young. Shape money attitudes and behavior young. It’s so much easier than changing behavior later. Early financial education will help navigate the ups and downs (think Pandemic) of life. A recent story in the NYTimes served up proof.

“In Their 20s and Saving for Retirement: How It Started, How It’s Going” by Elizabeth Harris caught my eye – but not for the intended reason. Harris tells the story of Drey Farley. At 15, Drey watched a video his favorite gamer had posted on YouTube. The video was about the power of compound savings. (If you have problems accessing the article, click here.)

Apparently, the video planted a seed that helped the now 21-year-old navigate the ups and downs of the pandemic hits he was taking. “It’s really reinforced my motivation for it, (saving and investing) and also the need to stay disciplined and persevere through any panics,” he said.

I watched this video Farley saw, and it’s very good. Likely it reached Farley because he thought highly of the author – a gamer like his teenage self – but an older, wiser gamer.

Could you be that older, wiser “gamer” to a tween or teen in your life? If not you, maybe your parents? Grandparents give unconditional love to grands and have lots of experience to share. At times, grandparents are more easily heard by our kids.

You don’t need to be related to the young person, either. You just need to be an older, wiser mentor willing to give the gift of financial knowledge.

Shortly after I got my first job, a colleague asked if I had signed up for my 401(k) yet. Still living at home and, frankly, more interested in spending than saving, I said no. She went and got the paperwork for me – remember, this was decades ago! – and sat there with me as I filled out the paperwork that started my 13% deposits into that retirement plan.

Now that was a gift of time well spent. It was and is the foundation of my retirement savings today. And, it is the reason I did the same thing 33 years ago with my new husband. I walked to his place of business and sat with him at his desk as he signed up for his 401(k).

So, how do you start? I suggest giving the gift of your time to watch the gamer’s video with your kids. The video link is embedded in the NYTimes story. Watch it together and then talk about it. That’s it. That’s all you really need to do. You will have planted a seed.

Maybe after the video watching session (which will take you through a compound savings calculator to see how to become a millionaire in just 22 years!), spend a little more time playing around with an online compound savings calculator. Put in a couple of scenarios. Talk about the impact of saving, or as the video gamer puts it, the impact of “Pay Yourself First.”

Plant more seeds by taking a look online at companies they know and love (Amazon, GameStop, Apple) and “buy” some shares of stock virtually and track them with your child. If you see any real interest, pile on. If not, pull back. Talk about smart spending and setting money goals for savings instead.

This is the holiday gift that will last a lifetime.

I did this for Tyler, one of the most memorable students in my first money class back in 1999. He would always yell out “ticker symbol” and high-five me when he saw me in the halls at school. I got a note from him last week. He’s now 28, married and about to be a father.

“Hi Mrs. Beacham. My wife and I are expecting in May! One of the first things I thought of while putting together our baby registration was Money Savvy Generation. I ordered the Money Savvy Kids Club books this morning to add to our collection. Thanks again for inspiring me at such a young age!”

The gift of financial education given more than 21 years ago in that first-grade class about money is now taking root in a second generation of Money Savvy Kids. This note, obviously, made my day. We don’t generally know if the financial education seeds we plant will thrive. But we do know what will happen if we do not try.

Start this year at the holidays, but don’t stop there. Plant a few financial education seeds every now and then. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

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Susan Beacham
Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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    Cindy Richards December 7, 2020 at 10:14 pm Reply

    So true! The challenge, of course, is getting the kids to hear you. I like thinking about this as a “gift” rather than an order.

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