The good news is that compared to the frenzied juggling that is part of most parents' lives, planning for your child's financial future takes less time and effort than figuring out how to get one kid to soccer practice and the other to the doctor (and back) all in the same afternoon. In fact, by taking just a few minutes to think about the available opportunities, you can give your child what all parents want for their children.
More than what you have.
More money? Sure. But what you really want for your child are the things that more money can provide.
I know how you feel. This book came into being because of the hopes and fears I have for my child. In 1999 my wife Rachel and I were blessed with the birth of our daughter, Ellie. Right away our dreams and paranoia over our child's well-being went into overdrive. I remember taking our baby home from the hospital, cruising the interstate at a cautious twenty-five miles per hour, and scowling at every car that came within ten feet of our vehicle. I spent most of Ellie's first night at home hiding any sharp objects and barricading the door to the basement stairs.
Within a week I had mapped out who my daughter's friends would be, set some ground rules for dating, chosen her future college, and decided where she would eventually settle down (close enough so that I could see my grandchildren on a regular basis).
Rachel pointed out the futility of these activities and suggested I turn my attention to something that would actually help Ellie now: setting up an investment account for her.
Like most things Rachel says, this made sense. I could actually start doing something about Ellie's future.
By taking a few simple steps, Rachel and I could not only save ourselves money today and down the road, we could make Ellie's life more enjoyable, too.
And that's really what investing for your child is all about. When everything is said and done, ironically, it's not about the money! You already know that having a million-dollar net worth isn't, by itself, going to answer all of her prayers or guarantee her perpetual bliss. And I would guess that when you first picked up this book, you didn't have a vision of your child one day rolling around in a huge pile of hundred-dollar bills, giggling uncontrollably.
Your interest in your child's financial future is probably similar to why Rachel and I are investing for Ellie. What we envision for our child is a life of security, choices, and freedom.
We want her to attend her preferred college, regardless of the cost. If she decides to get married, we want her to marry someone for love, not money. When she chooses a career, we would like her to do so based not on how much money she can make, but on whether she'll honestly look forward to going to work each day. If she doesn't, she should have the freedom to change jobs or return to school without suffering from a drop in income.
We hope she can live in a comfortable house in a safe neighborhood with good schools, and be home enough to enjoy the company of her family and neighbors. If it is a priority for her family, we want her or her spouse to be able to stay home to care for their children (our grandchildren!) without worrying about the loss of cash flow.
That sounds pretty good, doesn't it? (If not, read it again while you imagine a full orchestral version of "God Bless America" playing in the background.)
But investing for a child is not only about making the good times great. It will also help avoid the terrible tragedies a lack of money can bring.
A recent poll sponsored by AARP showed that almost one in five respondents stayed in an unhappy marriage because the individual couldn't afford to live alone. Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren recently released a study of the 1 million personal bankruptcy cases that were filed during 1998. Despite being an expert in her field, even she was shocked to find out that almost half the people involved had some type of major illness or injury, and the subsequent medical expenses made the people insolvent. What is even more alarming is the vast majority of the people wiped out by these medical bills already had health insurance. But what they didn't have was a "cash cushion" to soften the hard landings life can bring.
By taking a few minutes out of your day to open this book, you have made the first step necessary to ensuring that a lack of money will never stand in the way of your child's happiness and well-being.
The Rewards For Your Child
It's easy to see how investing for your child will give her material benefits. But the gifts she receives go far beyond the simple accumulation of money and even well past the goals of "freedom, choices, and security."
First of all, like most everything else in your child's life, you are the prime source of her education, both in what you say and what you do. And you can talk about the virtues of foresight, frugality, and denial of gratification until you're blue in the face.
But when you actually set up an account for her, you set an example. You are delaying little bits of short-term gratification now, in exchange for reaching big long-term benefits down the road. Strange as it might seem, by investing money for your child, you are demonstrating the exemplary behavior that could very well keep her from squandering the money.
And the lessons you are teaching are not limited to financial issues. Whether you are saving for your child's college education, first home purchase, or comfortable retirement, you have identified a goal. You have established a long-term plan to obtain that objective, and you won't be stopped until you've reached that destination. When your child eventually decides she wants to reach a particular goal on her own, your behavior has given her a blueprint.
Thinking today about your child's tomorrow will also give her a tremendous advantage over the children of parents who choose not to put any money aside. Quick experiment: two high school seniors, same intellect, work ethic, and background. One can afford to go to college (and does). The other can't, and enters the workforce immediately. Which kid do you think is going to have the better life? Be exposed to new ideas? Enjoy work more? Earn more money? Okay, saving for your child's future doesn't guarantee a life of quality, but it sure gives her a better shot at happiness than not doing anything.
Investing for your child might seem like one more "labor of love" that we perform for our children. But taking the steps to secure your child's financial future will give you huge rewards, too.
You will first experience a payback at tax time. This book contains dozens of ways that you can use several investment vehicles to legally cut your tax bills, while at the same time increasing your family's overall net worth. It all boils down to whom you want to have your money: Uncle Sam or your child.
You will also benefit from being forced to reexamine your spending habits to decide what your priorities are. It's a natural progression of what we go through when we change our lifestyles to account for the responsibility of a child.
Before we became parents, our financial mistakes didn't hurt anyone but ourselves. Spent $200 on a pair of shoes? Eat ramen noodles for a month. Lost all your savings on a dumb stock tip? Hey, it wasn't that much money to begin with. An impromptu trip to Mardi Gras? Sure - put it on the credit card. Why save for the long term when the long term is a long way off?
Then a new, tiny person is thrust into our lives. She relies on us for everything, twenty-four hours a day (there's a reason she's called a "dependent"). All of a sudden our boneheaded money moves are taking food out of her mouth.
Once you decide to invest for your child, you are forced to look ahead to needs that will arise ten, twenty, even fifty years down the road. As you start examining how your money choices will affect your kid's future, you will realize just how many things you can do without today in return for a better tomorrow. You'll stop before each purchase and ask, "Is it worth it?" My guess is that more often than not, your answer will be, "No." And the money will stay in your pocket, where (like so much lint) it can't help but accumulate.
Investing for your child now will aid your retirement later. That sounds crazy, but it's not too far-fetched. Depending on your child's age, putting a few thousand dollars aside now may completely cover her college fund or retirement account. Once you make the deposit, you can sit back and let the power of time grow your child's wealth while you focus your investments and your attention on securing your "golden years."
Getting your child's financial needs out of the way now will not only help you accumulate money for retirement but also give you guilt-free enjoyment of the autumn of your life. Many retired people I've worked with accumulated a decent-sized nest egg by the time they were ready to stop working. But some of them were hesitant to spend the money on anything beyond the basic necessities of life. When I would ask them why, many told me that they wanted to leave something for their children, and they were worried they might outlive their money!
By putting aside just a few dollars today, you can one day blow your wad on a condo in Boca with no fear of condemnation from your kids.
Tax breaks, increased frugality, and the ability to completely focus on your own financial goals are enough to motivate just about anybody to take action. But the intangible yield can be even more inspiring.
First, you are going to experience peace of mind like you won't believe. Shortly after Ellie was born, I had a dream that she was eighteen years old, and ready to go to college. But when I told her that I didn't bother to save any money for her, she just furrowed her brow and stared up at me in disappointment (for some reason, in the dream she was still two feet tall), not saying a word. I woke up in a cold sweat, and the next day opened her college savings account.
That's one nightmare I don't have anymore.
You'll also enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you've done the right thing for your child. And that pleasure will only grow along with the dollars, until it culminates with you handing the money to her at the appropriate time.
And that's really when you'll receive the ultimate reward: your child's appreciation and gratefulness for your foresight and discipline.
What Do You Need to Make Your Kid a Millionaire?
You already have the three most important tools needed to secure your child's financial future: a lot of your love, a little bit of money, and this book.
And that's about it. You certainly don't have to be a millionaire to make your child one. As a matter of fact, research shows that four out of five American millionaires are the first ones in their family to reach that level of wealth.
You don't have to be an investment wizard, either. You only need the same level of intelligence necessary to accomplish typical financial tasks. Things like paying taxes, buying a car, and getting a mortgage. If you've done any of these in the past, you can start your child on the road to financial independence.
You do need to spend a few hours reading this book. Lock yourself in your bedroom. When your kids start pounding on the door and screaming your name, you are perfectly justified in yelling back, "Leave me alone! I'm trying to make you a millionaire!!"
But once you finish the book, you don't need to spend a lot of time watching the tech stock television channels or reading the financial section of the daily newspaper, either. We're talking long-term goals. Short-term news won't affect you, so paying attention to it won't do any good. You can quit surfing the Web, and go play outside with your kid instead.
You do need a little discipline. But not "Marine Corps" discipline. Just enough to get going on the steps that make the most sense for you and your family. It's the same self-motivation that gets you to the supermarket each week so that your family doesn't starve.
And you will need to be flexible. There will be obstacles on your child's path to financial independence. People change, new laws appear, and fresh opportunities arise. But reviewing your situation for a few hours once a year - I like to do it around tax time - is more than enough scrutiny.
How Do You Get Started?
Investing for your child is a journey. Unlike many trips that involve our children, this one lasts a long time and it's enjoyable. This book will serve two purposes for your trip. First, it is a guide to reaching your overall goal of your child's financial independence. It chronologically maps out the steps you should consider at each stage of your child's life, from her birth to your death.
Second, each of the eleven investment chapters provides a discussion of a particular vehicle that can help you and your child reach a specific destination. The background, benefits, and drawbacks of each method are presented to help you decide which approach is best for you and your family.
Set Your Goals and Choose Your Vehicle
As with any trip, first determine where you're going by deciding what you want to achieve for your child. Protecting your kid if you're not around? Definitely. Paying for college? Probably. Funding a comfortable retirement for her? Who wouldn't want that? Helping her buy a home? Hey, it might prevent her from moving back in with you.
Once you have established your destination (or destinations), you can decide what means of transportation and routes are the best ones to get you where you want to go. And when you are investing for your child, you will find that a single investment can be applied toward several different objectives, and an objective can be reached by using several different investment vehicles.
Funding Your Vehicle
An exciting feature of investing for your child is that you can harness the full strength of the most powerful ally of savers and investors: time. The more time you have, the less money you need. It helps to consider the connection like a seesaw:
Childhood development experts tell us that much of how we turn out as adults is determined by the time we are two years old. I like to take that one step further and say that we have the power to form our children's financial futures, especially by taking action in the first few years of their lives.
If you want to make your child a millionaire in ten years, you need to deposit almost $400,000 today in an account earning 10% annually. But if you have fifty years, you only need about $8,500. And if you have enough money today, you can even make a single deposit into the vehicle appropriate for each one of your goals and be done with it.
How much should you put in? That depends on a few variables, including the rate of return your money earns, taxes, and the rate of inflation (both in the rise of prices in general, and in the cost of your particular goal). Unfortunately, nobody knows what those numbers are going to be in the future.
But you can make projections using different hypothetical figures. For instance, let's say that you want to make a deposit today so your child can go to college in eighteen years. You would need to know the following numbers:
1. ?The cost of the college education today (let's say $40,000).
2. ?How much that cost will rise each year (guess about 5%).
3. ?At what rate your money will grow (figure 10%).
Once those numbers are in place, you can determine that you would need to deposit about $17,000 today.
Excerpted from Make Your Kid a Millionaire by Kevin McKinley Copyright © 2002 by Kevin McKinley. Excerpted by permission.
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